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 nowcoming to pass.
Chronology of the pro- and
anti-federalist papers and how they related to one another and to key
Borden Collection — Morton
Borden collected some the best of the anti-federalist papers together, editied
all or parts of them into 85 sections, corresponding to the 85 Federalist
James Wilson speech —
Pro-ratification, but included here because it received wider coverage than
other pro-ratification writings, such as the
Federalist Papers, and many
of the anti-federalist writings were in response to it.
"Centinel" (Samuel Bryan)
- "An Old Whig"
"Federal Farmer" (Melancton
Smith? or Richard Henry Lee?)
Objections to the Federal Constitution, Robert Yates, John Lansing
"Brutus" (Robert Yates)
"John DeWitt" (?)
"Cato" (George Clinton?)
- "Pennsylvania Minority"
- "William Penn"
Columbian Patriot, [Mercy Otis Warren], Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions, (1788)
Patrick Henry speeches
Melancton Smith speeches
The Antifederalist Papers, edited with an Introduction by
Morton Borden, Michigan State University Press, 1965 — The collection
included here, without the introduction and footnotes.
Documentary History of
the Ratification of the Constitution, edited by John P. Kaminski and
others, Wisconsin Historical
Society, now up to 19 volumes and growing — Promises to become a
complete and definitive collection when it is finished.
The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist
Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification,
edited by Bernard Bailyn, Library of America, 1993, 2 vol. — Good
collection if you can't afford the Kaminski series.
The Complete Anti-Federalist, edited by Herbert Storing and
Murray Dry, University of Chicago Press, 1981, 7 vol.— Not really
complete, but very extensive.
The Anti-Federalist, edited by Herbert Storing, University of
Chicago Press, 1985 — Storing's selection of the best from his "Complete"
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention
Debates, edited by Ralph Ketcham, Penguin, 1986 — Affordable
paperback, a selection of some of the best parts, with some useful commentary
connecting them. Ketcham is one of those who think the "Federal Farmer" was
more likely Melancton Smith than Richard Henry Lee. We include here all the
papers in this collection not in the Borden collection.
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