The ratification of the US Constitution in 1787-1788 remains one of the most significant debates in American history. Once the Constitution was written at the Philadelphia convention, ratification would follow. The process involved nine out of the thirteen states agreeing to adopt the Constitution before going into effect. Like in any debate, there were two sides, with the supporters of the Constitution called Federalists and the opposers known as Anti-Federalists. Both sides presented their arguments. From the latter’s perspective, ratifying the inherent Constitution was not ideal, citing various reasons for their stance. For instance, they argued against expanding national power and worried about the lack of a Bill of rights (Dry, 2000). Therefore, the antifederalists’ fears in opposing the ratification of the Constitution were justified because Americans had just escaped the tyrannical British monarchy’s government, the Constitution would set precedence for political corruption, and there was a potential infringement of certain liberties.
One notable reason for justifying the fears was that they had just escaped the British monarchy’s tyrannical government and did not want to trade one tyrant for another. Ideally, the Constitution provided for a powerful national government. Article I, section 8 listed all the powers of Congress, allowing it to make the laws essential in executing the preceding powers. However, from the antifederalists’ perspective, this provision would allow the national government to formulate any law as it wished, including the unrepresentative and harmful ones to the general populace. By giving the national government significant powers, the US would be subjected to another tyrannical system of governance. For instance, the government would tax the citizens without constraint. Heavy taxation was synonymous with British rule, and ratifying the Constitution would extend this practice. Thus, Americans had just escaped the British monarchy’s tyrannical government, and the Constitution provided an avenue to continue this form of governance, indicating that the antifederalists’ fears were well placed.
Moreover, the Constitution would set precedence for political corruption. The 1778 constitution’s provisions threatened the antifederalists’ belief in the significance of restrained government power. Indeed, this Constitution would create a situation where the three branches of the government, including the executive, legislature, and judiciary, would conspire against the deliberative civic virtue and the citizens’ willingness to subordinate their private interests to the public good. For instance, the president would have vast powers, including vetoing the decisions made by the people’s representatives in the legislature. Besides, the national government’s court system would encroach on the local courts, while only the elites would be elected to the lower house due to the proposed few members. It is essential to note that only wealthy and prominent individuals would be elected, leading to an upper-class bias by Congress. Through the Constitution’s provisions, the US would be down an all-too-familiar road of corruption, thus justifying the antifederalists’ fears.
Another critical reason for justifying the antifederalists’ fears in their opposition to ratifying the Constitution involves the potential infringement of certain liberties. In the last British monarchy’s rule, respect for American citizens’ rights was a mirage and ratifying the Constitution would only worsen the situation. The antifederalists feared that due to the lack of the Bill of Rights in the 1778 constitution, there would be no guarantee of the protection of peoples’ rights (Dry, 2000). The Bill of Rights remains an essential component of any constitution, and without it, the Constitution’s reliability would be questionable. For instance, the lack of the Bill of Rights meant that US citizens would have no freedom of speech and trial by jury. Freedom of speech remains synonymous with modern and mature democracies. Without it, there would be no free society. Thus, the significance of citizens’ liberties and the absence of such provisions meant the antifederalists’ fears were well placed.
The antifederalists’ fears in opposing the ratification of the Constitution were justified. The proposed Constitution would set precedence for another tyrannical government, yet America had just escaped the British monarchy’s tyranny. Besides, ratifying the Constitution would provide a breeding ground for pollical corruption. Also, these individuals feared the potential infringement of certain liberties due to the absence of the Bill of Rights. These three reasons suggest that the antifederalists’ fears were well-placed. Through their efforts, the Bill of Rights was included, guaranteeing the protection of certain liberties. The Constitution went into effect in 1789, marking the end of one of the most significant debates in American history.
Cornell, S. (2012). The other founders: Anti-federalism and the dissenting tradition in America, 1788-1828. UNC Press Books. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=QTLqCQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=the+antifederalists+fears+of+opposing+the+ratification+of+the+constitution&ots=o-XL3vvbUH&sig=xlgEzlYSfhorIsMToreBDf3Zq1I
Dry, M. (2000). The debate over ratification of the Constitution. A Companion to the American Revolution, 482. https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/6817031/mod_resource/content/1/Companion%20to%20the%20American%20Revoution.pdf#page=501