Posted on March 2, 2015
Did you know that, about 150 years after the Bill of Rights became a part of the United States Constitution, the three hold-out states finally got their act together to ratify these first ten amendments.
The three hold outs were Massachusetts, which finally ratified the Bill of Rights on this date in 1939, Georgia, which ratified on March 18, 1939, and Connecticut, which ratified on April 19, 1939.
Why the long delay? And why did they finally ratify in 1939?
On missing the boat...
Once a constitutional amendment has passed two-thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, it is sent to the states for ratification. Once it is ratified by three-fourths of the states (within a set period of time), the amendment becomes a part of the Constitution and therefore law of the land. Any state that has not at that point ratified the amendment still lives by the amendment...and ratification becomes a moot point.
In many cases, when states were late to the party, so to speak, they never ended up bothering to officially ratify.
It turns out that the two chambers of the Massachusetts General Council did vote to ratify most of the amendments, back in 1790 when the other states were ratifying the Bill of Rights, but once the Bill of Rights were adopted, the two houses didn't bother to work to reconcile their separate lists. And Massachusetts officials didn't bother to send notice of the amendments that passed both chambers to the federal government.
On “better late than never”...
Apparently, some states who missed the boat of making an amendment part of the Constitution end up eventually passing a “feel-good ratification” in an apparent attempt to kinda-sorta apologize. For example, California didn't ratify the 15th Amendment, which outlawed states denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, until 1962 (!), and Mississippi FINALLY ratified the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, just a couple of years ago.
Apparently, in 1939, as a part of the celebration of 150 years of having the Bill of Rights, the three states who still weren't on the ratification list finally ratified. I am thinking that part of the fervor over the Bill of Rights at that time might have been as Americans nervously watched the doings of the Nazis...
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