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Our Second FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution
A Publius Essay | 20 January 2010 | Publius

Posted on 01/20/2010 11:29:03 AM PST by Publius

There is tendency for modern Americans to think that there was overwhelming support for replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution and that the process was rapid and without serious opposition. The truth is quite different. Those against the Constitution spoke first and with great vehemence, and after three weeks Alexander Hamilton realized the tide was turning against him. Thus he sat down, first with John Jay, and then with James Madison, to write detailed responses in favor of the Constitution to get New York’s ratifying convention to support the new document. These papers, published in the newspapers of the time, are known as the “Federalist Papers”. Those who opposed the new Constitution wrote pamphlets and newspaper articles that have been collected under the name “Anti-Federalist Papers”. Together, these writings define the debate over the Constitution.

At that time there was a vigorous adversarial press in America, and there was no line separating news reporting from editorial content. An American of the period subscribed to the newspaper that reflected his political prejudices. In New York, opinion grew so heated that supporters of one side would attack the offices of newspapers opposed to their view and smash the printing presses. Both sides engaged in this behavior, and the debate over the Constitution in New York City was a matter of mobs and blood, not refined debate in the drawing rooms of the city’s great patroon families.

With the official end of the American Revolution only four years in the past, the willingness to shed blood over the great issues of the day had not abated. Those against the Constitution viewed the entire process as a coup d’etat. Granted, it was a very gentlemanly coup, for no one had been hanged – yet! – but they viewed the Constitutional Convention and its aftermath as a betrayal of the “Spirit of ‘76".

It is this maelstrom of point and counterpoint that we wish to cover. After our successful FReeper Book Club on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Billthedrill and I decided to cover the debate over the Constitution by a chronologically interleaved reading of the Federalist Papers along with certain Anti-Federalist Papers, thus to trace that point and counterpoint.

There have been several attempts to run serial threads on the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers at Free Republic over the years, most of which have petered out quickly.

Our proposal is to try a more comprehensive approach. Ralph Ketcham, in The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates, printed a chronology of the publication of the various papers from both sides. Ketcham only cited certain Anti-Federalist Papers that were directly involved in the intellectual interchange between Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the various Anti-Federalist writers. He left out the rest of the massive Anti-Federalist Papers collection from Herbert Storing’s seven volumes from the University of Chicago, which is supposed to be definitive. We decided to follow Ketcham’s example.

Morton Borden has taken various Anti-Federalist Papers and cut them down to 85 short essays, which he sees as a counterpoint to the 85 Federalist Papers. But he has copyrighted his work, so we decided not to use his collection.

By limiting our use of the Anti-Federalist Papers to Ketcham’s chosen few, we felt we had something of reasonable scope.

The Problem for the Modern Reader

Punctuation standards of the late Eighteenth Century are quite different from today, and the constant stop-and-go is the biggest difficulty for the modern reader. Standards for the use of capitals and italics were also different. The extreme length of paragraphs from some writers presents a problem, although Internet versions occasionally have the editors break the paragraphs down to modern standards. We decided to use modern standards for punctuation, capitals and italics.

But we decided on a very different idea for presenting the text of the papers. The texts of the Bible are presented in chapter-and-verse, which permits scholars to engage in exegesis by citing a particular line of text as a reference. We decided to do this by super-scripting each sentence, and separating sentences by line breaks. To maintain the authors’ original paragraphing, we used three asterisks on a separate line to separate paragraphs. Here is a short sample. The following is a paragraph from Madison’s Federalist #46.

Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty. On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

This is what it looks like after reformatting into our semi-biblical style and modernized punctuation.

***

38 Were it admitted, however, that the federal government may feel an equal disposition with the state governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments.

39 If an act of a particular state, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that state and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the state officers, it is executed immediately and of course by means on the spot and depending on the state alone.

40 The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the state, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty.

41 On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular states, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand.

42 The disquietude of the people, their repugnance and perhaps refusal to cooperate with the officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the state, the embarrassments created by legislative devices which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose in any state difficulties not to be despised; would form in a large state very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining states happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

***

We avoid violence to the text but make it easier on the eye.

Essays to Accompany Each Paper

Up until now, threads on these papers featured the paper alone, with only a skeletal comment on the part of the poster. We propose to change that. Each thread will be accompanied by an essay written by the two of us along with proposed topics for discussion, and we will encourage FReepers to challenge our premises and improve the tenor of the discussion.

Scheduling

We will post two threads per week, every Monday and Thursday, starting February 1, for 55 weeks. We would ask those FReepers who wish to participate to add their names to this thread so that I may create a ping list for the project. Again, we will use the keyword “freeperbookclub” to mark these threads.

What is old has become new again. It’s time to explore federalism and the philosophy of the Framers. The lessons of 1787 are just as valid today.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Free Republic; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: constitution; federalistpapers; freeperbookclub; lping
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To: Publius

What a great idea. Thanks! I’m in.


51 posted on 01/20/2010 2:33:36 PM PST by JustSurrounded
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To: Publius

Please add me to your list.


52 posted on 01/20/2010 2:43:34 PM PST by antisocial (Texas SCV - Deo Vindice)
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To: Publius
Howdy Pub'!

Checking in from work so this will have to be short. I am, as you know, skeptical of the whole thing. A bunch of guys in wigs who can't even spell "inalienable" and whose bell cracked the first time they tried to ring it? It'll never last. They'll be whimpering for the King to take them back in six months, mark my words.

I can sort of see why you didn't post this yesterday. Things were sort of, ah, busy. Some hotheads in Massachusetts look like they've overthrown the existing order there. Probably a bunch of guys in wigs.

53 posted on 01/20/2010 3:16:01 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Publius

Ping me please


54 posted on 01/20/2010 3:17:29 PM PST by Tijeras_Slim (Live jubtabulously!)
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To: Publius

Please sign me up. Taking a class on Constitution law and National Security right now. Your timing is perfect!


55 posted on 01/20/2010 3:28:11 PM PST by KosmicKitty (WARNING: Hormonally crazed woman ahead!!)
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To: Publius

Please sign me up. Taking a class on Constitutional law and National Security right now. Your timing is perfect!


56 posted on 01/20/2010 3:28:23 PM PST by KosmicKitty (WARNING: Hormonally crazed woman ahead!!)
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To: Publius

Publius,

Count me in! I really enjoyed the Atlas Shrugged book club and was just mentioning it to people at work today. I was just getting ready to pick up the Federalist Papers as my next “serious” reading project, so this is very timely!

- Ted


57 posted on 01/20/2010 3:39:20 PM PST by tstarr
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To: Publius

Please add, thanks.


58 posted on 01/20/2010 3:43:40 PM PST by Database
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To: Loud Mime; Publius; Billthedrill

Thanks for the ping; thanks for taking up such a worthwhile project. WOW!

Please add me to any ping list.


59 posted on 01/20/2010 3:53:23 PM PST by PGalt
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To: Publius

I’m in and I love the idea of the semi-Biblical references. Wish that had been done for a couple of 1860s-1880s books I’ve been reading lately.


60 posted on 01/20/2010 3:58:42 PM PST by Fast Moving Angel (GOP: Stop listening, start doing -- we need new leaders!)
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To: Billthedrill
Yeah, as Garrison Keillor said today, the problem with these people is that they don't read reliable newspapers. To think that the people are capable of governing themselves! What will be next? That we no longer needs kings and lords? Bah!
61 posted on 01/20/2010 4:09:39 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius
Please count me in. I was so disappointed I could not find the time to participate in the Atlas Shrugged discussion, because I felt that I had so much to say and so much to absorb...

I have read both the Federalist Papers and A Familiar Exposition of The Constitution of The United States by Joseph Story, so I hope this discussion will be helpful to me...:)

62 posted on 01/20/2010 4:17:13 PM PST by rlmorel (We are traveling "The Road to Serfdom".)
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To: Publius

Please add me to the ping list. I’m really looking forward to this.


63 posted on 01/20/2010 4:42:23 PM PST by MrsPatriot (‘The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.’ - R R)
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To: Publius; Loud Mime; Abathar; Abcdefg; Abram; Abundy; akatel; albertp; AlexandriaDuke; ...
For any interested! The last Freeper Book Club was on Atlas Shrugged and was very enlightening!



Libertarian ping! Click here to get added or here to be removed or post a message here!
View past Libertarian pings here
64 posted on 01/20/2010 5:02:26 PM PST by bamahead (Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master. -- Sallust)
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To: Publius

Here and you betca, count me in.


65 posted on 01/20/2010 5:11:10 PM PST by Clinging Bitterly (Nnnggh!)
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To: Publius

Count me in, please.


66 posted on 01/20/2010 5:20:35 PM PST by NonValueAdded (Mass. elects Scott Brown. NVA:" for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my birth state")
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To: Publius

A well thought out process which should prove to be both very interesting and educational!

Sign me up please!


67 posted on 01/20/2010 5:35:42 PM PST by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Publius

Please add me to the list. Thanks!


68 posted on 01/20/2010 5:43:41 PM PST by Cottonbay
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To: Publius

I’ll play!


69 posted on 01/20/2010 5:45:12 PM PST by Still Thinking (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?)
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To: Publius

Please ping me on this. Thanks.


70 posted on 01/20/2010 5:56:06 PM PST by Irishmonk
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To: Publius

Yes.


71 posted on 01/20/2010 6:10:50 PM PST by ElayneJ
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To: Publius

Yes, please add me to the list. I’m currently reading the anti-Federalist papers.


72 posted on 01/20/2010 6:21:17 PM PST by WVNight (We havn't played Cowboys and Muslims yet....)
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To: Publius

Please add me.


73 posted on 01/20/2010 6:24:58 PM PST by FreedomPoster (No Representation without Taxation!)
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To: Publius

You may add me to the list of participants...


74 posted on 01/20/2010 8:19:44 PM PST by sourcery (LepPrelosi: Vote for a cure...)
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To: bamahead; Publius
Here is the LINK to my new book, "Initial Points in Politics."

It sets the Constitution as the Initial Point of politics and debate, provides a foundation of knowledge for the wondering voter, explains why our government has distanced itself from the Constitution, and proposes a remedy.

I will have a website up tomorrow with more information.

Freepmail me if you would like a ping or more information.

75 posted on 01/20/2010 8:38:03 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

add me please


76 posted on 01/20/2010 8:42:28 PM PST by awin
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To: Loud Mime

I’ve ordered your book from Amazon.


77 posted on 01/20/2010 9:24:02 PM PST by Publius
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To: Publius

Thanks! I hope you find its worth the time to read.

Keep in mind that the lone quote of Madison’s at the book’s beginning ties in with the last chapter.


78 posted on 01/20/2010 9:38:07 PM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Publius

I’m in.


79 posted on 01/20/2010 10:13:04 PM PST by Don W (I only keep certain folks' numbers in my 'phone so I know NOT to answer when they call)
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To: Publius

I’m in!


80 posted on 01/20/2010 10:13:13 PM PST by There's millions of'em (Obama healthcare will not cover illegals.... everyone will be legal.)
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To: Publius

Sign me up! I’ll give it a shot!


81 posted on 01/20/2010 10:41:50 PM PST by Left2Right ("Starve the Beast!")
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To: Publius

Please keep me on your FR book club list. I’ll be looking forward to reading this discussion.


82 posted on 01/20/2010 10:58:17 PM PST by Tired of Taxes (Dad, I will always think of you.)
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To: metmom

This might be of interest.


83 posted on 01/20/2010 11:00:30 PM PST by Tired of Taxes (Dad, I will always think of you.)
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To: Publius

Sign me up, please. Thank you.


84 posted on 01/21/2010 12:01:14 AM PST by ChrisInAR (You gotta let it out, Captain!)
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To: 2Jedismom; 6amgelsmama; AAABEST; aberaussie; adopt4Christ; Aggie Mama; agrace; AliVeritas; ...

For the interest of any homeschoolers.


85 posted on 01/21/2010 5:17:08 AM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Vision; definitelynotaliberal; Mother Mary; FoxInSocks; 300magnum; NonValueAdded; sauropod; ...

Ping to post #75


86 posted on 01/21/2010 5:17:09 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Loud Mime

Any special discount codes for FReepers? ;>)


87 posted on 01/21/2010 5:47:56 AM PST by WVKayaker ( Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand. -George Eliot)
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To: Publius

Me2


88 posted on 01/21/2010 5:49:47 AM PST by WVKayaker ( Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand. -George Eliot)
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To: Publius
I'll just post these links in case anyone might find them of interest....

The Debate on the Constitution : Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification : Part One, September 1787-February 1788 (Library of America) (Hardcover)

The Debate on the Constitution : Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification, Part Two: January to August 1788 (Library of America) (Hardcover)

Excellent resource.

89 posted on 01/21/2010 5:53:43 AM PST by mewzilla (Vote fraud is treason.)
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To: Publius

What a fantastic idea, Publius. Absolutely fantastic!


90 posted on 01/21/2010 5:55:14 AM PST by Aggie Mama
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To: WVKayaker
At this stage I’m so busy with this work that I never looked into discount codes or special deals. This book is publish on demand via Amazon com. The margins are narrow, unless you buy more than three copies.

Perhaps there’s a freeper book agent out there that has more info?

91 posted on 01/21/2010 5:59:48 AM PST by Loud Mime (Liberalism is a Socialist Disease)
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To: Loud Mime

My copy is on the way!

Thanks!


92 posted on 01/21/2010 6:06:52 AM PST by Bigun ("It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere." Voltaire)
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To: Publius

Yes please!


93 posted on 01/21/2010 6:33:40 AM PST by goodwithagun (My gun has killed fewer people than Ted Kennedy's car.)
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To: Publius

Please sign me up.


94 posted on 01/21/2010 6:48:30 AM PST by Millicent_Hornswaggle (Retired US Marine wife)
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To: Publius

Sure...go ahead. Let’s see how it goes.


95 posted on 01/21/2010 6:50:33 AM PST by ExGeeEye (The revolution began in Massachusetts -- again.)
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To: Publius

Please add me to this list.


96 posted on 01/21/2010 7:23:14 AM PST by RobinOfKingston (Democrats, the party of evil. Republicans, the party of stupid.)
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To: Loud Mime

Thanks for the link to your book. It is a very interesting idea.

WOW! Talented author/FReeper BUMP!


97 posted on 01/21/2010 7:30:33 AM PST by PGalt
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To: Publius

Please add me to your ping list.


98 posted on 01/21/2010 7:32:15 AM PST by LucyJo (http://www.housetohouse.com/default.aspx)
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To: mewzilla

Thanks for the link to those sources. I read several of the reviews at the links. They stimulate the appetite for more information. A terrific addition to this thread. Looking forward to the education. BTTT!


99 posted on 01/21/2010 7:36:27 AM PST by PGalt
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To: Huck

Sending out a courtesy ping based on your outstanding input from other threads I have read concerning the topic at hand.


100 posted on 01/21/2010 7:39:22 AM PST by PGalt
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