D.B.Q. 4: Ratifying the Constitution
The Constitution of the United States was written in 1787, yet there was a struggle for its ratification that went on until 1790. Members of Congress believed that the Articles of Confederation, the first government of the United States, needed to be altered while others did not want change. After the Revolutionary War, the people did not want a strong central government, because it reminded them too much of what they were trying to escape. Under the Articles, each state had their own laws, and the need for a new Constitution was desired by many.
This desired Constitution created a huge dispute and an argument between people who wanted things to stay the way they were and people who urged to change the Articles. The people who desired change in government were called Federalists. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Ben Franklin were all a part of the Federalists. The Federalists believed that the economy was in turmoil because of the Articles (Doc 1). Under the Articles each state had its own currency which created a problem for interstate trade. Another issue that the Federalists had was that the rich were not making money.
On August 1, 1786, George Washington wrote a letter addressed to John Jay stating that they “have errors to correct”. In saying this Washington agrees in the fact that the Articles needed to be revised. The Federalists believed that the government trusted the people with too many rights. The states were allowed to refuse the Federal government whenever they chose. The new country that was trying to establish themselves, weren’t united, but instead “thirteen sovereign, independent, disunited States” (Doc 3). The central government didn’t have enough power under the Articles.
The Federalists believed that even though they didn’t want to be ruled again like they were under England’s rule, that it was necessary to have a strong central government. Anti-federalists were the people who believed that the Articles were working perfectly fine and it would be unnecessary to change them. Two of the major leaders of this group were Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, who was overseas during this time. The Anti-Federalists thought that under the Articles people had the rights that they rightfully deserved. Under the Articles, the poor people benefitted greatly.
During the process of trying to get the new Constitution ratified the Anti-Federalists felt that under this new government the rich had all of the power instead of the people (Doc 5). Under the Articles the states had the power to make laws and do whatever they pleased, and to some of the states the idea of changing to a government that the central government had all the power was absolutely absurd. Other people felt as if the new Constitution had no separation of powers. They felt as if the branches had too much power and there was nothing keeping one branch from becoming too powerful (Doc 2).
The Anti-Federalists did not want to be in the same kind of government they fought so hard to get away from. The Anti-Federalists were also frustrated with the fact that the new Constitution laid out all the rules, but did not list any rights the people had. So Federalists came up with the Bill of Rights as a way to get the Constitution ratified. The Bill Of Rights lead the Anti-Federalists to be less fearful of the new Constitution (Doc 6). This guaranteed that the people would still remain to have rights, but the strong central government that the country needed would be approved and put into motion.
The arguments over the ratification of the Constitution ultimately came to an agreement. The Federalists and Anti-Federalists came to many compromises during the process of getting the Constitution approved. The Federalists thought that the country needed a strong central government while the Anti-Federalist believed that the Articles were working okay. Eventually, both sides came to an agreement and ratified what the United States now knows as the Constitution, and over two-hundred years later the Constitution is still in effect.