Kentucky is the 15th State Admitted to the Union

The tenth constitutional convention convened in Danville in April, 1792.

The session lasted only fourteen working days, but the delegates drafted Kentucky’s first Constitution and submitted it to the United States Congress. Congress accepted the Constitution and on June 1, 1792, Kentucky was admitted to the Union as the fifteenth state. That so much was accomplished in such a brief period at the tenth convention was because the previous nine conventions had worked out so many of the difficult problems being considered for inclusion in the Constitution.

The document which the convention drafted included a number of relatively new and progressive features.1 Two such features were the provisions which called for conducting all elections by ballot rather than by the widely-used voice vote of the times
and the basing of representation of both houses of the General Assembly on population rather than geography.

The institution of slavery was recognized by Kentucky’s first Constitution, and the General Assembly was given “no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners” or without compensation. However, the General Assembly was authorized to phase out the institution of slavery through regulation of slaves brought into the state as merchandise and through laws enacted to protect slaves and “treat them with humanity” (Article VII).

In summary, Kentucky’s first Constitution provided a broad foundation for state government and authorized the General Assembly to enact detailed laws for its administration. Further, the need for future revision of the Constitution was recognized, and provision was made for taking a vote of the people five years later to determine if a majority wanted another constitutional convention to be held.

Constitution Square was the site of a series of important events in Kentucky's history: the ten constitutional conventions that led to Kentucky's statehood. Frontier statesmen who lived in what was then the Kentucky County of Virginia struggled more than eight years for independence. Finally, on June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state in the Union and Isaac Shelby, a Revolutionary War hero and convention delegate, was named the first governor of the new Commonwealth.