From the time it was first proposed in 1789, the Bill of Rights was controversial. The founding fathers had already considered adding a Bill of Rights in the original 1787 Constitution, mainly because they knew the people feared a powerful central government and formally stating their rights in this new document would appease them. They did not add it, however, thinking it was not really necessary. Each state had their own version of a Bill of Rights anyway. The framers of the Constitution decided that just because rights were not enumerated for the individual states in the Constitution did not mean that the federal government controlled the lives of every citizen.
The Federalists opposed including a bill of rights on the ground that it was unnecessary. In the end, popular sentiment was decisive. Recently freed from the despotic English monarchy, the American people wanted strong guarantees that the new government would not trample upon their newly won freedoms of speech, press and religion, nor upon their right to be free from warrant less searches and seizures. So, the Constitution's framers heeded Thomas Jefferson who argued: "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference." The American Bill of Rights, inspired by Jefferson and drafted by James Madison, was adopted, and in 1791 the Constitution's first ten amendments became the law of the land.
In this paper I intend to argue for the Federalists about why a Bill of Rights did not need to be included into the Constitution. One of the most important reasons why the Federalists fought so hard against the inclusion of a Bill of Rights was because they believed that it would undermine the ideal that a government should have limited powers (377). The proposed legislation would be at odds with the main point of a written constitution as the product of a social contract, which states that all power initially stays with the citizens and that the citizens are the ones who construct a government that has limited and enumerated powers in a written constitution. For example, Federalists argued that deliberately stating the right to religion should not be infringed on could be misconstrued by people thinking that if the Constitution did not state this restriction specifically then the government would possess that power. In other words, the Federalists were afraid that people might think that the Constitution gave the government unlimited power and that writing down specific provisions in a bill of rights would only increase the sense that those sole rights that were written down were the only ones taken from a government that is usually unlimited in its power.
The Anti-Federalists are also concerned about how the national government could abuse its power if given a higher authoritative role in the revised Constitution. In order to show the concern, the authors write, “the legislative power is competent to lay taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; there is no limitation to this power..." The Anti-Federalists were afraid that allowing the national government to have so much power would be like living under Britain 's authority all over again. This would render the American Revolution pointless, they believed. They supported the state governments in having authority to tax, govern, and to have independence from the central government in doing so. They believe that if the central government starts taxing the people, the state governments would not be able to raise money
Because of the increased power of the national government over the individual states, many Americans feared it would hinder their ability to exercise their individual freedoms. Assuring the people, both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison insisted the new government under the constitution was “an expression of freedom, not its enemy,” declaring “the Constitution made political tyranny almost impossible.” (Foner, pg. 227) The checks and balances introduced under the new and more powerful national government would not allow the tyranny caused by a king under the Parliament system in Britain. They insisted that in order achieve a greater amount of freedom, a national government was needed to avoid the civil unrest during the system under the Articles of Confederation. Claiming that the new national government would be a “perfect balance between liberty and power,” it would avoid the disruption that liberty [civil unrest] and power [king’s abuse of power in England] caused.
Anti-Federalists did see the need for a union between the states to provide a defense against foreign enemies, promote, and protect commerce, and maintain order between the states. They believed in granting powers to a national government cautiously and with disclaimers. Their rivals in the constitutional debates falsely appointed the Anti-Federalists as their core principles turned out to be more “federal” than the Federalists whom they opposed. A more accurate name for the Anti-Federalists, since they never offered one for themselves, may have been the Pro-Federalists in reverence to their conservative beliefs.
The ratification of this new constitution created a debate among the federalists and the anti-federalists. The federalists were supporters of the ratification and were led by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. These three Federalist leaders wrote "The Federalist Papers", a series of eighty-five essays defending the Constitution, under the name "Publius", and circulated the documents widely. They claimed that the division of powers and the system of checks and balances would protect Americans from the tyranny of centralized authority. Thus people did not need to be protected from the powers of the new government in a formal way.
The anti federalist actually fought for these rights to be added to the Constitution in which the federalist was against. The federalist felt that the separation of powers and federalism protected the people from abuse of power. Anti federalist was against the Constitution and would only give approval if further protection was added to protect Americans from the federal government. The Bill of Rights consist of the first ten amendments of the Constitution and gave U.S. Citizens freedoms and rights, while placing limitations on the federal government. The Bill of Rights prevented the government from promoting one religion over another, from prohibiting press, carrying out illegal searches and procedures, pressuring to house military, prevention of being tried twice in the court of law, etc.
Going by this interpretation would mean that a national bank would not be able to be established, as that was not a right of the federal government specifically stated in the Constitution. Although a national bank did emerge, the Anti-Federalists did make other accomplishments that coincided with their agendas. One of the most major successes of the Anti-Federalists was passing ten amendments to the Constitution. The first amendments were collectively known as the Bill of Rights. These amendments gave rights that Federalists believed were implied in the original Constitution, but Anti-Federalists wanted them specifically written in, as to avoid any possible ambiguity as to what fundamental
Factions and the Constitution The framers designed the Constitution in such a way as to lessen the influence of political parties in American government, however at the same time, the very essence to the formation of political parties, liberty, was left in the Constitution. Both Madison and Schattschneider cite that while the Constitution does not support factions, it cannot abolish them because of the fact that the Constitution was designed to protect the liberties of the citizens. They both go on to say that liberty is the spark, which causes political parties to develop. In Madison's Federalist 10, it is evident that he was not in favor of the formation of factions. He states, "…The public good is often disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties…" Madison made the point that the dangers of factions can only be limited by controlling its effects.