Anti-Federalist Writings


During the period from the drafting and proposal of the federal Constitution in September, 1787, to its ratification in 1789 there was an intense debate on ratification. The arguments against ratification appeared in various forms, by various authors, most of whom used a pseudonym. The positions of the Federalists, those who supported the Constitution, and the anti-Federalists, those who opposed it, were printed and reprinted by scores of newspapers across the country.

Due to its size, wealth, and influence and because it was the first state to call a ratifying convention, Pennsylvania was the focus of national attention. On October 5, anti-Federalist Samuel Bryan published the first of his "Centinel" essays in Philadelphia's Independent Gazetteer. Republished in newspapers in various states, the essays assailed the sweeping power of the central government, the usurpation of state sovereignty, and the absence of a bill of rights guaranteeing individual liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

In New York the Constitution was under siege in the press by a series of essays signed “Cato.” Mounting a counterattack, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay enlisted help from Madison and, in late 1787, they published the first of a series of essays now known as the Federalist Papers. The 85 essays, most of which were penned by Hamilton himself, probed the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and the need for an energetic national government.

Against the Federalist leadership and determination, the opposition in most states was disorganized and generally inert. The leading spokesmen were largely state-centered men with regional and local interests and loyalties. The anti-Federalists attacked on several fronts: the lack of a bill of rights, discrimination against southern states in navigation legislation, direct taxation, the loss of state sovereignty. Many charged that the Constitution represented the work of aristocratic politicians bent on protecting their own class interests.

The call for a bill of rights was the anti-Federalists' most powerful weapon. The anti-Federalists, demanded a more unequivocal Constitution, one that laid out for all to see the rights of the people and limitations of the power of government. Richard Henry Lee despaired at the lack of provisions to protect “those essential rights of mankind without which liberty cannot exist.” [(Source: A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution)]

Although the anti-Federalists lost the struggle over ratification, their defense of individual rights and suspicion of power remain core American political values, and the bill of rights is a lasting monument to their importance.


I. Letters of Agrippa
Agrippa I
Agrippa II
Agrippa III
Agrippa IV
Agrippa V
Agrippa VI
Agrippa VII
Agrippa VIII
Agrippa IX
Agrippa X
Agrippa XI
Agrippa XII
Agrippa XIII
Agrippa XIV
Agrippa XV
Agrippa XVI
Agrippa XVII
Agrippa XVIII
Agrippa XIX
II. Letters of Brutus
Brutus I
Brutus II
Brutus III
Brutus IV
Brutus V
Brutus VI
Brutus VII
Brutus VIII
Brutus IX
Brutus X
Brutus XI
Brutus XII
Brutus XIII
Brutus XIV (pt. 1)
Brutus XIV (pt. 2)
Brutus XV (pt. 1)
Brutus XV (pt. 2)
Brutus XVI
III. Letters of Cato
Cato I
Cato II
Cato III
Cato IV
Cato V
Cato VI
Cato VII
IV. Letters of Centinel
Centinel I
Centinel II (excerpt)
Centinel IV
Centinel V (excerpt)
Centinel VI (excerpt)
Centinel XI
V. Letters of John DeWitt
John DeWitt I
John DeWitt II
John DeWitt III
John DeWitt IV (excerpt)
John DeWitt V (excerpt)
VI. Letters from the Federal Farmer
Federal Farmer I
Federal Farmer II
Federal Farmer III
Federal Farmer IV
Federal Farmer V
Federal Farmer VI
Federal Farmer VII
Federal Farmer VIII
Federal Farmer IX
Federal Farmer X
Federal Farmer XI
Federal Farmer XII
Federal Farmer XIII
Federal Farmer XIV
Federal Farmer XV
Federal Farmer XVI
Federal Farmer XVII
Federal Farmer XVIII
VII. Letters of The Impartial Examiner
Impartial Examiner I
Impartial Examiner II
Impartial Examiner III
Impartial Examiner IV
Impartial Examiner V
VIII. Anti-Federalist Papers: A [Maryland] Farmer
Maryland Farmer I
New Constitution Creates a National Government, Will not Abate Foreign Influence, Dangers of Civil War and Despotism
On the Preservation of Parties
Maryland Farmer V
Maryland Farmer VI
Maryland Farmer VIa
Maryland Farmer VII
IX. The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania To Their Constituents
Objections to National Control of the Militia (Part 2)
The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania to their Constituents
The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania To Their Constituents
X. Patrick Henry
Foreign Wars, Civil Wars, and Indian Wars—Three Bugbears
The Problem of Concurrent Taxation
XI. An Old Whig
Old Whig I
What Does History Teach? (Part 1)
On Constitutional Conventions—Part II
The Powers and Dangerous Potentials of His Elected Majesty
Where Then is the Restraint?
XII. William Grayson
We have been told of Phantoms
On the Mode of Electing the President
XIII. Luther Martin — Letters and Other Works
Luther Martin I
Luther Martin II
Luther Martin III
Luther Martin IV
Luther Martin V
Luther Martin VI
The Presidential Term of Office
The Federal Judiciary and the Issue of Trial by Jury
XIV. Various Authors
A Dangerous Plan of Benefit only to the "Aristocratick Combination"
Scotland and England—A Case in Point
Adoption of the Constitution Will Lead to Civil War
The Power Vested in Congress of Sending Troops for Suppressing Insurrections Will Always Enable Them to Stifle the First Struggles of Freedom
A Consolidated Government is a Tyranny
Articles of Confederation Simply Requires Amendments, Particularly for Commercial Power and Judicial Power; Constitution Goes Too Far
The Use of Coercion by the New Government (Part I)
The Use of Coercion by the New Government (Part II)
The Use of Coercion by the New Government (Part III)
Objections to National Control of the Militia
A Virginia Antifederalist on the Issue of Taxation
Federal Taxing Power Must be Restrained
Some Reactions to Federalist Arguments
Appearance and Reality—The Form is Federal; The Effect is National
What Congress Can Do; What A State Can Not
Powers of National Government Dangerous to States
No Separation of Departments Results in No Responsibility
On Constitutional Conventions—Part I
Do Checks and Balances Really Secure the Rights of the People?
On the Guarantee of Congressional Biennial Elections
A Plea for the Right of Recall
Apportionment and Slavery: Northern and Southern Views
The Danger of Congressional Control of Elections
Will the Constitution Promote the Interests of Favorite Classes?
On the Organization and Powers of the Senate—Part IV
From North Carolina
The Presidential Term of Office
On the Electoral College; On Reeligibility of the President
Presidential Veto Power
The President as Military King
How Will the New Government Raise Money?
Treaty-making Provisions of the Constitution
The Expense of the New Government
The Expense of the New Government
Rhode Island is Right!
Europeans Admire and Federalists Decry the Present System
What Does History Teach? (Part 2)
Evils Under Confederation Exaggerated; Constitution Must Be Drastically Revised Before Adoption
XV. Writings of Elbridge Gerry
Elbridge Gerry's Objections (Letter to the Massachusetts Legislature)
Reply to "A Landholder," I
Reply to "A Landholder," II
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