On September 28, 1787, after three days of bitter debate, the Confederation Congress sent the Constitution to the states with neither an endorsement nor a condemnation. This action, a compromise engineered by Federalist members, disposed of the argument that the convention had exceeded its mandate; in the tacit opinion of Congress, the Constitution was validly before the people. The state legislatures' decisions to hold ratifying conventions confirmed the Constitution's legitimacy.
The ratification controversy pitted supporters of the Constitution, who claimed the name "Federalists," against a loosely organized group known as "Antifederalists." The Antifederalists denounced the Constitution as a radically centralizing document that would destroy American liberty and betray the principles of the Revolution. The Federalists urged that the nation's problems were directly linked to the frail, inadequate Confederation and that nothing short of the Constitution would enable the American people to preserve their liberty and independence, the fruits of the Revolution.
The Federalists - led by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, John Marshall, James Wilson, John Dickinson, and Roger Sherman - had several advantages. In a time of national political crisis, they offered a clear prescription for the nation's ills; they were well organized and well financed; and they were used to thinking in national terms and to working with politicians from other states. They also had the support of the only two truly national political figures, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
The Antifederalists - led by Patrick Henry, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, James ...
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...troversy in American history; the people of all thirteen states for the first time debated and decided the same issue. Ratification was a
catalyst for the creation of a national political community, transforming the ways Americans thought of themselves and encouraging the growth and popularity of national
loyalties. The political discourse generated by the ratification controversy continues to this day within the matrix of the Constitution; the argument in 1787-1788 is one of the finest chapters of that discourse.
Conley, Patrick T. & Kaminski, John P. (1989), The Constitution and the States
Merrill Jensen, John P. Kaminski, Gaspare J. Saladino, & Richard Leffler (1976)
The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, 1787-1791
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