Anti-Federalist Papers

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The Anti-Federalist Papers is the collective name given to works written by the Founding Fathers who were opposed to or concerned with the merits of the United States Constitution of 1787. Starting on 25 September 1787 (8 days after the final draft of the US Constitution) and running through the early 1790s, these anti-Federalists published a series of essays arguing against a stronger and more energetic union as embodied in the new Constitution. Although less influential than their counterparts, The Federalist Papers , these works nonetheless played an important role in shaping the early American political landscape and in the passage of the US Bill of Rights.

Founding Fathers of the United States Group of Americans who led the revolution against Great Britain

The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers, were a group of American leaders who united the Thirteen Colonies, led the war for independence from Great Britain, and built a frame of government for the new United States of America upon republican principles during the latter decades of the 18th century. Most Founding Fathers at one point considered themselves British subjects, but they came to understand themselves more as patriotic Americans who possessed a spirit distinct from that of their motherland. The group was composed of businessmen, lawyers, philosophers, politicians, plantation owners and writers from a variety of social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. The Founding Fathers came from a variety of occupations, and many had no prior political experience.

Anti-Federalism movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and which later opposed the ratification of the Constitution of 1788

Anti-Federalism was a late-18th century movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and which later opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution. The previous constitution, called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, gave state governments more authority. Led by Patrick Henry of Virginia, Anti-Federalists worried, among other things, that the position of president, then a novelty, might evolve into a monarchy. Though the Constitution was ratified and supplanted the Articles of Confederation, Anti-Federalist influence helped lead to the passage of the United States Bill of Rights.

<i>The Federalist Papers</i> Series of 85 essays arguing in favor of the ratification of the US Constitution

The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym "Publius" to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution. The collection was commonly known as The Federalist until the name The Federalist Papers emerged in the 20th century.

Contents

History

Following its victory against the British in the Revolutionary War, the United States was plagued by a variety of internal problems. The weak central government could not raise taxes to cover war debts and was largely unable to pass legislation. Many early American politicians and thinkers believed that these issues were the result of the Articles of Confederation, the first governing document of the United States. [1] In 1787 a convention gathered in Philadelphia to attempt to amend it. Soon, however, the gathering shifted its focus to constructing a newer and more powerful Constitution for the fledgling country. Two main competing factions emerged, the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. The former supported a more powerful central government while the latter opposed it.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies in North America which declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America.

Articles of Confederation First constitution of the United States

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America that served as its first constitution. It was approved, after much debate, by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and sent to the states for ratification. The Articles of Confederation came into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all 13 states. A guiding principle of the Articles was to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. The weak central government established by the Articles received only those powers which the former colonies had recognized as belonging to king and parliament.

Constitutional Convention (United States) Event in 1787 in Philadelphia creating the United States Constitution

The Constitutional Convention took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in the old Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia. Although the Convention was intended to revise the league of states and first system of government under the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison of Virginia and Alexander Hamilton of New York, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. The delegates elected George Washington of Virginia, former commanding general of the Continental Army in the late American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and proponent of a stronger national government, to become President of the Convention. The result of the Convention was the creation of the Constitution of the United States, placing the Convention among the most significant events in American history.

Patrick Henry, author of several of the anti-Federalist papers Patrick henry.JPG
Patrick Henry, author of several of the anti-Federalist papers

During the lengthy and heated national debate following this convention, both groups wrote extensively in favor of their respective positions. The anti-Federalist papers are a selection of the written arguments against the US Constitution by those known to posterity as the anti-Federalists. As with the Federalist papers, these essays were originally published in newspapers. The most widely known are "a series of sixteen essays published in the New York Journal from October 1787 through April 1788 during the same period. The anti-Federalist was appearing in New York newspapers, under the pseudonym 'Brutus'."[ attribution needed ]

Structure and content

The Anti-Federalist papers were written over a number of years and by a variety of authors who utilized pen names to remain anonymous, and debates over authorship continue to this day. Unlike the authors of The Federalist Papers, a group of three men working closely together, the authors of the anti-Federalist papers were not engaged in an organized project. Thus, in contrast to the pro-Constitution advocates, there was no one book or collection of anti-Federalist Papers at the time. The essays were the product of a vast number of authors, working individually rather than as a group. [2] Although there is no canonical list of anti-federalist authors, major authors include Cato (likely George Clinton), Brutus (likely Melancton Smith or Robert Yates or perhaps John Williams), Centinel (Samuel Bryan), and the Federal Farmer (either Melancton Smith, Richard Henry Lee, or Mercy Otis Warren [ citation needed ]). Works by Patrick Henry and a variety of others are often included as well.

George Clinton (vice president) American soldier and statesman

George Clinton was an American soldier and statesman, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A prominent Democratic-Republican, Clinton served as the fourth vice president of the United States from 1805 until his death in 1812. He also served as governor of New York from 1777 to 1795 and from 1801 to 1804. Along with John C. Calhoun, he is one of two vice presidents to hold office under two presidents.

Brutus was the pen name of an Antifederalist in a series of essays designed to encourage New Yorkers to reject the proposed Constitution. His series are considered among the best of those written to oppose adoption of the proposed constitution. They paralleled and confronted The Federalist Papers during the ratification fight over the Constitution. Brutus published 16 essays in the New-York Journal, and Weekly Register from October, 1787, through April, 1788, beginning shortly before The Federalist started appearing in New York newspapers. The essays were widely reprinted and commented on throughout the American states. All 16 of the essays were addressed to "the Citizens of the State of New York".

Melancton Smith American politician

Melancton Smith was a New York delegate to the Continental Congress. His first name is sometimes spelled "Melancthon"; it derives from Philip Melanchthon, the leader in the Reformation.

Until the mid-20th century, there was no united series of anti-Federalist papers. The first major collection was compiled by Morton Borden, a professor at Columbia University, in 1965. He "collected 85 of the most significant papers and arranged them in an order closely resembling that of the 85 Federalist Papers". The most frequently cited contemporary collection, The Complete Anti-Federalist, was compiled by Herbert Storing and Murray Dry of the University of Chicago. At seven volumes and including many pamphlets and other materials not previously published in a collection, this work is considered, by many, to be the authoritative compendium on the publications. [3]

<i>The Complete Anti-Federalist</i>

The Complete Anti-Federalist is a seven-volume collection of the scattered Anti-Federalist Papers compiled by Herbert Storing and his former student Murray Dry of the University of Chicago, who oversaw the completion of the project after Storing's death. Michael Lienesch treats Storing's compilation as "definitive," and many of the pamphlets and other materials included had not previously been published in a collection. The collection is noted for its sympathetic portrayal of the Anti-Federalists. The commentary underscores little-known similar positions and arguments made by the birth of the first two-party system in America. Storing points out that many "Anti-Federalists" actually considered themselves Federalists in the sense that a federation is a structure over sovereign states.

University of Chicago Private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890, the school is located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan. The University of Chicago holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.

Considering their number and diversity, it is difficult to summarize the contents of the Anti-Federalist papers. Generally speaking they reflected the sentiments of the anti-Federalists, which Akhil Reed Amar of the Yale Law School generalized as: a localist fear of a powerful central government, a belief in the necessity of direct citizen participation in democracy, and a distrust of wealthy merchants and industrialists. [4] Essays with titles such as "A Dangerous Plan of Benefit Only to The 'Aristocratick Combination'" and "New Constitution Creates a National Government; Will Not Abate Foreign Influence; Dangers of Civil War And Despotism" fill the collection, and reflect the strong feelings of the authors.

Akhil Amar 20th and 21st-century American legal scholar

Akhil Reed Amar is an American legal scholar known for his expertise in constitutional law and criminal procedure. He holds the position of Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. A Legal Affairs poll placed Amar among the top 20 contemporary US legal thinkers.

In the table below, a selection of Anti-Federalist papers have been contrasted with their Federalist counterparts. [5]

SubjectAnti-FederalistFederalist
Need for stronger UnionJohn Dewitt № I and IIFederalist № 1–6
Bill of RightsJohn Dewitt № IIJames Wilson, 10/6/87 Federalist № 84
Nature and powers of the UnionPatrick Henry, 6/5/88 Federalist № 1, 14, 15
Responsibility and checks in self-governmentCentinel № 1 Federalist № 10, 51
Extent of Union, states' rights, Bill of Rights, taxationPennsylvania Minority: Brutus № 1 Federalist № 10, 32, 33, 35, 36, 39, 45, 84
Extended republics, taxationFederal Farmer № I and II Federalist № 8, 10, 14, 35, 36
Broad construction, taxing powersBrutus № VI Federalist № 23, 30–34
Defense, standing armiesBrutus № XFederalist № 24–29
The judiciaryBrutus № XI, XII, XVFederalist № 78–83
Government resting on the peopleJohn DeWitt № III Federalist № 23, 49
Executive powerCato № IV Federalist № 67
Regulating electionsCato № VII Federalist № 59
House of RepresentativesBrutus № IV Federalist № 27, 28, 52–54, 57
The SenateBrutus № XVI Federalist № 62, 63
Representation in House of Representatives and SenateMelancton Smith, 6/20-6/27-88Federalist № 52–57, 62–63

Legacy

The Anti-Federalists proved unable to stop the ratification of the US Constitution, which took effect in 1789. Since then, the essays they wrote have largely fallen into obscurity. Unlike, for example, The Federalist No. 10 written by James Madison, none of their works are mainstays in college curricula or court rulings. [6] The influence of their writing, however, can be seen to this day – particularly in the nature and shape of the United States Bill of Rights. Federalists (such as Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 84) vigorously argued against its passage but were in the end forced to compromise. [7] The broader legacy of the Anti-Federalist cause can be seen in the strong suspicion of centralized government held by many Americans to this day.

See also

Notes

  1. Barron, Jerome A.; Dienes, C. Thomas; McCormack, Wayne; Redish, Martin H. (May 29, 2012). Constitutional Law: Principles and Policy, Cases and Materials. LexisNexis. ISBN   9780327174349.
  2. Gordon Lloyd. "Introduction to the Antifederalists". TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland, Ohio: The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  3. Journal of Politics 45.1 (1983): 263. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Nov. 2011.
  4. Amar, Akhil. "Anti-Federalists, the Federalist Papers, and the Big Argument for Union". yale.org. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  5. The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates. Ed. Ralph Ketcham. Penguin, 2003. Print.
  6. Chernow, Ron. "Alexander Hamilton". Penguin Books, 2004. (p. 260)
  7. "Bill of Rights". Bill of Rights Institute. Retrieved March 3, 2016.

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