* BUILDING BACKGROUND: The new Constitution did not make everyone happy. Even its framers knew they had not made a perfect document. Many people still did not want a strong national government. They were afraid it would become as tyrannical as the British government had been. Before approving the Constitution, they wanted to be sure that their rights would be protected.
FEDERALISTS AND ANTIFEDERALISTS -People reacted in many different ways to the Constitution when it was made public. -One group of the people were opposed to ratifying the Constitution and they were known as Antifederalists. -Some people opposed the Constitution, because they thought that the central government gained too much power while others opposed it, such as George Mason who did so, because it did NOT grant individual rights.
-While some Antifederalists were wealthy and Revolutionary War heroes, many were small farmers and debtors. -Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry were three of these Antifederalists. -Their political enemies were people who felt that the United States needed a stronger central government. -These supporters of passing the Constitution were called Federalists and included George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton. -Many of these included wealthy planters, farmers and lawyers, while some were everyday workers. -The biggest struggle that the Federalists faced was to convince people that the passage of the Constitution would not make the central government too powerful.
FEDERALIST PAPERS -The Federalist Papers were a collection of essays written by people who supported passing the Constitution. -They were published anonymously under the name Publius. -John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison actually wrote them. -One of their major goals were to try and convince people that the new federal government would NOT overpower the states. -They were published all through the colonies in newspapers, before they were put in a collection and published in book form in 1788. -To be passed, the Constitution needed only NINE states to vote for it, but for national unity it would be necessary for ALL states to ratify it.
-Every state except Rhode Island held a special state convention that gave citizens the opportunity to discuss and vote on their views of Constitution. -One supporter was Paul Revere, who said, “The proposed…government, it well calculated to secure the liberties, protect the property, and guard the rights of the citizens of America.” -A collection of pieces also came out called the Antifederalists Papers and they were against passage of the Constitution. -A citizen who was against passage, wrote, “It appears that the government will fall into the hands of the few and the great.” -The first state to ratify was Delaware on December 7, 1787 and the ninth, making it official was New Hampshire in June of 1788.
-Even though the Constitution had already passed, the Federalists knew they needed the other four states to pass it, especially the two largest ones in New York and Virginia. -Resistance was strong in both. -Madison finally convinced Virginians to vote for ratification on June 25, 1788. -Opposition was even stronger in New York, where riots had been held to protest. -Hamilton was able to convince New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution on July 26, 1788 after news of Virginia’s passage had gotten to them. -North Carolina became the twelfth state to ratify more than a year later on November 21, 1789. -On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the final state to ratify the Constitution after being threatened to have its exports taxed as a foreign nation.
Bill of Rights -Many of the states that ratified the Constitution did so only after being promised that a bill protecting rights would be added, because many antifederalists did NOT think the
Constitution would protect personal freedoms. -Federalists argued that a bill of rights was NOT needed, because the Constitution was written to protect the liberty of ALL U.S. citizens. -In the first Congressional session, James Madison pushed to get a bill of rights written and then added as amendments or official changes. -Article V of the Constitution provided a way to make changes to the Constitution as things changed. -For this to happen two-thirds of both houses of Congress would have to agree on the same idea and then three-fourths of the states had to agree.
-In writing the Bill of Rights, Congress looked at the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the English Bill of Rights and the U.S. Declaration of Independence. -Congress proposed 12 amendments to the states to be voted on in September 1789. -The states had ratified 10 of them by December of 1791, giving us the U. S. Bill of Rights, which were intended to protect citizen’s rights. -The amendment process is what provides the flexibility for our Constitution to be the same one passed 225 years ago with only 27 changes and 10 of those at the same time when the Bill of Rights was added.