Ratifying the Constitution
Once the Constitution of the United States was written in 1787 at the Philadelphia convention, the next step was ratification. This is the formal process, outlined in Article VII, which required that nine of the thirteen states had to agree to adopt the Constitution before it could go into effect.
We now know that the Federalists prevailed, and the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, and went into effect in 1789. Read about their arguments below.
Those opposed to the Constitution
Anti-Federalists argued that the Constitution gave too much power to the federal government, while taking too much power away from state and local governments. Many felt that the federal government would be too far removed to represent the average citizen. Anti-Federalists feared the nation was too large for the national government to respond to the concerns of people on a state and local basis.
The Anti-Federalists were also worried that the original text of the Constitution did not contain a bill of rights. They wanted guaranteed protection for certain basic liberties, such as freedom of speech and trial by jury.
A Bill of Rights was added in 1791. In part to gain the support of the Anti-Federalists, the Federalists promised to add a bill of rights if the Anti-Federalists would vote for the Constitution. Learn more about it by visiting the Student Center page on The Constitution and Rights.
Those in favor of the Constitution
Federalists believed that the nation might not survive without the passage of the Constitution, and that a stronger national government was necessary after the failed Articles of Confederation.
The Federalists met Anti-Federalist arguments that the new government created by the Constitution was too powerful by explaining that the document had many built-in safeguards, such as:
- Limited Government: Federalists argued that the national government only had the powers specifically granted to it under the Constitution, and was prohibited from doing some things at all.
- Separation of Powers: Federalists argued that, by separating the basic powers of government into three equal branches and not giving too much power to any one person or group, the Constitution provided balance and prevented the potential for tyranny.
- Checks and Balances: Federalists argued that the Constitution provided a system of checks and balances, where each of the three branches is able to check or limit the other branches.
How did the Anti-Federalists feel about the federal courts?
Similar to how they felt about the rest of the proposed federal government, the Anti-Federalists believed the Constitution granted too much power to the federal courts, at the expense of the state and local courts. They argued that the federal courts would be too far away to provide justice to the average citizen.
How did the Federalists feel about the federal courts?
The Federalists argued that the federal courts had limited jurisdiction, leaving many areas of the law to the state and local courts. The Federalists felt that the new federal courts were necessary to provide checks and balances on the power of the other two branches of government. They believed the federal courts would protect citizens from government abuse, and guarantee their liberty.
Federalism is a form of government in which power is divided between the national government and the state governments. In the United States, there is a federal court system. In addition, each state has its own courts. To learn more about this dual court system, visit the Student Center page State Courts vs. Federal Courts.