My second January living in New Hampshire brought ivory beauty to our little red cape on the hill…
an exciting addition to our farm…
and presidential candidates to our little neck of the woods. . .
But the fervor of the country’s first 2016 Presidential Primary was extra special for me. Why? Two reasons. You see, two is the total number of states I’ve lived in in my 46 years (Delaware and New Hampshire). Two is also the number of states that played the most pivotal roles in the ratification of the U.S. Constitution: the unhesitating first and the deciding ninth. Those states–the ones so important in the life of our Constitution–happen to be the two states important in my own life: Delaware and New Hampshire.
I’m quite proud of my connection to the supreme document of fundamental principles that makes our nation great. And the past few months I’ve been more intrigued with our Constitution than ever, as I’ve been analyzing how well I believe the presidential candidates will ensure that the document’s original intentions are upheld.
Growing up in my native state, I learned to dig for sand crabs, appreciate blue hens, and develop a snobbery for Capriotti subs. I also learned to be proud that I grew up in the state that was home to the penman of the Revolution (John Dickinson), the first log cabins (brought by the Finnish settlers), and the infamous fighting Blue Hens (who accompanied Delaware’s brave soldiers to Revolutionary War battle lines). Yes, my native Delaware (along with its fiery fighting birds) is near and dear to my heart, and its slogan lets no one forget that it is indeed “The First State.” Back in 1787, the diminutive Delaware needed to see the Constitution ratified quickly or it was threatened to be devoured by nearby, larger, stronger states.*
The Granite State—the state I’ve just recently had the privilege to call “home”—is where I’ve learned to recognize the sound of “r” as an “ah” and appreciate that every way is the “long way” when you’re driving in the Lakes Region, but at least the long way includes a lakeside view.
I’ve learned that New Hampshire is more reserved than Delaware, both in its people (who never waste words, food, or time, if they can help it) and about its place in line when ratifying the Constitution. But its ninth-place status is truly just as important as Delaware’s first-place distinction. As the ninth state to jump on board, New Hampshire finalized the deal. The Constitutional Convention had called for only a 70% ratification for the document to be in effect. While the drafters knew that a full, unanimous agreement would be impossible, they also knew that time was of the essence or our nation might be fractured beyond re-piecing.
New Hampshire, true to its rebellious spirit and its promise to “Live Free or Die,” signed the final pen stroke that made our Constitution the law of our land, even though it was an extra-legal document** that had been written behind closed doors and was under severe scrutiny by the anti-federalists (which included worthy patriots like Patrick Henry I might add).
So, you see, my native state’s unanimous vote—of all 30 Delaware delegates—accurately foretold that our nation would rally to form a more perfect union, truly the best one formed on this side of heaven at least, without bloodshed. And my now-home state confirmed this fact and made the Constitution the highest law in our land, guaranteeing domestic tranquility and liberty, at least as long as we the people are willing to uphold it.
And now the Granite State continues to take its role in upholding the Constitution very seriously, as the location of the first presidential primaries. Funny, the Hawkeye State became the first location for presidential caucuses in the early 70s because of a simple lack of hotel rooms, but the hardline, stubborn Granite State voted into law in the 40s the fact that it will always be the first primary. I’d like to think that those lawmakers in 1949, thinking of New Hampshire’s stance as the state to sign the Constitution into law, wanted to make sure that New Hampshire continued to have a say in honoring the Constitution– by carefully, painstakingly considering the candidates whom it felt would uphold the Constitution–and proudly be some of the first to reveal its opinions to the watching nation.
I, a First State girl and now a Granite State woman, have been loving my first presidential primary election year as a New Hampshirite. For a 3-week period in January and early February, I have been giddy with the notion that in a roughly one-hour-or-less drive… north or south… on any given day… I can meet almost any one of the presidential candidates who are vying for my vote.
So over the course of many school days that followed, in between caring for the animals…
and working through math and grammar lessons with my daughters (and a few stray bunnies)…
We talked to some presidential candidates.
I thought others might like some insight into this process. Insight into life in the state of the first primaries in a presidential election year. Insight into our democracy at work, on the ground. Insight into a month’s worth of Town Hall meetings filled with real people… talking to real candidates… about real issues.
So stick with me over the next few days or weeks. In upcoming blog posts, I’ll give you a little glimpse into the first presidential primary. But don’t worry, I’d much rather talk about ducks that lay eggs and cows that offer milk than elephants that bicker and donkeys that lie. So soon enough I’ll be writing about the promises of a spring garden instead of the emptiness of wintered politicians.
But for this week, I’m elated that I personally got to meet some presidential candidates, and I’m elated at the prospects of a new Commander in Chief who might value and honor the Constitution. I’m elated that we the people can get to know the candidates and then have a deciding voice in determining the next President of the United States. After all, as the American author Elbert Hubbard said, “Parties who want milk should not seat themselves on a stool in the middle of the field in hopes that the cow will back up to them. ”
* For those of you looking for a history lesson, I’ve read many varied arguments as to why Delaware jumped to sign so quickly, from wanting a strong central government, to protecting their long beach line, to lowering inter-state taxes, to desiring to be first in line for federal grants. Truth is, very little documentation was kept of what went on in the short three days of deliberation in Dover, Delaware, but every one of the 30 voted-in delegates (10 from each of the state’s three counties) was a Federalist. Delawareans were obviously pretty passionate about signing the Constitution. But as a native Delawarean, I’ve always heard that we were eager to sign because we would then be official as an entity of our own and less likely to be gobbled up by nearby states who wanted to extend their boundaries.
** The Articles of Confederation had made it clear that all states must be in agreement for ratification.