Asked • 05/04/19

Why was Kentucky not admitted to the Union in 1789?

At the beginning of July 1788, the unicameral Congress of the Confederation began deliberations on whether to admit the proposed new state of Kentucky to the Union. Under the Articles of Confederation, each of the thirteen states could cast one vote on each measure in Congress, and nine states were needed to admit a state to the Union. Kentucky was a part of Virginia and the legislature of Virginia had consented to making it a separate state. Congress's deliberations were interrupted by a notification that New Hampshire had just become the ninth state to ratify the proposed new Constitution, so that it became effective in the ratifying states. They passed a resolution saying it would be "unadvisable" to admit a new state under those circumstances. That it would have opened some major cans of worms can be seen when one considers that the new Constitution named the thirteen states and not any new states, and said how many representatives each would have in Congress until the census data became available, without mentioning any new states, and granted to the new bicameral Congress the power to admit new states. Alexander Hamilton, then a member of the legislature of New York, predicted in 1788 that one of the first things to be done by the new bicameral Congress the following year would be the admission of Kentucky to the Union. He used that as one of his arguments in favor of New York's renouncing its disputed claim to sovereignty over Vermont and consenting to Vermont's admission to the Union, so the the additional southern representation in the Senate would be balanced by additional northern representation. But Congress did not admit Kentucky to the Union in 1789. Why not?

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