The Anti-Federalists

These were a band of stalwarts who thought that the Constitution proposed for ratification after the Philadelphia convention created too strong and too strongly centralized a state.  There are several collections of the esays that they wrote opposing the views expressed in the Federalist Papars.  The best of these collections is called simply "The Anti-Federalist Papers."

These were prominent men,  among them, George Mason and Patrick Henry.  pl

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19 Responses to The Anti-Federalists

  1. N. M. Salamon says:

    Thank you for the info, will start reading today.
    Off topic Juan Cole on 10 mistakes of the CIA:

  2. Charles I says:

    Maneuvering for Federal or Provincial jurisdiction often comprises the totality of Canadian politics no matter what the issue. Our current minority PM would be a fervent states rights man while I’m Federalist.

  3. Jefferson as you pointed out earlier was certainly in the anti-federalist camp. Adams was also a federalist but he and Jefferson over the years began to see more eye to eye. Clearly Jefferson went through some throes of indecision in finally favoring the purchase of Louisiana and its territory from Napoleon. How odd that Haiti is in the headline today and was in fact a factor in Napoleon decision to let his domain in N.American go.

  4. PirateLaddie says:

    Colonel — I’ve a high regard for several of the anti-Federalists, but minds change and you’ve got to be careful. While Henry stayed away from Philly because he “smelt a rat…tending toward the monarchy,” he later was a strong supporter of the Federalists, and was elected to the VA House of Delegates as one of Washington’s allies.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    He voted against ratification. A deal once done must be lived with. pl

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. He could not resist a good deal. we should have bought Haiti at the same time.
    You seem to have forgotten Jefferson’s authorship of the “Kentucky Resolutions.” pl

  7. CK says:

    “A deal once done must be lived with.” This does not include mortgages, alliances, debts of honour.

  8. Patrick Lang says:

    “honour?” Get off off my blog pl

  9. optimax says:

    Link to Anti-Federalist Papers, many can be read online:

  10. PirateLaddie says:

    One can always regret making political errors (me, I voted for GHWB back in ’88!). But it’s comforting to know that some live long enough to try to claw back their indiscretions. Now, about the “Treason of the Slave Masters” and the subsequent Republicanization of Dixie….

  11. robt willmann says:

    Double-talk is nothing new in politics, such as in, “Saddam Hussein is a threat to the whole world!” And sure enough, there it was, even at the creation of the current U.S. constitution.
    Federalism refers to decentralized government. The promoters of a new constitution, who did not like the Articles of Confederation, which definitely set up a decentralized system of government, decided to use false advertising and call themselves the “Federalists”, when in fact they were for more centralized authority.
    So the true federalists in the debate over the constitution were stuck with calling themselves the “Anti-Federalists”, even though they were actually the federalists.
    George Orwell on language was 195 years late.

  12. Twit says:

    One interesting thing to note is how the term ‘Federalism’ is used today. It seems to have been appropriated by those who claim libertarian and states rights mantles, a la the “Federalist Society” and “New Federalism.” In other words, today’s Federalists seem to be promoting an Anti-Federalist agenda. That’s actually how I have thought of it.
    But if one looks at the track record of members of these grousp – e.g. John Ashcroft, Justice Scalia, and Ronald Reagan – we definitely see a reassertion and expansion of federal authority over the states and the individual.
    So, ‘Federalism’ today espouses historically ‘Anti-Federalist principles’ but in pursuit of historically ‘Federalist’ goals. Or, more simply I guess the word has just been cynically manipulated so much that it has lost all meaning, except in its historical sense.

  13. HJFJR says:

    The Library of America several years ago published a volumes of both the Federalists Papers and the writings of the Anti-Federalists. I would commend both volumes to your readers and recommend that they be read together in order to gain insight to the debates over the ratification of the Constitution.
    One must remember, that unlike Hamilton, Jay, and Madison the authors of the Federalists Papers; the Anti-Federalist were not well organized and the opposition was confined to the individual states.
    One of your readers, correctly pointed out, that Patrick Henry later became a Federalists and supporter of George Washington. While correct, it also reflects the realities of politics in Virginia at the time. If nothing else, Patrick Henry was an astute politician.
    More interesting to me is the career of James Madison who went from being an author of the Federalists papers to a leader of the Jeffersonian Democrat-Republicans. While largely overshadowed by the larger than life personalities of Jefferson and Adams, Madison was the intellectual father of the Constitution and introduced in the House of Representatives what is now known as the Bill of Rights.
    Great discussion.
    Hank Foresman

  14. jamzo says:

    “a band of stalwarts who thought that the Constitution proposed for ratification after the Philadelphia convention created too strong and too strongly centralized a state”
    a group of lawyers whose membership includes ken starr, Edwin Meese, Robert Bork, Ted Olson, Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito
    anti-authoritarian authoritarians one and all

  15. Patrick Lang says:

    You appear to have gotten this completely backward. the quote from me refers to the “anti-federalists.” pl

  16. CK says:

    Humour thy neighbour no matter what colour. The flavour of labour is honour enough. True bad behaviour would lead to disfavour and to no safe harbour could the miscreant flee.

  17. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    I am no anarcho-capitalist but believe that the best man can strive for is a balance of power among government structures, a goal that is never permanent or utopian. (kind of the St. Augustine approach, perhaps).
    In fact, if anarcho-capitalists were the at the helm, I could very well be reaching for the Federalist papers. But such an issue is moot, as they say, and the best hope to restore the balance of power is to at least consider the tradition of the anti-Federalists.
    In that vein, Murray Rothbard is a genius, pure and simple. Mind boggling actually. And highly controversial of course. He certainly seems to have endorsed the anti-Federalists in the following screed on Just War.
    He only sees two just wars in American history, the war of independence and that which took place during “mid 19th century American history”. As Rothbard wrote, “To be specific, the two just wars in American history were the American Revolution, and the War for Southern Independence.”
    His wording surprised me as well. Make of it what you will but Rothbard is one heavy intellectual hitter, although, if I remember correctly, he wrote somewhere about applying a Marxist dialect against the State. Not good, imo.

  18. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Good Lord…Murray Rothbard has traced the idea of Sic Semper Tyrannis to a Spanish Jesuit.
    But, but, but…Rothbard is an anarcho-capitalist who endorsed a Marxist dialectic, as least so wroteth Raimondo in an intro to Rothbard’s essay on Wall Street, Banks and American Foreign Policy.
    “Rothbard eagerly reclaimed the concept of class analysis from the Marxists, who expropriated it from the French theorists of laissez-faire. Marx authored a plagiarized, distorted, and vulgarized version of the theory based on the Ricardian labor theory of value. Given this premise, he came up with a class analysis pitting workers against owners.
    One of Rothbard’s many great contributions to the cause of liberty was to restore the original theory, which pitted the people against the State. In the Rothbardian theory of class struggle, the government, including its clients and enforcers, exploits and enslaves the productive classesthrough taxation, regulation, and perpetual war Government is an incubus, a parasite, incapableof producing anything in its own right, and instead feeds off the vital energies and productive ability of the producers.”

  19. different clue says:

    I don’t know enough about history or about theories of governance and society to discuss these things at a high level. But
    I think I see some problems with what I understand to be Rothbard’s view of Government and State in relation to the producers, especially Rothbard’s dismissal of regulation and taxation as ways for Government to enslave and exploit producers.
    About taxes…for people who live in a Democratic Republic, aren’t taxes only passable by vote if some legitimately accepted thresh-hold number of the legitimately elected peoples’ representatives vote for those taxes? And as long as people feel themselves free and able to replace representatives who vote in unpopular taxes with newer representatives who vote in popular tax reductions or cancellations;
    doesn’t that mean that as long as the people choose not to replace their tax-voting representatives, the people may be said to consider the taxes legitimate? And in practice, have taxes raised never been spent in such a way as to facilitate the creation of private wealth greater than would have been possible without that particular spending of taxes? For example, what did the TVA dams cost in taxes? And did the TVA dams
    allow the people of the Tennessee River watershed system to create more wealth
    after the building of the dams than they could have created otherwise? And has that TVA-catalyzed production of additional private wealth added up to more moneysworth than the original money spent on the dams to begin with?
    About regulation of bussiness, how far would Rothbard go in considering regulation to be government exploitation, enslavement, and the feeding off of vital producer energies? Would Rothbard have felt that a drug company has the right to put aspirin on the label and arsenic in the bottle? Would Rothbard have
    felt that a shoe polish company has the rightful liberty to put shinola on the label and something other than shinola in the can? Would Rothbard insist that a bussiness has the rightful liberty to put cancer juice into the groundwater which comes back up in my well? Or release cancer dust into the
    wind which then blows over my house? I myself want a government I can pay taxes to which will then spend these taxes forcibly preventing a drug company from putting aspirin on the label and arsenic in the bottle, for example.
    What would Rothbard have said about mountaintop removal coalmining? That it
    increases the vital energies of the mountaintop coal removal coal producer? Would it have bothered Rothbard not at all that mining coal that way would destroy the future production of vital energies from that mountain and its valley waterhed streams for several milleniums to come? Would Rothbard have condemned governmental prevention of such land and watershed destruction as just more governmental incubization at work? Even if such prevention is what the vast
    non-coal-owing majority of the people living in those mountains and waterheds want government to do?
    I wonder where , if anywhere, Rothbard would draw the line and concede the point because I once blundered into the von Mises website and stumbled into an article claiming that economic freedom meant absolutely freedom to release cancer dust, cancer juice, and blow tops off mountains for a seam of coal. And only a statist socialist environmentalist government oppressor would say otherwise. I don’t know who that article was by. I found it distasteful enough that I broke off after a few paragraphs.

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