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Massachusetts Compromise

The Massachusetts Compromise was the solution reached in the controversy between Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the debate over the ratification of the United States Constitution. The compromise helped garner sufficient support for the Constitution in order to ensure its ratification and lead to the adoption of the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights.

Anti-Federalists feared that the Constitution would overly centralize government and diminish individual rights and liberties. They sought to amend the Constitution, particularly with a Bill of Rights as a condition before ratification. Federalists insisted that the document had to be accepted or rejected as written.

When efforts to ratify the Constitution encountered serious opposition in Massachusetts, two noted anti-Federalists, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, helped negotiate a compromise. The anti-Federalists agreed to support ratification of the constitution, with recommendations for amendments should the document go into effect. The Federalists agreed to support the proposed amendments, specifically a bill of rights.

Following this compromise, Massachusetts voted to ratify the Constitution on February 6, 1788. Five states subsequently voted for ratification, four of which followed the Massachusetts model of recommending amendments along with their ratification.