Anti-Federalists & the American Bill of Rights The Anti-Federalists were opposed to the ratification of the Constitution because they felt as though it gave too much power to the national government. Anti-Federalists believed that a powerful national government would become tyrannical like the British monarchy. Anti-Federalists feared that a tyrannical, national government would take rights away from American citizens (as the British had done). The only way the Anti-Federalists would agree to ratification was if the Federalists included a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
A Bill of Rights is a set of rules that defines people’s rights. The idea for an American Bill of Rights was based upon the English Bill of Rights. In 1689, the King was forced to grant certain rights to the people of England which included the right of individuals to own weapons and the right to vote. Anti-Federalists wanted an American Bill of Rights to ensure that the government could never take away the “unalienable” rights of American citizens. The Anti-Federalists viewed the Bill of Rights was a safeguard which would prevent the national government from becoming tyrannical.
It was James Madison, a delegate at the Virginia state convention that suggested the addition of an American Bill of Rights. He began creating a list of amendments (changes) to the Constitution which guaranteed all American citizens certain rights. Many people agreed with Madison. They hoped that a bill of rights would protect Americans from the power of the national government. Congress edited Madison’s changes to the Constitution and proposed that the amendments be included at the end of the Constitution in a separate section.
The amendments went to the states first for ratification. As with the Constitution, three-quarters of the states needed to agree to the amendments for them to become official. Virginia agreed to ratify the Constitution with the inclusion of the ten amendments in 1791. At this time, the ten amendments were ratified and became the law of the land. These ten amendments became known as the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights was designed to protect American citizens from the American government. The Bill of Rights guaranteed that Americans could criticize the government without fear of punishment (right to free speech). The 2nd Amendment guaranteed Americans the right to own weapons (in case they needed to defend themselves from outside invaders…or defend themselves against a tyrannical American government). The Bill of Rights ensured that all Americans would have the right to privacy (4th Amendment). The American government could not come and search or seize citizen’s property. The Bill of Rights guarantees that all Americans have the right to a fair trial if they are accused of committing a crime. All of these rights (and those listed on pages 266-268 in your textbook) ensure that the American government does not abuse its power over American citizens.
Reflection Questions Directions: Use the Protection from Possible Tyranny and the A Closer Look at the Bill of Rights handouts to help you answer the following questions.
Why were the Anti-Federalists opposed to ratification of the Constitution? _______________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Who was the main author of the American Bill of Rights? ______________________________
Define the word “amendment” : ___________________________________________________
How many amendments make up the Bill of Rights? _____________
According to the Founding Fathers, what is the purpose of the Bill of Rights? ______________
What right(s) are given to American citizens by the Fourth Amendment (use your own words)? _______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
What right(s) are given to American citizens by the 8th Amendment (use your own words)?