Anti-Federalist No.2 vs. Federalist No.39: “Neither Wholly Federal nor Wholly National”

Anti-Federalist Paper No. 2, Nov. 1, 1787

Federalist Papers No. 39, Jan. 18, 1788

Some of the greatest critiques concerning the ratification of the Constitution came from two opposing views: The absence of a bill of rights for the protection of the peoples natural rights, the vagueness of the “necessary and proper” clause, and the lack of the Constitutions ability, “to limit and definite its powers…and guard against an abuse of authority”, are among the strongest points argued from Anti-Federalist Robert Yates. On the other hand, Federalist Papers No. 39 by James Madison argues that in fact, it is with the implementation of federal and national governing, rather than solely basing it on one, that will prove more positive. The requirement of having a “unanimous assent of the several States” ratification of the Constitution gives proof of its federal aspects, while the power of the people and the central government will function in accordance to the implementation of various government procedures, renders it national.

However, in order for any student to  fully analyze the framers 18th century context and agenda, they must closely look at the diction of these essays to fully understand their frame of mind. For students, word clouds can be useful learning tools that give quick yet vivid snapshot of the various underlying issues, as well as omissions, that concerned the federalist and anti-federalist.

The Anti-Federalist No. 2 word cloud displays words such as, “necessary”, “rights” and “security”. These all give reference to the overall rejection of a supreme authority, while their “security” and liberty as states exemplify their determination to uphold the power of the states over central government. However, if you were to ask students over the power that these words signify and compare them to Federalist No. 39, you could argue that words such as “rights”, “security” and “necessary” create a sense of urgency and above all  anguish felt by the anti-federalist.  Their strong disapproval and lack of control over the Constitution had spilled from their writings, demonstrating how detrimental the ratification seemed for them.

In the Federalist Papers No. 39 word cloud reoccurring words such as, “republic”, “people”, “national” and “federal” demonstrates Madison’s argument for what he believed was a, “neither wholly federal nor wholly national ” Constitution. With simply using visualization as a form of engaging students, they will see the contrast in the use of words between the two essays. Madison stresses the word “people” depicting the importance and power they have since the word cloud marks it as one of the largest and most used word in the essay. “Republican” another omitted word by Yates, displays to students the importance of a republic with representative democracy, and stresses the immersion between federal and national aspects of the Constitution.

With the use of visual terms, students can engage heavily written documents with an understanding over context and overall objective. Ultimately, they will gain knowledge concerning the emotional upheaval caused by one of the most essential documents in American history.


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