The Significance of Signatures: Why the Framers Signed the Constitution and What They Meant by Doing So

45 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2008 Last revised: 1 Dec 2011

See all articles by Michael Coenen

Michael Coenen

Seton Hall University Law School

Date Written: November 29, 2008

Abstract

The signing of the U.S. Constitution is traditionally understood as the closing act of the Constitutional Convention. This Note provides an alternative account, one that understands the Constitution’s signing as the opening act of the ratification campaign that followed in the Convention’s wake. To begin, the Note explains the signatures’ ambiguous form as the product of political maneuvering designed to win support for the Constitution during ratification. The Note then hypothesizes two ways in which the signatures may have helped to secure this support: (1) by highlighting pro-Constitution selling-points likely to resonate with the ratifying public; and (2) by limiting the ability of the signers’ to recant their support for the Constitution once ratification battles had begun. Finally, the Note identifies a few respects in which this ratification-centered account of the Constitution’s signing may influence our modern-day understanding of the document.

Keywords: constitutional law, constitution, signatures, signing, ratification

Suggested Citation

Coenen, Michael, The Significance of Signatures: Why the Framers Signed the Constitution and What They Meant by Doing So (November 29, 2008). Yale Law Journal, Vol. 119, p. 966, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1308991

Michael Coenen (Contact Author)

Seton Hall University Law School ( email )

1109 Raymond Blvd.
Newark, NJ 07102
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
234
Abstract Views
1,913
rank
164,628
PlumX Metrics