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The Anti-Federalist Papers - edited by Ralph Ketcham
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates edited by Ralph Ketcham is the counter to the Federalist Papers we know so much about. Yes, debate was strong as were the opinions expressed by the people between 1765 and 1787, as nothing was certain and the fledgling United States of America was going through dissenting opinions and concepts to ensure that the threats to the rights and liberties that were recently won from England were not thrown to the wind.
During the period from the drafting and proposal of the federal Constitution in September, 1787, to its ratification in 1789 there was an intense debate on ratification. The principal arguments in favor of it were stated in the series written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay called the Federalist Papers, although they were not as widely read as numerous independent local speeches and articles.
The arguments against ratification appeared in various forms, by various authors, most of whom used a pseudonym. Collectively, these writings have become known as the Anti-Federalist Papers. We here present some of the best and most widely read of these. They contain warnings of dangers from tyranny that weaknesses in the proposed Constitution did not adequately provide against, and while some of those weaknesses were corrected by adoption of the Bill of Rights, others remained, and some of these dangers are now coming to pass.
To get a better knowledge of what was going on at that time in our history we need to read about what was really going on and how was the political climate. Reading the "Federalist Papers" will not give you a complete picture, a good start, yes, but the concept of a strong central government was looked upon as an infringement of individual and states' rights. The constitutions was looked upon, by some, as a threat. Thus, this volume, of dissenting opinions, is valuable to balance the thought process.
Anti-Federalist Papers is the collective name given to the scattered writings of those Americans who during the late 1780s to early 1790s opposed to or who raised doubts about the merits of a firmer and more energetic union as embodied in the 1787 United States Constitution. The authors of these writings, like those who wrote The Federalist Papers - articles and essays in support of and promoting a firmer and more connected union - wrote mostly under pen names but, unlike the three authors of The Federalist Papers, were not engaged in an organized project. Thus, in contrast to the pro-Constitution advocates, there is no one book or collection of Anti-Federalist Papers. Their work is vast and varied and, for the most part, uncoordinated.
Although there is no canonical list of anti-federalist authors, major authors include Cato (likely George Clinton), Brutus (likely Robert Yates), Centinel (Samuel Bryan), and the Federal Farmer (either Melancton Smith, Richard Henry Lee, or Mercy Otis Warren). Speeches by Patrick Henry and Smith are often included as well.
In contrast to Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay who supported ratification of the Constitution of the United States, many others did not. While the former's works were more logically organized (and eventually won the debate), the Anti-Federalist Papers writers were nonetheless articulate. Serious questions were raised which eventually led to some of the Federalist writings that served as answers to allegations of the Anti-Federalists.
Patrick Henry and John DeWitt are but two of these men who had a different concept of what a federal government should be, as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Madison were primary in the concept of compromise or composite, partly national is that some powers impinged directly on the people (taxing power) and partly national as the states acted as "units" of a central government. This early on would be the ground work for dual-sovereignty, but with carefully laid out laws.
No serious student of the Constitution can be without both sides of the story. Some Anti-Federalist prophecies have strangely come true. Writings by "Brutus" and "A Federal Farmer," particularly relating to the "necessary and proper" clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18), view the future under an unrestrained Congress. Although the "necessary and proper" clause was never meant to be a blanket grant of power, over the years, as the intentions of the Founding Fathers have passed further and further from our memories, all three branches of the federal government have assumed things that simply do not -and never did -exist. As the States have forgotten how to be a check against a Congress run amok, things are getting worse.
These documents, like the Federalist Papers themselves, cannot be considered all inclusive. Many other pro and con pieces appeared in newspapers, in the state ratification conventions, in pamphlets, books, and other sources of the time.
This book cross-references to the "Federalist Paper" making this an excellent book for the novice reader. Also, there are complete texts of the Anti-Federalist papers and Constitutional Convention Debates complete with commentaries and an Index of Ideas making this volume invaluable to anyone interested in political thought in action. As political independence required new mode of thinking, the United States became a hotbed of political thought about government. Thus, the next step was national identity and to accomplish this they had to have a national government acting as one, a union and confederated government. As the debate flourished, giving rise to pamphlets, newspaper articles and other writings on questions of a representative government, eventually a quest for freer and more democratic government persisted.
Although not complete, these are considered the premier Anti-Federalist writings, organized somewhat to coincide with the Federalist Papers. This book has quite a lot of information in it and along with other readings makes the reader better prepared to understand as to why things are as they are, with respect to the Constitution of the United States, the oldest still-in-use.