Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalists

During 1787 – 1788 the two journals, The Independent and The New York Pocket published 85 articles and essays concerning the adoption of the United States Constitution. In 1788 they were compiled and published under the title The Federalist or The New Constitution. The aim of the authors, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay was to make people acquainted with the points of Constitution and to advocate its ratification. In particular, Madison proposed the form of extended republic as a way to prevent the rule of a group and discussed creation of Federalist Convention. From philosophical point of view, that article is one of the most important. Madison also gave a clear explanation of the term ‘Federalism’; republicanism is shown as a totally new idea and democratic republic is based on the balance of republican principles and democratic legitimacy. Hamilton rejected adoption of the Bill of Rights because in his view people could think the rights listed were the only rights they would receive. “Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing, and as they retain everything, they have no need of particular reservations,” Hamilton wrote (Spaeth and Edward 44). In other essay he discussed the judiciary branch and showed it to be the weakest one as there was neither force nor will for the judgments.

After Philadelphia Convention a group of outstanding political figures and revolutionary statesmen made statements against Constitution. As an answer to Federalist Papers, there appeared a collection of articles and essays called Anti-Federalist Papers (1787) arguing against the Constitution on the whole and against specific points of the Federalists as well. One of the supposed authors was George Clinton. Patrick Henry worried that strong national government would have too much power and restrict individual rights of people. Thus the Anti-Federalists criticized the fact that the Constitution dealt only with the government concerns and ignored the rights and freedoms of citizens. That’s why they called attention to adoption of the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson stated: “Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can” (Spaeth and Edward 58). Later Madison adopted them and they were introduced as first ten amendments to the United States Constitution in 1791.

Paralleling, there were other activists taking part in formation of the American state and nation. Thomas Paine and Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur were engaged in putting forward a new mindset of the United States society. Crevecoeur wrote Letters from an American Farmer: Describing Certain Provincial Situations, Manners, and Customs, Not Generally Known; and Conveying Some Idea of the Late and Present Interior Circumstances of the British Colonies of North America (1781). In one of the letter he spoke of the anticipation of the Revolutionary War and about the Indians.

Already in 1776 Thomas Paine published his famous work Common Sense where he wrote that it was time for colonies to get independence. Crevecoeur underlined that the new lands were not for aristocratic way of life but for people to earn their living in labor. At that time there were no large manufactures that could employ millions and that’s why the new people were to come and start them. The standards of ‘normal’ were revised. Thomas Paine together with Michel Crevecoeur analyzed religions and proposed new approach to it. They investigated the Bible and Christian religion on the whole from a rational basis. Paine insists that ‘the word of God’ is in reality the word of people who transfer it, and each person transferring it to another one, adds something from himself and thus distorts the initial knowledge. “All religion is hearsay,” he wrote (Sletcher 91). Paine and Crevecoeur used logical steps to show the absurd of blind faith and to form the image of an ideal American who made a start from this idea of strict scrutiny in everything.

At the same time, Benjamin Franklin criticized such an approach to religion, and underlined that religious morality was necessary to give a guideline for young and ignorant people in order to defend them from vice. By Franklin, education was to be based on the motives of religion because they developed habits of virtue in children. The Bible was giving something like a template for how to behave, how to think and behave, and how to value other people and first of all yourself.

Further, Paine also wrote Reflections on Unhappy Marriages where he expressed his assumptions on emotional makeup of men who were “the young, the rash and amorous, whose hearts are ever glowing with desire, whose eyes are ever roaming after beauty; these doat on the first amiable image that chance throws in their way, and when the flame is once kindled, would risk eternity itself to appease it” (Paine 70). The idea was that all people were intended to live in couples and to find happiness in family life.

In this way, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, St. John de Crevecoeur, and Thomas Jefferson in different ways and to different extent took part in legislative process of the early United States of America.

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