Path to Statehood: New York’s Constitutions and the U.S. Constitution
New York’s first constitution (1777) and the United States constitution (1787) established stable governments after the turmoil of the American Revolution. Though Great Britain had no written constitution, its political system profoundly influenced the American constitutions. New Yorkers Alexander Hamilton and John Jay argued forcefully for the U.S. Constitution. Governor George Clinton expressed deep concerns about a too-strong federal government. New York’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution at a convention in Poughkeepsie followed intense debates about government’s powers and citizens’ rights.
New York has had four constitutions, adopted in 1777, 1821, 1846, and 1894. Each was prepared by a convention of delegates. Constitutional conventions in 1801, 1867, 1915, 1938, and 1967 proposed new documents or major amendments, most rejected by the voters. In November 2017 New Yorkers will again decide whether to hold another constitutional convention.
The manuscript texts of New York’s constitutions are “treasure” documents carefully preserved by the New York State Archives.
This exhibition is organized by the New York State Archives.
The New York State Archives is a program of the State Education Department/University of the State of New York