Debating the Constitution” Focus Question: How did those in favor of the Constitution achieve its ratification?

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Chapter 7 Section 3

Debating the Constitution”

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Focus Question: How did those in favor of the Constitution achieve its ratification?
Federalists Versus Antifederalists

*To ratify, or approve, the Constitution, each state had to hold a convention. Once nine states ratified the Constitution, it would go into effect.

The Federalist Position

*Supporters of the new Constitution were called Federalists because they favored a strong federal, or national, government.

*James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay published the Federalist Papers, a series of 85 newspapers essays in support of the Constitution.

*Federalists pointed out the need for a stronger central government. They believed that if the Union (US) was to last, the government needed more power than it had under the Articles, including the power to enforce laws.

The Antifederalist Position

*Antifederalists, including George Mason and Patrick Henry, were opponents of ratifying the Constitution.
*Antifederalists agreed that the Articles were too weak, but thought the Constitutional Convention went too far when creating the Constitution.

*Some of their arguments opposing the Constitution included:

~it weakened state governments (a too-strong

central government like England would

reduce/eliminate state power and individual


~it did not provide a Bill of Rights to protect

basic freedoms

~it allowed a President to be reelected again

and again which could result in the same

outcome as having a king
The Ratification Debate

*The Constitution would not go into effect without the approval of nine states at their ratification conventions.

*Dec. 1787 to June 1788 – Nine states ratified the Constitution

*May 1790 – RI became last of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights

*After the ratification of the Constitution, Congress began to prepare for a new government.
*George Washington was elected the first President and John Adams the first Vice-President.

*During the debate on the Constitution, many states insisted on a bill of rights. This became one of the first tasks of the new Congress when they met in March 1789.

*Knowing the Constitution may need to amended (altered or added to) in the future, the Framers of the Constitution provided a way to do this, but they made it fairly difficult so that changes would need to be thought out and approved by many.

*1789 – the first Congress pass a series of amendments. By Dec. 1791 – the required three-fourths of the states had ratified 10 amendments which were called the Bill of Rights.

*The Bill of Rights were intended to protect people against abuses by the federal government and were in reaction to the colonists’ experiences with Britain.

*First Amendment – freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition

*Second Amendment – right to bear arms

*Third Amendment – Congress cannot force citizens to keep soldiers in their homes.

*Fourth Amendment – no unreasonable searches of their homes and seizure of their property
*Amendments Five through Eight – protect citizens who are accused of crimes and are brought to trial.

*Amendments Nine and Ten – limit the powers of the federal government to those that are granted in the Constitution.

Review Questions
Why did Antifederalists believe that the Constitutional Convention had gone too far?
They argued that the meeting was called only to revise the Articles of Confederation.

Why was the vote in Virginia so important?
Virginia was a large and influential state. If it did not ratify the Constitution, other states might not, either, and the union could break apart.

Why did Congress move quickly to pass the Bill of Rights?
To protect basic liberties.

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