What were the major arguments used by each side (the supporters and the opponents) in the debates over the ratification of the U. S. Constitution? The Constitution of the United States was written in 1787, yet there was a struggle for its ratification that went on until 1790. Members of Congress believed that the Articles of Confederation, the first government of the United States, needed to be altered while others did not want change. After the Revolutionary War, there was a need for strong state centered governments, rather than a strong central government based on their experience as a colony.
However, an investigation of the historical record reveals that the Articles of Confederation were not meeting the needs of Americans, and the need for a new Constitution was desired. This desired Constitution created a huge dispute and argument between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The people who supported the new Constitution, the Federalists, began to publish articles supporting ratification. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay eventually compiled 85 essays as The Federalist Papers.
These supporters of the Constitution believed that the checks and balances system would allow a strong central government to preserve states’ rights. They felt that the Articles of Confederation was too weak and that they were in need for a change (http://www. congressforkids. net/Constitution_ratifyingconstitution. htm). President George Washington wrote a letter to John Jay on August 1, 1786. In this letter Washington agrees with Jay’s criticism of the Articles of Confederation and says “we have errors to correct.
We have probably had to good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation…” The Articles of Confederation had “errors” that needed to be corrected. He complained that the thirteen “disunited states” could never agree. He also suggest that human nature being what it was, America needed a stronger, less democratic national government (doc. 3). Following the Constitutional Convention, a great debate took place throughout America over the Constitution that had been proposed. The Federal Convention, which had drafted the Constitution between May and September 1787, had no authority to impose it on the American people.
Article VII of the Constitution and resolutions adopted by the convention on September 17, 1787, detailed a four-stage ratification process: (1) submission of the Constitution to the Confederation Congress, (2) transmission of the Constitution by Congress to the state legislatures, (3) election of delegates to conventions in each state to consider the Constitution, and (4) ratification by the conventions of at least nine of the thirteen states (http://www. answers. com/topic/ratification-of-the-constitution). Many people supported this, while some were against it.
An editor from The Massachusetts Sentinel newspaper discusses why he supports the ratification of the Constitution. The newspaper editorial advocated that the United States adopt a new Federal Constitution- one that could give us a stronger, more efficient federal government, one that would strengthen our international trade, help our farmers, maintain a sound currency, and protect the American name and character (doc. 1). Many others opposed the ratification of the Constitution for many reasons. Mercy Otis Warren wrote an article called “Observations on the New Federal Constitution and on the Federal and State Conventions. In this article, Mercy Otis Warren, states his reasons as to why he opposes the ratification of the Constitution. He says “the executive and the legislature are so dangerously blended that they give just cause for alarm”. He fears that it would threaten our “rights of conscience” and “liberty of the press” and create a dangerously powerful national government (doc. 2). Many people opposed the ratification of the Constitution because they thought it would make the federal government too strong. They feared it lacked the god given will of the people.
The main people who opposed the ratification of the Constitution were the Anti-Federalists. At the Virginia State Constitutional Ratification Convention, held in June 1788, Patrick Henry gave a speech as to why he opposed the Constitution. He says “our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished… The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press… are rendered insecure”. Patrick Henry strongly opposed the U. S. Constitution. He feared that it would endanger our individual rights and it would force the states to abandon their sovereignty(doc. 4).
Another speech given by Amos Singletree, member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Ratification Convention, held in January 1788, also states the opposition to the Constitution. Amos Singletree feared that the Constitution would be used by the “lawyers and men of learning, and monied men” to “get all the power and all the money into their own hands”(doc. 5). On February 1788 the Massachusetts Constitutional Ratification Convention approved the Constitution with a vote of 187 to 168. This became possible due to an addition to the U. S. Constitution that was suggested in order to win the approval of many of its opponents.
The addition of “certain amendments” was suggested in order to protect the rights of the people and of the states. This led to later adoptions of the Bill of Rights (doc. 6). One of the complaints that the Anti-Federalists had, not wanting to ratify the Constitution, was the lack of Bill of Rights. The American people had just fought a war to defend their rights, and they did not want an intimidating national government taking those rights away again. The lack of a bill of rights was the focus of the Anti-Federalist campaign against ratification (http://library. thinkquest. org/11572/creation/framing/feds. html).
The creation of the Constitution entailed hours of debate and compromise, and even when it was completed, some delegates were unhappy with it. The task of fixing the ailing Confederate government was not complete yet; each state had to ratify, or approve, the Constitution. People were divided into two groups: the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The Anti- Federalists did not want to ratify the Constitution while the Federalists supported and wanted to ratify the Constitution. This long debate came to an end when the States voted and the approval of 11 out of 13 states became the deciding factor to ratify the Constitution.