21 April 2015

Federalists Push for a Constitution

The Anti-Federalists by Jackson Main, 1961, Edited Excerpts

Joseph Jones to Madison, June 7 1787: “One of the first objects with the national government to be elected under the new constitution, it is said, will be to provide funds for the payment of the national debt, and thereby to restore the credit of the United States, which has been so much impaired by the individual states. Every holder of a pubic security of any kind is, therefore, deeply interested in the cordial reception, and speedy establishment of a vigorous continental government.”

The Federalists were trying to bring about a major political change and were insisting that this change was essential. To justify the Constitution, it had to be proved that conditions were desperate and that extensive alterations in the government were imperative. Accordingly, they insisted that a serious commercial depression existed, that the credit of the United States and of the several states was endangered, that property rights were in jeopardy, that the states were disunited and weak, and that if the country were to become prosperous, respected, respectable, and safe, the Articles must be replaced by the Constitution.

The prospect that creditors could sue in the federal courts and recover claims in real money was particularly pleasing to creditors at a time when the collection of debts was exceptionally difficult. Creditors had encountered difficulties in collecting debts, threatened as they were with installment and tender laws, paper money, and even rebellion. The Constitution was, Federalists hoped, calculated to make men honest.

To the Antifederalists, there was no need for so drastic a cure as the Constitution. The Antifederalists believed that the Constitution created too strong a government. It was not so much any particular power which proved the danger, but the combination of control over taxation and the army together with the judicial powers. The Antifederalist wished to retain the Articles and to strengthen the Confederation.

An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard, 1913, Edited Excerpts

When it is remembered that most of our history has been written by Federalists, great care should be taken in accepting the gloomy pictures of the social conditions under the Articles of Confederation. The gloomy view of economic conditions persistently propagated by the advocates of a new national system was not entertained by all writers of eminence and authority. The defects in the Articles of the Confederation were not the serious menace to the social fabric which the advocates of change implied.

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