TBT: Massachusetts Becomes a State

Happy birthday, Bay State!

The Bunker Hill Monument

Photo via iStock/jorgeantonio

On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts Bay Colony was no longer. Just 12 years after the United States became a country, Massachusetts joined the Union and became its sixth state.

But reaching this status required more than a simple declaration. Joining the group and adhering to the Constitution put a lot at stake, and it took the Massachusetts Ratifying Committee nearly a month to reach a conclusion that satisfied everyone.

In one corner were the Federalists, who were eager to sign on the dotted line. In the other were their less-keen political counterparts, the Antifederalists, who were wary of a centralized government. Then-Gov. John Hancock, the president of the Massachusetts Ratifying Committee, was instrumental in reaching a compromise between the two.

Health issues sidelined Hancock for the first three weeks of discussions, but once he arrived, he emerged as a key peacemaker in a rowdy room. The governor was basically the Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. Super Bowl commercial that lightened the mood between Patriots and Eagles fans who may have been watching the game together. The politically astute Hancock was respected by both Federalists and Antifederalists, and he crafted a compromise to get the Antifederalists on board. Instead of following the Federalists’ “take it or leave it” strategy, Hancock pitched several Constitutional amendments to make the deal palatable to Antifederalists. The proposal did the trick, and it would eventually become the Bill of Rights.

After weeks of discussion, the compromise was final, and Massachusetts became a state. Hancock and William Cushing, the committee’s vice president, officially signed the documents on February 7.

In a move that has time and again proven to be a good idea, other states followed in Massachusetts’ footsteps. Though the Bay State was the first to suggest additions to the Constitution, it wasn’t the last.

Massachusetts has continued its forward-thinking mentality in the 230 years since. The first subway station was built in Boston. The first basketball game was played in Springfield. The American Industrial Revolution began in Lowell. The chocolate chip cookie was invented in Whitman. Converse was founded in Malden.

Oh, and Boston has also recently been ranked the healthiest city and the best place for startups. Not too shabby.

So happy birthday, Massachusetts. Here’s to another 230 years.