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The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates Format Kindle
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The original intent of the Convention of States was to simply amend the Articles of Confederation, but instead it set out to frame an entirely new constitution. The Conventional debates began on May 29, 1787, in Philadelphia, with the "Virginia Plan" as the topic of the debates. This was James Madison's plan to strengthen the national government. However, not all our founding fathers wanted a centralized government. Statesmen such as Patrick Henry and John DeWitt argued for a decentralized government with a minimal central government. These men saw that the government as depicted in the Constitution would not represent the people adequately and that rights and liberties recently won from England would be lost.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the political thought which shaped our Constitution.
The biggest question to ask before buying this book, then, isn't why the information is important, but why you should pay money for something that can be found for free online. There are several reasons, for which I give this edition 4 stars:
First, it is an accompaniment to the Signet Classics edition of the Federalist Papers, and has a variety of cross-references to it. If you have both, it makes the search for certain topics and both sides' arguments in its regard much easier.
Second, it has a great introduction. The problem with approaching the Anti-Federalists without any editorial priming beforehand (whether from an introduction, a class, or both) is that one becomes liable to think of the group as nothing but a rag-tag group of guys with as many different opinions as there are men professing them, whose only point of unity is their opposition to Federalism. Their negative name--the "Anti-"Federalists--implies this, after all, and Madison himself tries to play off this point in one of his papers. The masterful introduction tries to prevent this, by expounding on the fundamental, unifying vision of the Federalists, the Anti-Federalists, and exactly how the two differed.
Lastly, there is a variety of tables of ideas that make finding specific points of opposition to specific topics that much easier.
For these three reasons, on top of the simple fact that it groups together all the scattered Anti-Federalist essays (making it more likely that you will actually read them), I believe this book is worth the $8 that it costs today.
It does have some issues, however. First, the paper quality is the same as of the Federalist Papers edition I reviewed before, with the same associated defect of leaving ink blotches behind on your finger. For some reason, it actually leaves less ink than the Federalist Papers, but the pulpy texture is still unpleasant. Second, and most important, is the relatively sparsity of the essays included. As it is, if you take a class that touches on this topic, you will invariably end up having to find several essays online that were not included into this edition. There presently seems to be no medium alternative between buying a sparse edition like this and a full anthology that can cost into the thousands of dollars, however, so you're not likely to find anything better.
However, I would not recommend this edition. The editor is clearly Federalist. For example, his bias can be found at the bottom of page 214, where he inserts the comment "[Here Mr. Henry strongly and pathetically expatiated on the probability of the President's enslaving America and the horrible consequences that must result.]" Strongly? Pathetically? Expatiated? These are pretty strong words, certainly not the words of an unbiased historian. The "Mr. Henry" he is referring to is Patrick Henry, one of our nation's greatest patriots. The comment is inserted in the middle of one of Patrick Henry's speeches. The editor's bias casts doubt on the analysis, comments, historical reference, and background information he has inserted throughout the book, ostensibly to provide a frame of reference for better understanding the actual documents. If the frame of reference is tilted, your understanding risks being tilted.
Read the Anti-Federalist papers, by all means. But get an edition with no bias, or a bias in favor of the anti-federalist viewpoint.
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