VII.3: Anti-Federalist Predictions against the Constitution

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Anti-Federalist Predictions against the Constitution

In 1787, the U.S. Constitution was written, but not without a fight. That is, many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention opposed it. But in the end the majority decided what it would say.

That majority group became known as the Federalists. And those who opposed them became known as Anti-Federalists. Moreover, there were many Anti-Federalist predictions against the Constitution. After it was finalized, the Anti-Federalists refused to sign the document. I listed some of their famous names in an earlier post.

The Anti-Federalists saw many dangers from the new Constitution. For example, George Mason made these observations:

The Judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended, as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several States … enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor. … [T]he Congress may … extend their powers as far as they shall think proper; so that the State legislatures have no security for the powers now presumed to remain to them, or the people for their rights. (Mason 1787)

Richard Henry Lee was not a delegate to the Convention. But he joined the ranks of the Anti-Federalists when his state was considering whether to ratify the Constitution. And he had this to say about it:

… The greatness of the powers given, & the multitude of Places to be created, produces a coalition of Monarchy men, Military Men, Aristocrats, and Drones whose noise, imprudence & zeal exceeds all belief–Whilst the Commercial plunder of the South stimulates the rapacious Trader. (Lee, 1787, 136)

There were Anti-Federalist predictions against the Constitution in all of the states.

For example, a group of congressmen in Pennsylvania gave these arguments to explain their opposition:

The powers of Congress under the new constitution are complete and unlimited over the purse and the sword, and are perfectly independent of, and supreme over, the state governments; whose intervention in these great points is entirely destroyed. By virtue of their power of taxation, Congress may command the whole, or any part of the property of the people. They may impose what imposts upon commerce; they may impose what land taxes, poll taxes, excises, duties on all written instruments, and duties on every other article that they may judge proper…. …The representation … is so exposed to corruption and undue influence, by the gift of the numerous places of honor and emolument at the disposal of the executive, by the arts and address of the great and designing, and by direct bribery. (Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania 1787)

In addition, some Anti-Federalists in the states wrote articles using pen names:

For example:

I would ask how was the proposed Constitution to have showered down those treasures upon every class of citizens …? Is it by the addition of numerous and expensive establishments? … Is it by a large standing army? In short by putting it in the power of the future government to levy money at pleasure, and placing this government so independent of the people as to enable the administration to gratify every corrupt passion of the mind, to riot on your spoils, without check or controul? (Centinel IV, 1787)

The plan proposed appears to be partly federal, but principally however, calculated ultimately to make the states one consolidated government. (Federal Farmer I 1787)

These violent partisans [the Federalists] … consist generally of … men of great wealth and expectations of public office, Bankers and Lawyers. … The numerous tribunals to be erected by the new plan of consolidated empire will find employment for ten times their present numbers…. (A Federalist 1787)

Do you think the Anti-Federalists were paranoid? Or do you think any, or even possibly all, of the Anti-Federalist predictions against the Constitution have come true in modern America?

This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.

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Sources:

A Federalist. 1787. Letter dated Nov. 26. A Dangerous Plan of Benefit only to the “Aristocratick Combination”. Boston Gazette and Country Journal, November 26, 1787. Constitution Society. https://www.constitution.org/afp/borden01.htm (Accessed Feb. 6, 2019)

Centinel IV. 1787. To the People of Pennsylvania. Nov. 30. Teaching American History. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/centinel-iv (Accessed Feb. 6, 2019)

Lee, Richard Henry. 1787. Letter to George Mason. Oct. 1. Teaching American History. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-george-mason-2 (Accessed Feb. 6, 2019)

Federal Farmer I. 1787. Federal Farmer I. Oct. 8. Teaching American History. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/federal-farmer-i (Accessed Feb. 6, 2019)

Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania . 1787. The Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania. Dec. 18. Teaching American History. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-dissent-of-the-minority-of-the-convention-of-pennsylvania-2 (Accessed Feb. 6, 2019).

Mason, George. 1787. Objections to This Constitution of Government. National Archives. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=2ahUKEwjc38uJ69bnAhVGnuAKHet4CDEQFjABegQIDBAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.archives.gov%2Ffiles%2Flegislative%2Fresources%2Feducation%2Fbill-of-rights%2Fimages%2Fmason.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2HEWdiaSep_CnhXHcEzaNA (Accessed Feb. 16, 2020)

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