Ratification: Hamilton vs. Mason

In 1787 Federalists and Anti-Federalists adamantly debated constitutional ratification. The two Word Clouds appearing here illustrate points critical to each party in the ratification debates.
Image 1 depicts terms important to understanding Federalists’ reasons for supporting the ratification of the constitution. These words are those that appear most frequently in Hamilton’s Federalist No.1, the terms, which standout include: government, Constitution, men, liberty, union, new, truth and state. Together these words are symbolic of what the Federalists were fighting for. Federalists supported ratification of the constitution because they recognized the need for a new government that could be formed by the union of the states under one government. Federalists such as Hamilton argued, not only would the union crumble without the adoption of the constitution but also its ratification would ensure liberty and prosperity for men. “THE UTILITY OF THE UNION TO YOUR POLITICAL PROSPERITY THE INSUFFICIENCY OF THE PRESENT CONFEDERATION TO PRESEVE THAT UNION THE NECESSITY OF A GOVERNMENT AT LEAST EQUALLY ENERGETIC WITH THE ONE PROPOSED, TO THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS OBJECT THE CONFORMITY OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION TO THE TRUE PRINCIPALS OF REPUBLIAN GOVERNMENTS IT ANALOGY TO YOUR OWN TTE CONSTITUTION and lastly, THE ADDITIONAL SECURITY WHICH ITS ADOPTION WILL AFFORD TO THE PRESERVATION OF THAT SPECIES OF GOVERNMENT, TO LIBERTY, AND TO PROPERTY”. (Hamilton, Federalist N0. 1)

Image 2 illustrates the salient points made by the Anti-Federalists as to why the states should not choose to ratify the Constitution. The terms are taken from George Mason’s Objections to the Constitution and together capture Anti-federalists’, such as Mason, problems with the Constitution. Words that stand out include: states, senate, legislature, executive, government, laws, power, rights and people. Anti-Federalists felt the constitution allotted too much power to the executive (president) and the Senate and did not declare the rights of the people. For these reasons anti-federalists feared the president’s and Senate’s unequivocal power over legislation and perceived centralized power as an attempt at monarchy and a threat to the rights and liberties of individuals and states. Mason writes, “ The Senate have the power of…in conjunction with the President of the United States, although they are not representative or the people, or amenable to them. These, with their other great powers, their influence upon, and connection with, the supreme executive from these causes; their duration of office; and their being a constant and existing body, almost continually sitting, joined with there being one complete branch of legislature,– will destroy any balance in the government, and enable them to accomplish what usurpations they please upon the rights and liberties of the people.”(Mason, Objections to the Constitution) Image 2 also prominently portrays the term United. While Anti-Federalists opposed the ratification of the Constitution, in the end many agreed to pass the ratification provided a Bill of Rights be amended.

An examination of both Word Clouds indicates critical issues in the constitutional ratification debate.  The word clouds illustrate the points that divided the parties and the aspects of the future government each party saw fit to defend.


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