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[Detail] Memoirs of mammoth...Thomas Ashe 1806.

Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision Making:  Making Policy for the West

Read the letter James Madison wrote to George Nicholas during the debates in Virginia over the ratification of the Constitution. In the letter, Madison argues that the country’s navigation rights on the Mississippi River would be better protected if the Constitution was ratified.  Nicholas, who later became a leader in Kentucky, failed to persuade the Kentucky delegation in the Virginia convention to support ratification.  Many Kentuckians were alarmed by the fact that, in the Jay-Gardoqui negotiations of 1785-86, the United States had agreed to give Spain exclusive navigation rights to the Mississippi River for 30 years (the treaty was not ratified). 

  • What was the basis of Madison’s belief that the Constitution would be the best protection of Western interests?
  • Why were Kentuckians fearful that ratification of the Constitution would hurt their interests?
  • What were the conflicting interests of the agrarian west and the commercial east in the early years of the nation?
  • If you had lived in Kentucky in 1788, would you have supported ratification of the Constitution? Why or why not?