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Anti-Federalist Papers - The Morton Borden Collection

Anti-federalist papersOpposition to the Constitution began early – during the Federal Convention itself. Several delegates to the convention, such as John Lansing of New York and Luther martin of Maryland, departed the Convention before it completed its work, went back to their states, and began explaining their reasons for opposing what was being done in Philadelphia. Several delegates, George mason of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts among them, declined signing the finished document. Their objections were diverse, ranging from Edmund Randolph’s criticism of a lack of bill of rights to Gerry’s fear of a civil war over ratification.

When the Constitution began appearing in the newspapers of the day during September, 1787, supporters of the Articles of Confederation were stunned. The revelation that the Federal Convention ignored its instructions and created an entirely new government rather than amend that which was extant under the Articles of Confederation was shocking to many. They didn’t expect a radically new government – to them, that which existed simply needed certain modifications. In the public debate opposition tended along two axis – that the Constitution contained no bill of rights or that it established a national, as opposed to a federal government – a point of significance to many. Additionally, they all seemed to object to some specific detail or another.

Their opposition to the Constitution aside, most of those tending to opposition seemed to agree that the government under the Articles need be strengthened in the matters of revenue and trade regulation amongst the states.  Likewise, many seemed to accept the idea of the new Constitution if a bill of rights was to be attached. On the contrary, there existed a body of opposition that maintained the necessity of calling another convention to amend the work begun at Philadelphia. This approach gained a certain foothold and seemed a threat to those supporting the new Constitution. Ultimately, in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, supporters of the Constitution agreed that once the Constitution was ratified, the first order of business would be the submission of amendments to the states and would become, upon adoption, what we know as the Bill of Rights.

Many historians accept that ratification in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, hinged on this promissory note from supporters because initial majorities in their state conventions was in opposition to the Constitution.

During the period from the drafting and proposal of the federal Constitution in September, 1787, to its ratification in 1789 there was an intense public and private 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.

Unlike The Federalist Papers those writings in opposition to the adoption of the Constitution were never assembled into a coherent body or publication. One exception is a collection assembled by Morton Borden, who collected 85 of the most significant papers and arranged them in an order closely resembling that of the 85 Federalist Papers, e.g. #10 in Borden's arrangement argues against Federalist No. 10. The most frequently cited modern collection, The Complete Anti-Federalist, was produced by Herbert Storing and is considered the authoritative compendium on the publications.

This category contains the assemblage of Anti-Federalist papers as presented by Morton Borden.