The Federalist & Anti-Federalist Dialectic
Credit for the Bill of Rights goes largely to the founders who opposed the Constitution.
In an interview, Judge Andrew Oldham1Bio: Hon. Andrew Oldham explains the tremendous significance of the Anti-Federalists’ writings, not merely because they were instrumental in securing the Bill of Rights, but also in order to fully understand the Constitution’s intended meaning.
From the Article:2Wall Street Journal: The Founders Who Opposed the Constitution July 3, 2019
“We understand what the document itself meant in 1787,” Judge Oldham says, through the “dialectic” between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. Many arguments in the Federalist Papers—in which Hamilton, Madison and John Jay made their case for the Constitution—were rebuttals to Anti-Federalists who published first after the Constitutional Convention. “They’re talking to each other,” Judge Oldham says. Reading them against each other “shows you what people thought the document was doing.”
A striking example of this dialectic can be found in the very creation and then destruction of Article the first of the Bill of Rights. The Anti-Federalists were so vehement in their concerns about the Constitution’s failure to specify a minimum House size that the Federalists attempted to overcome their arguments in Federalist 55 through 58. The Federalists’ arguments were so unconvincing, however, that Madison felt compelled to propose an amendment to address the Anti-Federalists’ concern. Because his initial proposal was wholly inadequate relative to what had been demanded by many of the states, it was made far more robust as a result of numerous debates in the Congress, between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. And then, in the waning hours of the first Congress, that robust solution was effectively neutered in such a way as to make it more satisfactory to some of the Federalists.
As an aside, Judge Oldham gave an interesting little lecture titled “Behind the Masks”3The Anti-Federalists: Behind the Masks about the various Anti-Federalist and Federalist writers and their pseudonyms.
- 1Bio: Hon. Andrew Oldham
- 2Wall Street Journal: The Founders Who Opposed the Constitution July 3, 2019
- 3The Anti-Federalists: Behind the Masks