Ratifying the U.S. Constitution Essay

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America went from being a loose union of individual states to being a nation with a central government when the Constitution was ratified. This was more important than the War for Independence, because it dictated the type of government we would have. The Federalists, led by Hamilton, wanted a strong central government. The Anti-Federalists wanted every state to be its own government. The guiding question of this essay is: Should the U.S. have ratified the Constitution or stayed a loose confederation? This paper will show why the U.S. was better off not ratifying the Constitution and remaining a loose confederation of states.

An interesting article at Mises Institute by Gary Galles argued that history has proven that the Anti-Federalists were right in their fears of what would happen should a central government be founded. As Galles notes, the Anti-Federalists were opposed to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution because they were worried it would lead to the same kind of tyrannical government the U.S. had just opposed in the Revolutionary War. Many of the Anti-Federalist supporters were farmers and people living in rural regions (U.S. History). They did not want a central government telling them what to do. Rather they wanted to keep government at the local level. That way they could have more control over their own lives without some group of people a thousand miles away in some other part of the country deciding what was best for them.

Alexander Hamilton was one of the main authors of the Federalist Papers. The Federalists wanted to ratify the Constitution and have a strong central government overseeing things among the states for various reasons. They wanted a strong central government because they did not want the people at the local level getting in the way of their grand ambitions. They wanted to have the final say over the whole of the land. So they thought up reasons for why the states themselves could not be trusted to govern themselves. Hamilton wrote: “America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars” (Federalist No. 7). He wanted to scare the states into thinking that they all needed to be ruled by one central authority who would have the good sense to keep everyone out of any foreign wars. History shows just how true that is. One glance at the 20th century shows an America led around by the central government getting into war after war all over the world. So in this perspective, Alexander Hamilton was dead-wrong about the Constitution keeping the states out of foreign entanglements. The 20th century is one, big long foreign entanglement, from the Spanish American War to WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, to the post-9/11 wars, including the Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
And on whose behalf were these wars fought? The state’s? No, but rather the federal government’s behalf.

The Federalists also believed that the Constitution would protect the states from “domestic factions and convulsions” and provide them with a sense of unity and cohesion that they would need to survive (Federalist No. 6). Yet, just the opposite happened here, too. The Constitution gave power to the federal government, led by the President, which then assumed more power than it actually legitimately had. The states protested and in the end an enormous war broke out over states’ rights—the Civil War of the 1860s. So not even a century after the Constitution was ratified, Hamilton was being proved to be wrong: the Constitution did not provide unity and cohesion but exasperation and discord. The states wanted to be the authorities over their own affairs and the central government was trying to tell them what they could and could not do.

The Anti-Federalists argued against the Constitution’s ratification. They did not want to see the states hand over their newfound rights and powers to a central government. They viewed a federal government as being a pathway to “despotism, or, what is worse, a tyrranic aristocracy” (Brutus No. 1). The Anti-Federalists were led by men like Patrick Henry who did not trust the Northern “Federalists” like Hamilton. Henry wanted his state to be independent from any decisions the northerners made. He did not want the bankers or the big business interests of New England assuming control over the Southern states. The Anti-Federalists stated that the Constitution would give power to a small, tight-knit group of people in the North, who would “possess absolute and uncontrollable power, legislative, executive and judicial” and that “intervention of the state governments” would be impossible (Brutus No. 1). As far as the Anti-Federalists were concerned, the Constitution was just a way of concentrating power in the hands of a small cabal of powerful elites hiding behind the mask of “federal” government.

Not all of the Anti-Federalists were southerners, though. As Galles points out, “One of the most insightful of the Antifederalists was Robert Yates, a New York judge who, as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, withdrew because the convention was exceeding its instructions. Yates wrote as Brutus in the debates over the Constitution. Given his experience as a judge, his claim that the Supreme Court would become a source of almost unlimited federal over-reaching was particularly insightful.” This turned out to be true when President Jefferson challenged some appointments made by the outgoing President Adams. The Supreme Court took up the case and showed that….....

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Works Cited

Brutus No. 1. (1787). Constitution. Retrieved from http://www.constitution.org/afp/brutus01.htm

Federalist No. 6 (n.d.). Retrieved from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed06.asp

Federalist No. 7 (n.d.). Retrieved from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed07.asp

Galles, G. (2008). The anti-federalists were right. Retrieved from https://mises.org/library/antifederalists-were-right

History. (2018). U.S. Constitution ratified. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-constitution-ratified

U.S. History. (2018). Anti-Federalists. Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/us/16b.asp

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