On this day, November 20th in 1789, New Jersey ratifies the Bill of Rights, becoming the first state to do so. New Jersey’s action was a first step toward making the first 10 amendments to the Constitution law and completing the revolutionary reforms begun by the Declaration of Independence.
The Anti-Federalist critics of the U.S. Constitution were afraid that a too-strong federal government would become just another sort of the monarchical regime from which they had recently been freed. They believed that the Constitution gave too much power to the federal government by outlining its rights but failing to delineate the rights of the individuals living under it. Before the Massachusetts ratifying convention would accept the Constitution, then, which they finally did in February 1788, the document’s Federalist supporters had to promise to create a Bill of Rights to be amended to the Constitution immediately upon the creation of a new government under the document. This helped to assuage the Anti-Federalists’ concerns.