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North Carolina

North Carolina ratified the Constitution on November 21, 1789, becoming the 12th state to ratify, though it was not without intense debate and even one failed attempt at ratification previously (in 1788). Primary among the original objections to the document was the fact that it did not have a bill of rights, and when North Carolina's ratifying convention did eventually ratify, they added to it a "Declaration of Rights" and a list of amendments to the Constitution as a recommendation to Congress.

Notwithstanding Rutledge’s assertion (paragraph 2767) that North Carolina would join South Carolina and Georgia in refusing to accept the Constitution if it gave Congress the power to ban the slave trade, the position of North Carolina was in fact more ambivalent.  This statement by Williamson is the closest that North Carolina ever gets to objecting on her own behalf to a Constitutional power to end the slave trade.  Later, on August 25, Williamson will state more unequivocally that “both in opinion and practice, he was against slavery,” (2974) and he states explicitly that any continuance of the slave trade was out of deference to South Carolina and Georgia alone.  During the North Carolina Ratifying debates, the only objection leveled against the 20-year compromise was that there should have been an immediate end to the slave trade.  The pro-Constitution delegates were then placed in the position of defending the compromise as regrettable, but a necessary concession to South Carolina and Georgia.  Richard Spaight added that he and his fellow delegates from North Carolina “did not think themselves authorized to contend for an immediate prohibition of” the trade at the Constitutional Convention.  But North Carolina was very far from insisting upon the continuance of the slave trade on her own behalf.  

Annotated by luzzell on September 05, 2013