The one thing that you can say about the federalists is that they were optimistic. They truly hoped that; truly believed that Americans would see it for what it was and grasp their liberties firmly and protect them for generations yet to come.
The Anti-Federalists weren’t quite so rosy in their outlook. While some were firebrands and dedicated to the idea of State Sovereignty and Confederation, more of them were pragmatic and understood that things had to be changed. But was the proposed Constitution the best way to make that change?
Perhaps the most lucid and well spoken of the Anti-federalist was an anonymous writer who went by the pen name “The Federal Farmer.” his writings, which began this week in 1787, were a measured consideration of the proposed government. in fact, of the three possible forms of government that he saw for the nation, the proposed Constitution probably made the most sense.
But that didn’t mean that there weren’t some potential problems that, whoever he was, could foresee…
After “impartial discussion & full consideration,” the Massachusetts delegates to their State ratifying Convention agreed to what became known as the “Massachusetts Compromise.” This allowed a number of anti-Federalists, including Samuel Adams, to vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution. But it wasn’t a cut and dried, full-throated endorsement of the document. As the compromise agreed, many of the Anti-Federalist ideas worked their way into the ratification document as proposed amendments to the Constitution.
Many of their recommended amendments are easily recognized by us today, and some made their way into the proposed Bill of Rights when the 1st Congress finally convened. Some of the ideas were ultimately rejected, but there is one overriding idea that we must keep in mind when considering these ideas: all of them came from people who did not like the Constitution as proposed.
As intriguing as what the Massachusetts Convention recommended is what the did not include in their list of proposed amendments. Did they leave out some of the most treasured Rights because they assumed the States would and could protect them or did they presume that the proposed Federal Government would never try to stifle free speech or religion?
In early 1788, a Weston, Massachusetts newspaper reported that, “Little else, among us, is thought or or talked of, but the new Constitution.” The debate seemed to engross the attention of all classes of people, including women, who normally would be excluded from politics. .
But as Massachusetts debates, the fate of the Constitution is as yet, undetermined.
If Massachusetts ratifies, it is likely that the Constitution will be adopted. But if not, it seems that New York, Virginia will most likely follow their example.
The debate’s have consumed Americans of all political and social divisions. for the first and perhaps only time in her history, the level of political engagement is nearly one hundred percent. Even former Loyalists have and interest in the Constitution being ratified, as it would mean they would finally receive their long ago promised compensation.
But no longer will States simply approve the Constitution in quick and easy conventions. In Massachusetts, where the Revolution really began, the life or death of the Constitution will face it’s first real test among the States.