Yay! For the Bill of Rights
HIST556 A001 Spring 13
The creation of a new democratic state, which up until the independence of the United States had not been known in the history of man, was a daunting endeavor. Whereas, the Framers of both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution were well acquainted with the great Enlightenment philosophers, such as John Locke, these men were writing and working in theory. America would be the great experiment in which these theories would finally be applied. This great experiment in democracy, being the first of its kind, would leave the Founding Fathers with no example with which to look upon and they would and did stumble. However, the missteps committed by the Founding Fathers/Framers mostly came from fears of either despotism or anarchy. As a consequence of both of these fears, the original Constitution that the Constitutional Convention produced was without a “Bill of Rights” and because of this it did not guarantee the basic “inalienable rights” spoken of in the Declaration of Independence. I feel that without such a clear guarantee of rights to all citizens of the United States, I would certainly not have voted to ratify the Constitution as it read.
The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers were products of a world governed by the printed word. These works were the direct opposite of the sound-bytes of today. Indeed, these works closest modern equivalent would be an hour length political commentary show. For these works were full explorations of every amendment to the Constitution and to the very nature of the need for a new governing document for the fledgling United States. The Federalist and Anti-Federalists employed their rhetoric in an intelligent debate upon the future of their nation. Both groups were filled with an honest compassion towards the future of the nation and this passion led to one of the greatest explorations of the varying facets of democracy.
To begin with, as stated above the major driving force behind both the creation of the Constitution and its opposition was fear. Many anti-federalists understood that the Articles of Confederation were lacking in many regards and had to be amended, however, they did not approve of the product which the Constitutional Convention had produced. As “Brutus”(Robert Yates) states of the present state of America, “We have felt the feebleness of the ties by which these United-States are held together, and the want of sufficient energy in our present confederation, to manage, in some instances, our general concerns.”Here Brutus illustrates that the need for modification or replacement of the Articles of Confederation was a pervasive feeling throughout much of America. For, many had felt the end result of a weak central government. One example of this weakness of the federal government was the constant violence that appeared in the countryside as tax assessors attempted to fulfill their duty. The most famous act of violence during this chaotic period was “Shay’s Rebellion” which was the end result of increased taxation. The rebels attempted to prevent their local courts from hearing cases of indebtedness, but they were eventually defeated by forces under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln in 1787. In addition, those Americans who lived along the outer borders of the states still faced raids by warring Native American tribes and as a result, were looking for military protection which only a strong central government could provide.
These dangers were certainly understood by most Americans; however, the danger felt by most was just how much power should be granted to the central government. Brutus states, “But remember, when the people once part with power, they can seldom or never resume it again but by force.” Brutus preaches caution to the American people, because he fears...
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