Presentation on theme: "“The powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several."— Presentation transcript:
“The powers vested in Congress by this constitution, must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several States, and produce from their ruins one consolidated government, which from the nature of things will be an iron handed despotism...” -- Dissent of the Pennsylvania Minority 18 December 1787
“Iron Handed Despotism”: Anti-Federalist Critiques of the U.S. Constitution and the “Democratic Debate”
Overview II.Anti-Federalist Critiques Liberty Equality Democracy III.Conclusion The anti-federalists are responsible for much of what we celebrate in the Constitution today
I.Historical Background Articles of Confederation Written from 1777-1781 Ratified in 1783 Remained in effect until the Constitution ratified
Articles of Confederation Basic features: Power spread among the states, rather than concentrated at the national level Power shared equally among the 13 states National Government consisted of a single legislative body No independent executive No national judiciary
Constitutional Convention Charged with amending the Articles Amendment requires unanimous consent of the 13 states Rhode Island did not send any delegates George Washington chosen as presiding officer Meet secretly through the summer of 1787
Basic features of the Constitution Creates bicameral legislature (Congress) People elect the House of Representatives State legislatures elect Senators Creates independent executive (President) Chosen by the Electoral College Creates national judiciary (Supreme Court) Nominated by President; Confirmed by Senate
Basic features of the Constitution Power concentrated at the national level “Supremacy” Clause (Article 6) New Powers Power to levy/collect taxes Regulate interstate commerce Raise and maintain a standing army enact all laws “necessary and proper”
Constitutional Convention 17 September 1787 Convention adopts Constitution Sends to the states for ratification (approval) 9 states required to ratify and adopt the Constitution Ratification by special convention in each state
Delaware12/7/178730-0 Pennsylvania12/12/178746-23 New Jersey12/19/178738-0 Georgia1/2/178826-0 Connecticut1/9/1788128-40 Mass.2/6/1788187-168 Maryland4/28/178863-11 So. Carolina5/23/1788149-73 New Hamp.6/21/178857-46 Virginia6/25/178889-79 New York7/26/178830-27 No. Carolina11/21/1789187-77 Rhode Is.5/29/179034-32
Delaware12/7/178730-0 Pennsylvania12/12/178746-23 (12) New Jersey12/19/178738-0 Georgia1/2/178826-0 Connecticut1/9/1788128-40 Mass.2/6/1788187-168 (10) Maryland4/28/178863-11 So. Carolina5/23/1788149-73 New Hamp.6/21/178857-46 (6) Virginia6/25/178889-79 (6) New York7/26/178830-27 (2) No. Carolina11/21/1789187-77 Rhode Is.5/29/179034-32
Ratification Calculations The Constitution would not have been ratified if as few as 14 votes (about 1% of total cast), had changed sides in the debate If 36 votes had changed, a majority of states would have voted against ratification Given that it was so close, and that we think of the Constitution as a great success Why was it so controversial? What were the anti-Federalists objections?
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Liberty “This proposal of altering our Federal Government is of a most alarming nature....you ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty; for instead of securing your rights you may lose them forever...
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Liberty “If this new Government will not come up to the expectation of the people, and they should be disappointed -- their liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will arise.” Patrick Henry (Virginia)
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Liberty Basis for the critique was the absence of a Bill of Rights For example, “Brutus” writes that:
“in all the Constitutions of our own States; there is not one of them but what is either founded on a declaration or bill of rights, or has certain express reservation of rights interwoven in the body of them. From this it appears, that at a time when the pulse of liberty beat high, and when an appeal was made to the people to form Constitutions for the government of themselves, it was their universal sense, that such declarations should make a part of their frames of government. It is, therefore, the more astonishing, that this grand security to the rights of the people is not to be found in this Constitution.” -- “Brutus”
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Liberty Coupled with much stronger national government, this seemed to suggest that tyranny was in the offing, and that the republic was lost. Again, “Brutus” spells out the logic here. That is, if the national government has ultimate authority, then
“It is therefore not only necessarily implied thereby, but positively expressed, that the different State Constitutions are repealed and entirely done away, so far as they are inconsistent with this, with the laws which shall be made in pursuance thereof, or with treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States. Of what avail will the Constitutions of the respective States be to preserve the rights of its citizens?”
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality A second area of concern was the likelihood that the new Constitution would create an artistocracy Anti-federalist critics reminded their audience why we fought the revolution. For instance, John F. Mercer writes:
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality “When we turn our eyes back to the zones of blood and desolation which we have waded through to separate from Great Britain, we behold with manly indignation that our blood and treasure have been wasted to establish a government in which the interest of the few is preferred to the rights of the many...
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality “When we see a government so every way inferior to that we were born under, proposed as the reward of our sufferings in an eight year calamitous war, our astonishment is only equaled by our resentment.” John F. Mercer (1788)
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality “This being the beginning of American freedom, it is very clear the ending will be slavery, for it cannot be denied that this constitution is, in its first principles, highly and dangerously oligarchical; and it is every where agreed, that a government administered by a few, is, of all governments, the worst. LEONIDAS 30 July 1788
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality Basis for this claim -- the beginning of aristocracy -- is rooted in the structure of the new government and the powers of the new government For instance: Senators have 6 year terms, and are not elected directly by the people No public galleries in Senate until 1795
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality “A Senate chosen for six years will, in most instances, be an appointment for life...” -- Mercy Otis Warren Observations on the New Constitution (1788) Frank Lautenburg (D-NJ) who is 84 and just won re-election to a new 6 year term Currently the median age in the Senate is 63; the oldest is Senator Byrd (D-WVa) at 90; 5 others are in their 80s including
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality Congress sets its own salary Potential for pay increases to fleece the taxpayers and create separate political class No provision for term limits Many state constitutions (e.g., Pennsylvania) provided for the rotation of offices For example, Warren points this out in her Observations
“As the new Congress are empowered to determine their own salaries, the requisitions for this purpose may not be very moderate, and the drain for public moneys will probably rise past all calculation... History of Congressional pay raises available here.pay raiseshere
“There is no provision for a rotation, nor any thing to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done, to the exclusion of men of the best abilities...” Mercy Otis Warren Re-election rates available hereavailablehere
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Equality “What then may we expect if the new constitution be adopted as it now stands? The great will struggle for power, honor and wealth; the poor become a prey to avarice, insolence and oppression. And while some are studying to supplant their neighbors, and others striving to keep their stations, one villain will wink at the oppression of another, the people be fleeced, and the public business neglected. From despotism and tyranny good Lord deliver us.” -- PHILANTHROPOS 12 December 1786, Virginia Journal
Anti-Federalist Critiques: Democracy Many of the Anti-Federalists were also concerned that the Constitution would destroy democracy Size of the polity means that representation becomes ineffectual Electoral College beyond the reach of the people The President becomes, basically, a king No term limit Too much power For example, here’s New York Governor George Clinton’s view of the office:
“And wherein does this president, invested with his powers and prerogatives, essentially differ from the king of Great Britain (save as to name, the creation of nobility, and some immaterial incidents, the offspring of absurdity and locality)?...
“It is necessary, in order to distinguish him from the rest of the community, and enable him to keep, and maintain his court, that the compensation for his services, or in other words, his revenue, should be such as to enable him to appear with the splendor of a prince. He has the power of receiving ambassadors from, and a great influence on their appointments to foreign courts; as also to make treaties, leagues, and alliances with foreign states, assisted by the Senate, which when made becomes the supreme law of land...
“He is a constituent part of the legislative power, for every bill which shall pass the House of Representatives and Senate is to be presented to him for approbation. If he approves of it he is to sign it, if he disapproves he is to return it with objections, which in many cases will amount to a complete negative; and in this view he will have a great share in the power of making peace, coining money, etc., and all the various objects of legislation, expressed or implied in this Constitution...
“He is the generalissimo of the nation, and of course has the command and control of the army, navy and militia; he is the general conservator of the peace of the union-he may pardon all offenses, except in cases of impeachment, and the principal fountain of all offices and employments. Will not the exercise of these powers therefore tend either to the establishment of a vile and arbitrary aristocracy or monarchy?” The New-York Journal November 8, 1787
Anti-Federalist Critiques When taken together, Anti-Federal opposition based on: Absence of Rights Creation of an Aristocracy Assault on Democracy
Conclusion “Does our soil produce no more Washingtons? Is there none who would oppose the attempt to establish a government by force? Can we not call from the fields, the counters, the bar, and mechanics' shops, any more Generals? Is our soil exhausted?” -- AN AMERICAN
Conclusion In response to the critiques, the federalists responded with a Bill of Rights Aware of the debates surrounding the creation of the presidency, Washington chose to voluntarily step down after a 2nd term, thereby setting precedent that would stand for 152 years (until Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Conclusion The debate between the anti-federalists and federalists shaped the development of the American political party system The debate also echoes today in calls for greater equality, increased power and responsibilities for states, and warnings against the unchecked power of the national government
Reelection Rates Source: Center for Response Politics
Reelection Rates Source: Center for Response Politics