Today in history, on July 31, 1788, President of the first North Carolina Ratification Convention, Samuel Johnston, stood in Hillsborough and reluctantly conceded that the convention was unlikely to ratify the Constitution.

“We may indeed appoint ambassadors to the United States of America, to represent what scruples North Carolina has in regard to their Constitution. I know no other way…We shall have no share in voting upon any of these amendments; for, in my humble opinion, we shall be entirely out of the Union, and can be considered only as a foreign power.”

Because ten states had already ratified the Constitution by this point, North Carolina would be an independent republic. Accordingly, Johnston opined that his state should send a delegation to the United States to negotiate with the United States and help make the Constitution more amenable to North Carolina’s interests.

North Carolina did just that, and appointed Hugh Williamson as a foreign diplomat to the United States of America. There, he travelled to New York and conversed with Congress and officers of the United States, attempting to persuade them to adopt amendments that would be favorable to the sensibilities of those in North Carolina.

During this time, the United States did not attempt to use coercion against the state, view North Carolina’s status as an independent republic as a “rebellion,” or raise an army to force its approval. Instead, peace and mutual friendship characterized the dealings between North Carolina and the United States. This event illustrated the voluntary nature of the union, which was one of choice rather than force.

Dave Benner

The 10th Amendment

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