Thursday, September 18, 2008

Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists


On September 18th, Dr. Allison of Suffolk University facilitated a fascinating discussion about the two opposing viewpoints regarding the ratification of the United States Constitution.

The two opposing viewpoints were represented by the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists:

The Federalists' position (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay):

The separation of powers into three independent branches protected the rights of the people. Each branch represents a differe
nt aspect of the peo ple, and because all three branches are equal, no one group can assume control over another.

A listing of rights can be a dangerous thing. If the national government were to protect specific listed rights, what would stop it from vi
olating rights other than the listed ones? Since we can't list all the rights, the Federalists argued that it's better to list none at all.

The Anti-Federalists Posit
ion (George Mason, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Elbridge Gerry):
It gave too much power to
the national government at the expense of the state governments.
There was no bill of rights.
The national government could maintain an army in peacetime.
Congress, because of the `necessary and proper clause,' wielded too much power.
The executive branch held too much power.

Nine states' approval were needed to put the Constitution into effect.

Five states ratified the Constitution with little or no delay:
Delaware
Pennsylvania
Georgia
New Jersey
Connecticut

There was much more discussion and debate in Massachusetts. The debates took place at Long Lane Meeting House in Boston (on what is now Federal Street). Representatives on both sides made passionate arguments supporting their positions but in the end, the Federalists had succeeded (187-168). One of the compromises resulted in the Bill of Rights.

Soon after Massachusetts voted to ratify, Maryland, South Carolina, and New Hampshire voted to adopt the Constitution.

Although the required nine states approved the new Constitution, New York and Virginia's approval was crucial to assure it's acceptance. Eventually, Virginia and New York voted to ratify as well, with North Carolina and Rhode Island following suit.

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