The Hillsborough Convention, also historically referred to as the Convention of North-Carolina, was a convention of 270 delegates, representing 7 boroughs and 58 counties in the state and its western territories, who met from July 21 to August 4, 1788 to deliberate and determine whether to ratify the Constitution recommended to the states by the General Convention held in Philadelphia the previous summer. These delegates had won their seats through special elections held in March 1788 as mandated by the North Carolina General Assembly. The convention was held in Hillsborough, North Carolina at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. Governor Samuel Johnston presided over the Convention.
Key state Federalists were James Iredell Sr., William Davie, and William Blount. Anti-federalist leaders included Willie Jones, Samuel Spencer, and Timothy Bloodworth. The Anti-Federalist delegates outnumbered their Federalist colleagues by a margin of two-to-one. The Federalists wanted to strengthen the powers of the federal government to help the country keep from dissolving. They argued that the powers granted to the federal government in the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient. On the other side, the Anti-Federalists were suspicious of the federal government, and did not want self-rule to come under fire from a government that could intrude on state and individual rights. Knowing that they would likely lose, members of the Federalist minority brought a stenographer to the convention to record their arguments for publication in hopes of changing public opinion in the future.
The debate resulted in the delegates voting 184 to 84 to neither ratify nor reject the Constitution. One of the major reasons why North Carolina didn’t ratify the Constitution was the lack of a Bill of Rights. The delegates did however propose a series of amendments that would protect personal liberties and urged the new federal Congress to adopt measures that would incorporate a bill of rights into the Constitution. North Carolina would not join the Union until after it ratified the Constitution, more than a year later, at the November 1789 Fayetteville Convention.
- History of the United States Constitution
- Timeline of drafting and ratification of the United States Constitution
- "Church History". Hillsborough Presbyterian Church. Hillsborough, North Carolina. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
- Cavanagh, John C. (2006). "Convention of 1788". NCpedia. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- "Hillsborough Convention of 1788". North Carolina History Project. John Locke Foundation. January 19, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- "July 21, 2013: Hillsborough Convention Fails to Ratify Constitution". This Day in North Carolina History. North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- Watson, Alan (2011). General Benjamin Smith: A Biography of the North Carolina Governor. McFarland. p. 52. ISBN 978-0786461561.
- North Carolina. Convention (1788) "Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of North-Carolina, Convened at Hillsborough, ..", Documenting the American South (DocSouth), a digital publishing initiative sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill