FEDERALISTS VERSUS ANTI-FEDERALISTS
*The Constitution we know to-day was not a popular document at the time. The struggle to ratify it was one of the first major political debates to split the country.
*Look at parts of the Constitution (starting page 174).
*It would take 9 of 13 states ratifying the Constitution to make it the legal government of all those states, and it was to be ratified by special committees, rather than the state legislatures, who might resent its infringement upon their powers.
*The Constitution was distrusted by many people, but several influential men supported it. They, and their adherents, were called the Federalists, because they supported the federal system of government the Constitution was supposed to create. Among these men were Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and Jay.
*The Federalists argued that a strong national government was necessary for defence from foreigners and from domestic insurrections (such as Shays’ Rebellion of the State of Franklin). It would also regulate trade and improve commerce, and do diplomacy better with foreigners, because it would have the wealth and army to back itself up.
*The Anti-Federalists, among whom Patrick Henry was one of the most famous (although Jefferson secretly sympathised with them a little bit, though he eventually came out as a Federalist), feared, first, that a representative government simply could not control so much land. Its people wouldn’t know enough to govern far-off places, it would be too inefficient, and it would dissolve into factions or parties (which they didn’t like). The Federalists said that there would be no political parties that mattered because so many people would have so many interests that they couldn’t work together in just two or three parties. The Anti-Federalists also feared a large government with an army and the power to tax. They worried that the new government would end up as tyrannical as the British government they had just overthrown. They worried that a strong national government would hurt the states, which were the true representatives of the people. They thought a big, distant government wouldn’t care. Also, there was no Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government. Even the British had one.
*Numerous pamphlets and articles were written about the Constitution. The most famous series of these were called The Federalist or the Federalist Papers. Published in New York by Jay, Hamilton, and Madison over the course of almost a year, from October 1787 to August 1788, they made one of the best arguments for the Constitution, which swung the vote in New York and which are still studied to-day, since they are a way to see the Father of the Constitution speak about his work.
*The Federalists won for a number of reasons, although it took a while. They won because people feared disorder, such as Shays’ rebellion, because they had a specific plan (while the Anti-Federalists did not have an alternative answer to known problems), because they were well-organised, and because they had the support of George Washington, who was the most popular man in America.
*The Constitution was ratified quickly by small states who needed its protection. Delaware was first.
*Larger states were slower. In June, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify, making the Constitution legal, but that wasn’t really good enough. Only after large and important Virginia and New York ratified the Constitution could it really be take seriously—without them the country would not have lasted.
*North Carolina ratified a bit later, in 1789, and Rhode Island did not join until May, 1790.
*The Federalists soon addressed one of the chief complaints about the Constitution, namely the lack of a Bill of Rights. Based on the work of George Mason of Virginia, but written by James Madison, it was designed to protect the rights of the people. Twelve amendments were written in September, 1789, and ten were ratified by all the states by 15 December, 1791. Those to-day are called the Bill of Rights.
*The class will learn more about the Bill of Rights by creating descriptions of each, using cartoons and simple explanations, as if they were going to teach the Bill of Rights to young folks. This will be important for the test.
*With the new government made legal,
George Washington is elected the first president of the United States.
As the most respected man in America, he is able to hold the country together
and set precedents (such as the two-term tradition) that we still follow
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This page last updated 3 September, 2003.