Lesson 13: What Was the Anti-Federalist Position in the Debate about Ratification?
Purpose • The signed Constitution would only become official if ratified by 9 of 13 states. This lesson explains the ratification process and public debate between the Federalists (supported) and Anti-Federalists (opposed).
Objectives • Explain why the Anti-Federalists opposed ratifying the Constitution. • Explain the role of Anti-Federalists in proposing a bill of rights. • Identify other contributions their views have made toward interpreting the Constitution. • Evaluate, take and defend a position on the validity and relevance of Anti-Federalist arguments.
Terms to Know • Anti–Federalists • Opponents to ratification of the U.S. Constitution who believed that it gave excessive power to the federal government and failed to protect the rights and liberties of the people. • Bill of Rights • The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights lists many basic rights that the federal government may not interfere with and must protect. Nearly all these rights are now also protected from violation by state governments. • ratification • (1) Formal approval of some formal legal instrument such as a constitution or treaty. (2) In U.S. constitutional history, the approval of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 by the ratifying conventions held in each state, except for Rhode Island, which initially voted the Constitution down by popular referendum.
The Ratification Process • Ratifying conventions set up in each state • Sole purpose was to debate and approve/reject the Constitution • Delegates elected by popular vote • 9 States needed to ratify Constitution for it to go into effect • Example of Social Contract Theory
Debating the Proposed Constitution • As soon as delegates released the proposal, opposition emerged. • Anti-Federalists published objections in newspapers and pamphlets (George Mason, Elbridge Gerry) • Oppositions believed in reasoned discourse to educate citizens • They drew on political philosophy ad history to make arguments. • Americans read and discussed the arguments in their homes, coffeehouses, taverns and public meetings across the nation.
Key Elements of Anti-Federalists’ Opposition • Representative gov’t could only work in small communities of people with similar beliefs • In large nations, gov’t no longer reflects wishes of most citizens, resorting to force to maintain authority • National gov’t will reduce power / role of local gov’t • Small, agrarian communities are more likely to have civic virtue than large, diverse nations
Anti-Federalists’ Philosophy • Strong national gov’ts needed in large nations have always destroyed republics • Each branch had potential for tyranny • No adequate limit on Congress’ necessary & proper clause • President has unlimited power to grant pardons • National courts could destroy state judicial branches • Gov’t is not truly representative. House of Reps has only 65 members out of 3 million citizens.
Bill of Rights Debate • National gov’t did not protect rights. • National gov’ts power is so general and vague that it is essentially unlimited. • Nothing keeps gov’t from violating all rights it does not explicitly protect. • State’s bill of rights does not protect against national government. • Bill of Rights would remind people of the principles of our political system.
Lesson 14: • What Was the Federalist Position in the Debate about Ratification?
Purpose • Those who supported ratification, which created a stronger government, called themselves Federalists. • This lesson describes the arguments and strategies Federalists used to win support for the Constitution.
Objectives • Explain the key arguments of the Federalists and the process by which the Constitution was finally ratified. • Evaluate, take, and defend positions on the continuing relevance and validity of the Federalists’ argument.
Terms to Know • "new science of politics" • James Madison's term in The Federalist for a study of politics utilizing reason, observation, and history that would help the Founders construct a new government on a rational and informed basis. • faction • (1) A small group within a larger group. (2) In its political sense, according to James Madison in Federalist 10, a faction is a "number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united...by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." • Federalists • Advocates for a strong central government who urged ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They flourished as a political party in the 1790s under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton. The party disappeared from national politics in 1816. • majority tyranny • A situation in which a majority uses the principle of majority rule but fails to respect the rights and interests of the minority. See also majority rule • The Federalist • A series of articles written for newspapers urging the adoption of the Constitution and supporting the need for a strong national government.
Federalists’ Strategies • Federalists acted quickly so that Ant-Federalists would not have a chance to organize opposition. • Over ten months of debate, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay published Federalist Papers to convince people to support ratification. • They presented Constitution as a well-organized, agreed-upon plan that reflected a “new science of politics.”
Federalists’ Response to Fears of a Large Republic • Most Americans agreed that large republics were unsuccessful • Madison creates new theory that factions are greatest danger • Factions promote own self-interest at expense of common good • Majority tyranny could be combated w/ a republic • Large republic’s would reduce large factions • Representatives “refine” public views by filtering out ideas based solely on self-interest. • Large republics would defeat dangers of faction.
Federalists’ Central Arguments • Civic virtue alone will not protect people’s rights and promote their welfare. • With many interests and factions in a large republic, none would dominate • Constitution’s organization (Checks & Balances) promote goals of republicanism • Electoral system would ensure qualified representatives • Complicated system would prevent factions from serving own interests at expense of common good • Difficulty to pass laws was a good thing
Federalists’ Central Arguments • Representation of different interests in the government will protect basic rights • In Legislative Branch, House represents local interests, Senate represents state’s interests • In Executive, President safeguards nation’s interests • In Judicial, Supreme Court ensures good judgments since they are independence of politics, responsible only to Constitution.
Ratification’s Success • By June 1788, 9 states voted to ratify. • However, no NY or VA (needed, wealthy & populous) • Federalists agreed to add a Bill of Rights during first Congress, depriving Anti-Fed’s of their most powerful argument. • NC and RI eventually forced to ratify by 1790 or else be treated as foreign nations.