Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut and Massachusetts were the first six states to ratify the U.S. Constitution, officially joining the United States of America. Maryland, South Carolina and New Hampshire were the last three states to endorse ratification before the newly established government took effect on March 4, 1789, but Virginia and New York soon followed in June and July, respectively.
In 1786, the states were struggling under the unstable union of the Articles of Confederation and needed an unbiased central authority to regulate interstate issues, such as commerce. On May 25, 1787, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention approved the draft of the U.S. Constitution, which advocated for a stronger centralized government. The Articles of Confederation mandated a minimum requirement of nine states to ratify the Constitution. Many of the earliest supporters were smaller states, such as New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut, which had the most to gain from curbing the powers of larger states.
Massachusetts politicians initially opposed the Constitution because they were concerned about the distribution of powers between federal and state governments and infringement upon civil rights, such as freedom of speech and the press. John Hancock and other influential leaders eventually drove support for ratification after receiving assurance that amendments protecting civil rights would be a priority at the first Congressional meeting once the Constitution was approved.