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The (Questionable) Importance of New York at the Constitutional Convention

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image of Journal of Early American History

The U.S. Constitution was first developed at the 1787 Convention, where each state’s vote was determined by the majority preference of its delegates. Two of the delegates from New York, John Lansing and Robert Yates, both strident anti-Federalists, left the Convention early due to disagreement with the proceedings. Their departure cost New York its vote for the rest of the Convention, and has been considered by some scholars to be an important event. We investigate how often New York’s vote was critical to proposals passing or failing, both when present and counter-factually when absent. We find New York’s vote could have been critical on only 28 of 578 (roughly 5%) votes. Most of the 28 votes were on nominal issues. However, paradoxically, it appears that a more favorable outcome for Lansing and Yates might have occurred had New York also missed the very first vote of the Convention and the last vote on apportionment prior to “The Great Compromise”.

Affiliations: 1: Lakeshore Technical College, Cleveland, WI, USA, ; 2: Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA,


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