The Necessity of a Bill of Rights? Federalist vs. Antifederalist No. 84

Federalist No. 84

Five states had already ratified the Constitution before Massachusetts debated the matter in January 1788. In what became precedent in the ratifying conventions of the major states like Virginia and New York, ratification would only come with the Federalist concession that future amendments to the Constitution would be recommended and eventually adopted. With the endorsement of John Hancock, Massachusetts most influential politician, and his proposed nine future amendments, the state was the 6th to ratify. Virginia became the 10th state to ratify after similar debates and the proposal of future amendments that would eventually influence the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

The state of New York featured staunch support for the Antifederalist cause but also contained arguably the biggest supporter of the Constitution and strong centralized government, Alexander Hamilton. In Federalist No. 84, Hamilton argued against the need to include a bill of rights in the Constitution. According to Hamilton, the Constitution already contained provisions that secured the rights of the people noting such clauses as the establishment of the writ of habeas corpus and the prohibition of ex-facto laws and titles of nobility which he affirmed were “greater securities of liberty and republicanism” than any bill of rights could profess. (Hamilton 84) An inclusion of a bill of rights Hamilton felt was not only unnecessary but dangerous. If certain liberties were specified unrestricted, what would come of the liberties unmentioned? Why mention that certain liberties can’t be restricted when these restrictions were never imposed? These were questions that Hamilton proposed in his argument that he underlined by stating, “the people surrender nothing, and as the retain every thing they have no need of particular reservations.” (Hamilton 84) The cloud alludes that the words government, constitution, rights and states are prominently featured throughout the essay highlighting that the central debate between adding these amendments was about securing the rights of the people but even more so deferring as much power away from the central government to the states as possible.

Antifederalist No. 84

This debate can be confirmed by careful analysis of Antifederalist No. 84, presumably written by Robert Yates who argued for the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Constitution. In his direct rebuttal, Yates utilized metaphors and explained that in any creation of government, certain natural liberties must be surrendered to assure that government establish and carry out laws but that there are certain rights that cannot be surrendered. Other rights Yates mentioned “are not necessary to be resigned in order to attain the end for which government is instituted; these therefore ought not to be given up.” (Yates 84) Yates remained unsure of whether the Constitution affirmed that everything which is not reserved is given or that everything not given is reserved. The fear that the central government would overpower the state governments was the main perturbation for Antifederalists. If any law authorized by the central governmental was to become supreme law of the land, Yates concluded that the state governments must be protected by the restriction of the central government with the establishment of a bill of rights. Both clouds highlight the same words signifying that the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Constitution was probably less an emphasis about securing rights for the people but more to protect and reassert the rights of the states.

Where Does The Power Lie: Patrick Henry Speech of June 7, 1788 vs. Federalist No. 39

One of the most important issues during the debate over the ratification of the Constitution was the question of where and how power would be allocated. In Federalist No. 39 James Madison articulated the Federalist view that the new nation would be a combination of federal and national power. This essay was meant to assure doubtful Anti-federalists that the new government was not taking power away from individuals or from the separate states. On the other side of the debate, the fiery, Virginian Antifederalist Patrick Henry delivered a speech on June 7, 1788 that questioned whether the new central government was really just consolidating power for itself.

Word Cloud: Federalist No. 39

Madison’s essay most prominently features the words ‘government,’ ‘states,’ ‘people,’ and ‘national.’ This word selection is representative of Madison’s point that the states and the national government will both have power under the new Constitution. Madison begins by trying to explain the Constitution’s Republicanism as a mix of powers between the national and state governments. Maintaining that the power lies with the people, Madison claims that the Constitution is “in its foundation it is federal, not national,” and is in practice “partly federal and partly national” (Federalist 39). The House of Representatives will derive its power directly from the people, making it a national, not federal, organization. On the other hand, the Senate is elected by the states, making it federal and not national. The presidency “will be derived from a very compound source…presenting at least as many federal as national features” (Federalist 39). Beeman also touches briefly on Madison’s advocacy of this duality, reminding the reader that the essay was at heart both “high-minded theory and political propaganda” (Beeman 407). When looking at the Word Cloud, one should notice that the words ‘federal’ and ‘national’ are represented twice, so keep in mind that these words are actually featured much more prominently than they appear to be.

Madison’s frequent use of the words ‘powers’ and ‘authority’ shows that his emphasis is on these factors and how they will be distributed. A common Antifederalist argument that came from the lower and middle classes was that power and authority would be invested in an aristocracy of a few powerful, wealthy men. The Federalists presented the counterargument that this ‘aristocracy’ would be “both an aristocracy of power and an aristocracy of merit,” ensuring that any citizen could wield power (Cornell 1158).

Word Cloud: Patrick Henry Speech June 7, 1788

Patrick Henry’s speech before the Virginia ratifying convention was almost a direct rebuttal to Madison’s “Federalist No. 39,” claiming that the Federalists were leading people astray with false promises. In the Word Cloud, Henry uses the words ‘government,’ ‘people,’ and ‘power’ prominently, showcasing his concern with the new Constitution’s reassignment of powers. Henry articulately describes the Antifederalist view that the new central government will be taking power away from the people, compromising their safety and their rights. Ever a fervent Virginian, Henry uses the word ‘Virginia’ as much as ‘states’ and ‘American,’ and more than ‘union,’ ‘country,’ or ‘Congress’. Henry relied on Virginians’ pride in their sovereign state and their faith in their own Declaration of Rights when he questioned the centralization of power: “The founders of your own Constitution made your Government changeable: But the power of changing it is gone from you!” (Henry). Henry acknowledges that the government is capable of being influenced by the individual but he asserts that all of the people of the states will now be able to make decisions about Virginia with equal authority as actual residents of the state. The word ‘King’ also features in the Word Cloud, symbolizing another Antifederalist fear that power would be centralized in an uncontrollable authority figure all too reminiscent of a king. Henry specifically says that the Constitution “squints towards monarchy” and worries “how easy is it for [the American chief] to render himself absolute” (Henry).

Federalist No.68 vs. Antifederalist No. 72: The Debate over How to Elect the President

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One of the most important topics of debate at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 concerned the executive branch, specifically the the requirements surrounding the act of electing the president and the measures that had to be taken in order to ensure that the election took place in a manner that the members of the convention could agree upon.  This was also one of the issues that continued to reinforce the stark division that had developed between the Federalists and Antifederalists, with the Federalists supporting the ratification of the Constitution and the Antifederalists opposing the ratification.  In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton, writing under the alias of Publius, argues in support of the introduction of the Electoral College, now a modern day staple in the process of electing a president, while in Antifederalist Paper No. 70 the anonymous writer, known only by his alias Republicus, is totally against the electoral college as he feels it takes the power of having the responsibility of electing the president out of the hands of the people and places it in the power of a small group of individuals.

However, Hamilton does believe that these individuals, while along with being selected by those people that they are representing in determining the outcome of an election, “will most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” (Hamilton, Federalist No. 68).  This shows that in his quick response to Antifederalist No. 72, Hamilton is taking into account the fact that one of the arguments of the Antifederalists is that the men being elected will not be qualified enough to represent the sentiments of the entire American voting population.  In fact, this is the major point of emphasis in the document by Republicus as he states unequivocally that it is simply not logical “that the sacred rights of mankind should dwindle down to Electors of electors, and those again electors of other electors” (Republicus, Antifederalist No. 72).  The aptly named Republicus was clearly concerned about the fate of the people in this government that was supposedly being designed so that the citizens of America could play an integral role in its outcome.  For these reasons, Federalist No. 68 and Antifederalist No. 72 will be eternally set against one another as the prominent documents advocating both sides of the spectrum on the debate over the process of presidential election.

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While the differences between Publius and Republicus are clear, there are still similar beliefs that both men hold as necessary for the success of the government and these become apparent through the use of Word Clouds.  The Word Clouds themselves give an interesting look into the key words that the authors considered to be important enough to use multiple times throughout the course of their respective documents.  The overlap between the two Word Clouds, displaying the similarity of the issues that were being debated by Publius and Republicus, are apparent on more than several occasions.  Words such as “one” and “president” display the agreement between Publius and Republicus on the idea of a single individual ruling over the nation.  However, while not overlapping, the words “legislative” and “Senate” display the fact that while the president was to be given a great deal of authority, the legislative branch of the government, which includes the Senate, would play an integral role in the system of checks and balances established to prevent one part of the government from having too much power.  Other words such as “people,” which overlaps both Word Clouds, displays the focus of both authors, although Republicus doubts it in the case of the Federalists such as Hamilton, on attaining a government in which the citizens of the United States can have a say.

Problems Between the States: Federalist No. 8 and Anti-Federalist No. 6

Federalist Paper No. 8

Federalist No. 8, which Alexander Hamilton titled “The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States” and AntiFederalist No. 6, penned by an author under the pseudonym of Centinel in January 1788 called “The Hobgoblins of  Anarchy and the Dissentions Among the States” both touch upon key matters of the Constitutional Convention of 1867. Though the Federalists and Anti-Federalists disagreed on many platforms, they shared concern for the future of the United States. From the word clouds, clear points of emphasis become apparent from each of these important documents. Both documents touch upon similar issues involving the relationship between the states.

In the Federalist Paper written by Alexander Hamilton, the point of stress was establishing a military of great people. War was a real point of stress for the new nation. One of the objects of the Constitutional Convention was to figure out a way to lessen the tension between the states. Hamilton insisted upon the states forming one union. He also introduces, many times, the subject of the national military. “Military” is clearly the most prominent word in this cloud, followed closely by armies, war and people.

Anti-Federalist No. 6

On January 16, 1788, an anonymous author by the name of “Centinel” penned what is now known as the Anti-Federalist No. 6. In this article, Centinel goes against the Federalist new idea of government. His concerns are clearly visible in the word cloud. Words like “anarchy,” “despotism,” “judgement,” “misery” and evils” jump off the page. This passage establishes some over-arching themes of the Anti-Federalist movement. They were concerned that the new government would bring anarchy to the new nation, resulting from friction and tension among the different states. Centinel was concerned for the rivalries between the states and what could, and probably would, result in their strife. He writes, “To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” The evils which would come from the new Constitution, he believes, would be disastrous to the United States.

The word clouds present interesting points of view into each of the essays. Both Hamilton and “Centinel’s” key areas of stress become apparent.  On one hand the Federalists, it was the importance of forming one nation, instead of being divided among the states. On the other hand, the Anti-Federalists take the position against the new government. They clearly were under the impression that strife between the states was inevitable with anarchy being a serious resolution. Both word clouds portray the key points of the platforms of both parties on this topic.  The conflict between the states and the new government was just beginning.

The Federalist V.S Antifederalist Debate: James Wilson’s Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention Versus Letters to a Federal Farmer I

The national debates between the Federalist and Antifederalists occurred between September 17, 1787, and May 29, 1790 when Rhode Island became the thirteenth and final state to ratify the Constitution.

Federalist, James Wilson’s Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention on November 24, 1787 set the tone for the debates, not only for the remainder of the convention but for the entirety of the constitution’s ratification.  His speech includes the most important ideals set forth in the Federalist papers, focusing largely on the benefits of a union between the states, the illness with the current confederation and the effectiveness of a centralized federal government. By highlighting words like ‘government,’ ‘power,’ ‘people,’ ‘union,’ and ‘representation,’ the content of Wilson’s speech is clearly a persuasive case for the necessity of a federal government  that would strengthen and protect their budding nation. The federal government would seek to preserve order and regulation through peoples ‘representation.’ This would preserve order and secure the liberty of the larger republic.

Wilson also argued that the ‘people’ would ultimately decide the fate of the country because “supreme power…should be vested in the people…..It is a power paramount to every constitution, inalienable in its nature, and indefinite in its extent” (Beeman 381). The frequent appearance of the word ‘people’ accompanied by ‘government,’ ‘power,’ ‘united,’  ‘representation,’ and ‘liberty,’ appeals to the classic republican belief in popular sovereignty.  While ‘government’ appears the greatest number of times in his speech, Wilson cushions the federalist desire for a “comprehensive Federal  Republic” (Beeman 380), with the reassurance that sovereignty would remain intact in the form of the ‘people.’ Essentially Wilsons speech aptly summarizes the Federalists perspective as well as frames the remainder of the debate(Beeman 380).

The Antifederalist argument is best summarized by Melancton Smith of New York in his first Antifederalist paper under the name of the “Federal Farmer.” In this letter he acknowledges that there are many instabilities in the government, however, he believed the new government proposed in the Federalist constitution was not accessible to all types of men in the community. His first letter exemplified the Antifederalist sentiment that the constitution was elitist and largely excluded the common man. This belief stemmed from the secrecy of the constitutional convention which many believed was in direct violation of the Articles of Confederation in the means selected for ratification of the constitution.  Smith states “I have long apprehended that fraudulent debtors, and embarrassed men, on the one hand, and men, on the other, unfriendly to republican equality, would produce an uneasiness among the people, and prepare the way, not for cool and deliberate reforms in the governments, but for changes calculated to promote the interests of particular orders of men” ( Letters to a Federal Farmer I). In making their arguments, the Anti-Federalists often relied on the rhetoric of the Revolutionary War era, which stressed the virtues of local rule and associated centralized power with a monarch. Therefore, the Anti-Federalists frequently claimed that the Constitution represented a step away from the democratic goals of the American Revolution. In essence they believed that the elitist creators of the constitution sought only to further their own powers and goals. Many feared that this government would only succeed in creating a large socioeconomic gap between classes. While the central and most frequently used word in this document is once again ‘government,’ the words that surround it change the meaning and point directly toward the meaning of the Antifederalist debate.Words like ‘free,’ ‘governments,’ ‘states,’ ‘object,’ ‘community,’ ‘people,’ ‘power,’ and ‘men,’ show that the Antifederalist interests were not in a nation as a united front but in the interests if the community and the local state government and the people who controlled it.  The second largest word in the document is men. This shows that local men are of the second greatest importance to the government and that it is these ‘men’ who should be in control. Many Anti-Federalists believed in a type of government that has been described as agrarian republicanism, or a government is centered on a society of landowning farmers who participate in local politics. Lastly ‘Governments’ appears as the third largest word. The pluralization of this word once again reinforces the importance of state run governments to the Antifederalists.

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.

Federalist 24 vs. Anti-Federalist 10: Safety of a Standing Army?

Federalist No. 24

Federalist No. 24, “The Powers Necessary to the Common Defense Further Considered For the Independent Journal,” and Anti-Federalist No. 10, argued the necessity and constitutional right for fostering a standing army in the United States during peacetime. The Federalists and Anti-Federalists disputed over the integrity of the government in commanding the forces, especially the legislative branch, the rights of the people and the states, and the realistic danger from neighboring nations. The Federalists’ desire for a powerful constitution and government with secure military institutions, and the Anti-Federalists’ fear of a corrupt system are represented through the key words in each word cloud. Since the documents contended the same issues, the word clouds share similar words, including “standing army,” “time of peace,” “government,” “state,” “legislature,” and “people.” Though the word clouds contain the same number of words, and the overall word count for each document is almost equivalent, none of the largest words are the same. This discrepancy shows the difference between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists’ main concerns about national defense. While the Anti-Federalists focused on the potential danger of a overzealous government having control of an army, shown by the repeating words “government,” “danger,” “power,” “legislature,” and “army,” the Federalists emphasized the need for protection against Britain and Spain, as well as on the western frontier with a respectful and considerate army with “constitutions,” “necessity,” “respect,” and “garrisons.”

Whether about standing armies or taxation, the Federalists stood for a strong central government, while the Anti-Federalists fought what they saw as an overbearing government, set on weakening state powers.  Though many of the key words illustrated are expected, the numbers “one” and “two” from the Federalist document come as a surprise. However, with further analysis, “one” and “two” represent the core sentiments of the Federalist argument. “One” stands for the unity of the United States under the ratification of the constitution, and “two” supports the Federalists’ objective. Hamilton, under the pseudonym Publius, wrote of the proposal for funding an army for no more than two years, that only two state constitutions explicitly prohibited standing armies, and the danger of the two powers, Britain, and Spain, which threatened American safety. “One” and “two” though not immediately conjuring constitutional thoughts, hold the key to the Federalists’ ideals. Obviously, these small but influential words, remain absent from the Anti-Federalist word cloud. The Federalist and Anti-Federalist word clouds demonstrate, that even though the Federalists and Anti-Federalists may have shared some similar words in discussing their opinions on the constitution, their ideals, fears, thoughts on constitutional power were radically different.

David Brearley: Quiet and Supportive Delegate from New Jersey

Courtesy of Wikipedia

David Brearley was a delegate from New Jersey. He attended the constitutional convention with other New Jersey delegates including the outspoken William Patterson. Brearley was a fairly quiet man, not overly important compared to the other more famous delegates at the convention, however, he was described as a “good man” and was accomplished within his state (ANB). Brearley was an early supporterof the American Revolution and served in the continental army as a lieutenant colonel. He was later elected to chief justice of New Jersey. Brearley grew up in New Jersey on a farm, and is thought to have attended Princeton, then called the College of New Jersey.

At the convention he was out shined by Paterson, but worked on the New Jersey Plan with him and stood firmly for small state’s rights. Along with the other New Jersey delegates and small state representatives, Brearley was apprehensive about giving the larger states too much power, as well as proportional representation for states, and election of the upper house by the lower house. Brearley was a member of the Committee on Apportionment and headed the Committee of Eleven on the unfinished parts of the constitution, including details of the presidency, electoral college, and how executives were appointed.

In American National Biography his last name is spelled Brearly. Apparently, his last name was commonly mispelled Brearley, which is how Beeman spells it.

George Read

Courtesy of National Archives

When first describing George Read, a delegate from Delaware, in Plain, Honest Men (2009) Richard Beeman notes that the delegate gave a “clear signal of serious trouble down the the road” just as the Convention began (71). This “trouble” pertained to the issue of state representation and Read’s need to preserve Delaware’s equal power in the proposed revisions to the government. Beeman portrays Read as having a complicated position in the Convention, for he favored proposals for the supremacy of a national government and chief executive while upholding his state’s commission to maintain equal representation. This latter viewpoint evoked a passionate response from Read at one point in the Convention’s deliberation, at which point he threatened the delegation from Delaware would leave the Convention if proposals for proportional representation continued.

Beeman provides details about George Read given his significance as a representative of small-state interests during a heated debate over representation. The American National Biography Online provides a more detailed biography of Read beyond his political acheivements noted by Beeman (e.g. Read signed of the Declaration of Independence and went on to become a leader in Delaware’s government). In addition, modern scholarship by John Munroe offers insight into Read’s prominent status as a government leader and a merchant, and his political connections to Philadelphia and Delaware. Furthermore, Read’s social and economic status fueled his interest to stake claims in western territories. Since only a strong, centralized government could prevent other larger states to claim these territories, Read soon voiced his support for a new government. In short, his position in the Convention quickly brought the issue of representation to the forefront, but his motivations were varied.

Charles Pinckney: The Original Creator of the Constitution?

Richard Beeman’s initial description of Charles Pinckney conveys a negative tone not typically seen with the remainder of the other framers. Charles Pinckney, one of the four delegates from South Carolina, was one of the few delegates who advocated the revision of the Articles of Confederation. From as early on as 1783, Pinckney had sought to gather delegates and form a committee in which a strong central government from Congress, give power to  regulate foreign and domestic commerce and would give Congress the ability to demand payments from the states. His ideas of a strong central government, much like the proposed Virginia Plan by Edmund Randolph, has gained controversy, partly due to Pinckneys’ persona, as well as the lack of documentation left from the framer.

Within the group of delegates, as well as many historians in this field, Pinckney is described as a “sponger and a plagiarist” as well as “pathetic” and filled with “extravagant claims” (93). Pinckney claims, during the sessions in the Constitutional Convention had proposed a plan similar to that of Randolphs in which, long after the Convention was over, Pinckney later claimed himself as the original creator of the Constitution. His first publication, “Observations on the Plan of Government”, published in May 1787, is one of the few documents left of his proposed plan, however, the criticism of delegates such as James Madison, retaliated his claims as false. Seen by the delegates as haughty and in some respect vain, the truth concerning Pinckneys actual contribution concerning the Constitution is still in debate (98).