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PLS 377 Federalist v. Anti-federalist

PLS 377 Federalist v. Anti-federalist - 1 The Debate Over...

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1 The Debate Over the Constitution: Federalists vs. Antifederalists By John E. Semonche The Constitution that emerged from Philadelphia in mid-September 1787 by its own terms required the ratification of nine states before it could go into operation. Its supporters would have to sell the compromise product to conventions in the various states called specifically to consider whether to ratify the Constitution. Although the meeting at Philadelphia had been called to suggest changes to the Articles of Confederation, that document had been quickly put aside as the delegates crafted an entirely new framework of government. Changes to the Articles would have required the unanimous consent that had doomed suggested amendments earlier. Although this new framework was supported by those who styled themselves Federalists, it really provided for a new national government with delegated powers, one that operated directly upon the citizens of the new country, not, as had the Articles, on the states themselves. Earlier a federal government meant a government of independent entities, such as that established under the Articles. Now the supporters of the Constitution redefined the term by applying it to the government developed at Philadelphia. Although Antifederalists Patrick Henry and George Mason were as politically visible as were their opponents, this was not true of opponents in other states. One of the most effective Antifederalist writers was Melancton Smith of New York, but unlike Federalist Alexander Hamilton, he was virtually unknown beyond the state's borders. No single individual was better known in the fledgling nation than George Washington. He had not only presided over the Philadelphia Convention, but he staked his reputation on support for its product. The opponents of the Constitution were forced on the defensive both in regard to the appellation, Antifederalist, and in regard to the fact that they had no ready alternative to suggest. They could only attack certain provisions and bemoan the absence of others, hoping to stall the momentum early state ratification initiated and to gain support for a second convention to modify the work of the first. The fact that the Antifederalists lost the battle and the fact that the Constitution quickly became a revered document combined to relegate their cause to the scrap heap of history. In recent times their cause has been resurrected, and from Ronald Reagan's presidency forward there has been a new interest in federalism; that is, the proper balance between state and national power under the Constitution. For instance, a contemporary historian has concluded that the Antifederalists were not "men of little faith," as an earlier historian had labeled them, but rather "men of great faith and forbearance." He based this assessment on the willingness of the opponents to accept their defeat and work within the Constitution to achieve their ends. Another writer has gone even further by giving his treatment of Antifederalists the title The Other Founders . This shift in historical
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