What Article 7 of the American Constitution literally states is that the ratification of the State Constitutional Conventions of nine of the then thirteen states will ultimately be sufficient for the establishment of the Constitution between the states that are ratifying the document. In essence, the document implies a sense of plausible deniability; while the signers of the Constitution required the ratification of the nine states to exist, they also hedged the document’s language to stipulate that it would not necessarily implement its will over states that had not ratified it. To quote the article:
“The ratification of the Conventions of nine states shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.” The Article states the Constitution would only be established “between the States so ratifying the same,” in essence that Constitution would only represent the states that ratified the document. The other states that had not ratified could technically have claimed exemption had they decided not to ratify the document in question.
A situation where that may have happened almost arose after the Constitution received its ninth ratification, making it active and viable among those nine states. At the point when the document was established, the two most significant states, Virginia and New York, who both had considerable wealth, land, population, and who valued their sovereignty, had not ratified the document, and by its letter, would have remained technically exempt from its oversight.
Virginia and New York did ratify the Constitution, but by very slim majorities, within weeks of the document’s establishment, placing themselves under its auspices. Of the original thirteen states, Rhode Island was the final holdout, ratifying the Constitution almost ten years into its existence.
Since then, this implication of the wording of Article 7 remains largely moot, as every State that has joined the union has had to swear to acknowledge the legal superiority of the Constitution. Nevertheless, given that five of the thirteen states that unanimously ratified the Constitution only did so by a slim majority, it would have been amazing to think what might have happened if four of those states, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, had not ratified the Constitution. The history of the American Government might have been significantly different and the Constitution may not have been the vaunted document it is today.
A notable case that actually incorporated Article 7 was the Supreme Court case Owings v. Speed, which questioned whether a Virginia Law passed in 1788 was covered by the Constitution. It was decided at the time that the Constitution had no oversight over the law because the Federal Government had not yet existed in its current form, as the law predated the establishment of the Constitution and Virginia’s ratification of it. Since that meant that the Federal Government and Virginia’s sovereign State Government had not existed at the same time, the Constitution did not oversee the law that existed before the implementation of that law.