APUSH Essay #2 – “Interpreting the Constitution”
The Framing Fathers early foresaw that the nationwide acceptance of the Constitution would not be easy to obtain. A daunting barrier was unanimous ratification by all thirteen states, as required by the Articles of Confederation. The public had expected for the Articles of Confederation to be revised but they were handed a new document in which, many thought, the “precious jewel” of state sovereignty was swallowed up. One of the hottest debates in American history was set into motion. The antifederalists, who opposed the stronger federal government and led by Thomas Jefferson, were aligned against the federalists, who favored it and were led by Alexander Hamilton. Antifederalists voiced vehement objections and argued, with much truth, that the Constitution had been drawn up by “aristocratic elements and hence was antidemocratic.” The democracy of the United States depends upon a strict interpretation of the Constitution, not a loose one as federalists appealed for. Creating a bill of rights headed the list of problems facing the new government. Many antifederalists had strongly criticized the Constitution for its failure to provide guarantees of individual rights such as freedom of speech. Antifederalists advocated for complete freedom of speech, not partial. One such case where a person was convicted for expressing their thoughts was the trial of John Peter Zenger. Zenger’s newspaper had assailed the corrupt royal governor, William Cosby, charged with seditious libel, and hauled into court. Though this event happened before the Constitution was ratified, or even created, it demonstrated the antifederalists’ fears of a strong federal government convicting someone for speaking their minds. A strict interpretation of the Constitution would allow for complete expression, even against government officials. As the pinnacle for his financial system, Hamilton proposed a Bank of the United States. He...
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