"United States Constitution" from the Printing Office of Edes & Gill in Boston - Pre-ratification, with letter from George Washington

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This broadside, as printed in Boston before ratification in Massachusetts, with the Constitution and a letter from Washington urging ratification was found after a five-year search of the state archives by master printer Gary Gregory.

It is an extraordinary print for anyone who is deeply interested in our country's history. The letter from Washington, included at the end of the broadside, is a reasoned appeal for compromise and ultimately adoption. See below for additional historical background.

The print is from the Printing Office of Edes & Gill located in the Clough House (c 1715) on the grounds of the Old North Church Historic Site in Boston.

This video was shot at the Printing Office of Edes & Gill the day they began printing the Boston edition of the United States Constitution. In the video, Gary Gregory, founder and print master, describes the five year effort to print this for the first time since 1787.

The original broadside was printed on both sides of a sheet. 

We offer them in two sizes: On one two sheets, each 11 1/2" x 17 1/2", and on a single sheet that is 23 " x 17".

As was the case with the original broadsides, there is variability in ink coverage. To get a better idea of why some of these differences occur, watch the video above.

We also have the Boston broadside of the "Declaration of Independence," printed by Edes & GillYou can purchase the Constitution, described above, or the Constitution and the Declaration, which is also printed at Edes & Gill, at a savings of $5 for the pair.

, as well as the Philadelphia broadside, printed by John Dunlap, and the Baltimore broadside printed by Mary Katherine Goddard.

— Lee Wright  |  Founder  |  The History List  |  History Camp

The text of Washington's letter

In convention, September 17, 1787

"We have now the Honor to submit to the Consideration of the United States in Congress assembled that Constitution which has appeared to us the most advisable. The Friends of our Country have long seen and desired that the Power of making War Peace and Treaties, that of levying Money & regulating Commerce and the correspondent executive and judicial Authorities should be fully and effectually vested in the general Government of the Union. But the Impropriety of delegating such extensive Trust to one Body of Men is evident—Hence results the Necessity of a different Organization.

"It is obviously impracticable in the fœderal Government Of these States to secure all Rights of independent Sovereignty to each and yet provide for the Interest and Safety of all—Individuals entering into Society must give up a Share of Liberty to preserve the Rest. The Magnitude of the Sacrifice must depend as well on Situations and Circumstances as on the Object to be obtained. It is at all Times difficult to draw with Precision the Lines between those Rights which must be surrendered and those which may be reserved⟨.⟩ And on the present Occasion this Difficulty was encreased by a Difference among the several States as to their Situation Extent Habits and particular Interests.

"In all our Deliberations on this Subject we kept steadily in our View that which appears to us the greatest Interest of every true american the Consolidation of our Union in which is involved our Prosperity Felicity Safety perhaps our national Existence. this important Consideration seriously and deeply impressed on our Minds led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on Points of inferior Magnitude than might have been otherwise expected. And thus the Constitution which we now present is the Result of a Spirit of Amity and of that mutual Deference & Concession which the Peculiarity of our political Situation rendered indispensible.

"That it will meet the full and entire Approbation of every State is not perhaps to be expected. But each will doubtless consider that had her Interests been alone consulted the Consequences might have been particularly disagreable or injurious to others. That it is liable to as few Exceptions as could reasonably have been expected we hope and believe That it may promote the lasting Welfare of that Country so dear to us all and secure her Freedom and Happiness is our most ardent wish."

This transcription is from the National Archives, which has additional notes explaining the letter.

About the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention

The letter from Washington is dated September 17, 1987. The state conventional met a few months later, as explained in this article from the Massachusetts Society Sons of the American Revolution:

"The Massachusetts Ratifying Convention met in Boston from January 9, 1788 to February 5, 1788 to discuss 'the adoption of the federal Constitution.' 370 delegates had been elected on October 25, 1787, and when the final vote was taken on February 3, 355 registered their vote."

The Center for the Study of the Constitution provides additional historical context:

"The importance of Washington’s letter of 17 September 1787 as president of the Convention to the president of Congress cannot be over emphasized. This letter (written by Gouverneur Morris but signed by Washington) was attached to the Constitution whenever it was printed. The letter stated 'the Constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity and of that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.' With Washington supporting the Constitution, it was difficult for Antifederalists to explain why they opposed ratification.

"In private correspondence, Washington left little room for speculation. In his letters he expressed a desire to see the Constitution adopted even though (like all Federalists) he acknowledged that it had some imperfections. He praised the amendment provision that provided a viable method of correcting problems that might become apparent after the Constitution was implemented. Occasionally, when his correspondence was published without his approval, Federalists and Antifederalists used the materials as fodder for their causes. The former suggesting that if a virtuous figure like Washington was supportive of the Constitution, ratification of the plan was essential. Antifederalists lamented that since Washington was not an experienced legislator, he had been duped by cunning politicians bent on adopting a dangerous form of government."

Read the article here.

About Benjamin Edes & John Gill

On April 7, 1755, Edes and Gill became the proprietors of The Boston Gazette and Country Journal. According to the author of Infamous Scribblers (2006), the Boston Gazette, arguably the most influential newspaper the country has ever known, got us into the Revolutionary War, sped up the course of the war and may have even determined the outcome of the war.

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