Federalist Argument for Ratification of the Constitution November 18, 2010 Americans, prior to and shortly after the Revolutionary War, were strongly united under one opinion. The common belief that America ought to be an independent state, with its own system of government can be found in the literature of each and every colony. However, after the failure of the first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, delegates met in Philadelphia in order to draft a better functioning constitution. In this debate, the opinion of America soon became divided.
On one side were the supporters of the proposed constitution (Federalists) and on the other the opponents (Anti-Federalists). The Federalists urged their fellow delegates and the nation for the establishment of a consolidated federal government that gets its power from an energetic constitution. The reason behind this position was none other than the failure of the Articles of Confederation. Although the two sides disagreed over the role and authority of the federal government, they did hold one thing in common: the Articles of Confederation were inadequate and threatened the preservation of the union.
The Anti-Federalists believed that the flaws of the Articles of Confederation could be fixed by amendments while the Federalists combated that claim by suggesting that the “material defects” that exist in the articles cannot be repaired and thus a new, more energetic, constitution must be drafted. Additionally, the Anti-Federalists sought to support the Articles of Confederation because they believed that there are more problems introduced by the newly proposed constitution.
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They argued that the document would establish an untested form of government and they maintained that the Framers of the Constitution were an elitist group that had met in secrecy in order to empower “moneyed few. ” The Federalists refuted the claims of their opponents in a series of essays that underlined the following central ideas: the benefit of the union to the colonies; defense of republicanism in the newly proposed constitution; and the necessity of an energetic, proficient federal government. As previously stated, both sides agreed that the Articles of Confederation ere incapable of preserving the union. However, the Anti-Federalists believed in confederated government made up of small republics (as it existed prior to the ratification of the Constitution). “If the people are to give their assent to the laws, by persons chosen and appointed by them, the manner of the choice and the number chosen, must be such, as to possess, be disposed, and consequently qualified to declare the sentiments of the people; for if they do not know, or are not disposed to speak the sentiments of the people, the people do not govern, but the sovereignty is in a few.
Now, in a large extended country, it is impossible to have a representation, possessing the sentiments, and of integrity, to declare the minds of the people, without having it so numerous and unwieldly, as to be subject in great measure to the inconveniency of a democratic government” (Hammond, Hardwick, & Lubert, 2007, p. 538). According to their argument, small republics preserve liberty best because citizens of small republics know the elected officials on a personal level and it is this intimate connection that assures obedience of the law.
A confederation of states allows for the existence of states that reflect their constituents. In a large republic there will be many opinions and laws will be diluted by the number of opinions. This can create conflict and threaten the union. In Federalist 10, James Madison disproves this claim by stating the Federalist belief that large republics produce better candidates and a majority that is more inclusive to existing minorities. In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters” (Hammond, Hardwick, & Lubert, 2007, p. 465).
Madison reasons that in a large state the number of voters and candidates is greater therefore the probability of electing a qualified representative is also greater. In a small republic candidates running in election can fool voters easier than in a large republic. Thus, Madison, in contrast to the Anti-Federalists, saw the large size of the United States as a help rather than a hindrance to the cause of liberty. Due to these qualities of large republics the salvation of the union would be facilitated.
Federal inability to enforce laws on the states leads the Federalists to desire an energetic constitution that gave the government more authority and the apparatuses necessary to enforce its sovereignty. Under the Articles of Confederation, states were left to enforce federal law. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 15, argues that this practice “…in theory their resolutions concerning those objects are laws, constitutionally binding on the members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations which the States observe or disregard at their option” (Hammond, Hardwick, & Lubert, 2007, p. 472).
Furthermore, he expands on federal powers and tools needed for enforcement in Federalist 23. In defense of the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution, Hamilton states that “…because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them” (Hammond, Hardwick, & Lubert, 2007, p. 478). The new constitution would enable to federal government to implement its authority over members of the union. In a federalist view this is a necessary improvement for the security of the union.
If the national government is given responsibilities then it ought to also have the tools needed to carry out those responsibilities. The lack of clear and complete separation between the executive, legislative and judicial bodies was viewed by the Anti-Federalist as a reintroduction of a monarchial and tyrannical regime. James Madison, on the other hand, reasoned that the best government of the time, as it existed in Britain, and all of the colonies already practiced the same overlapping of powers that was found in the proposed constitution.
In Federalist 48, Madison argues that it is this very overlapping of authority that preserves the separation of powers; “The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations is, that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments, is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands” (Hammond, Hardwick, & Lubert, 2007, p. 494).
He believed that his opponents had read Montesquieu but had not understood his notion of separation of powers clearly. According to Montesquieu, tyranny results when one branch of government simultaneously holds the powers of another branch. However, Madison argues that Montesquieu "did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no control over, the acts of each other” (Hammond, Hardwick, & Lubert, 2007, p. 490). Thus, the above claim enabled the Federalists to sufficiently settle the argument on this issue.
As brilliant as the Federalist Papers were they were not the sole reason that the proposed constitution was ratified. Nevertheless, they aided the constitution's cause by giving the constitution's adherents ideas with which to counter their opposition. The Anti-Federalist outcry was not without its effects. With the ratification of the Constitution state legislatures voted for the addition of the first ten amendments. The Bill of Rights, as it came to be known, became an essential part of the document and its legacy of liberty.
The ratification of the Constitution not only changed the political culture but also the social. Soon after its approval, American experienced a social shift as well. Citizens no longer saw themselves as only Virginians or New Yorkers; instead they became something larger than that, they became American first and the rest as they say is history.
Works Cited Hammond, S. , Hardwick, K. , & Lubert, H. (2007). Classics of american political & constitutional thought. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
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