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In the ratification debate, the Anti-Federalist arguments opposed the Constitution. They complained that the new system threatened liberties, and failed to protect individual rights.

The previous constitution, called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, gave state governments more authority. Led by Patrick Henry of Virginia, Anti-Federalists worried, among other things, that the position of president, then a novelty, might evolve into a monarchy. Though the Constitution was ratified and supplanted the Articles of Confederation, Anti-Federalist influence helped lead to the passage of the United States Bill of Rights.


Anti Federalist Arguments

As fine a document as the Constitution is, the Antifederalists, who were not frivolous men, raised some prescient criticisms. Patrick Henry was concerned that the “general welfare” clause would someday be interpreted to authorize practically any federal power that might be imagined. Others feared that the taxing power would prove an instrument of tyranny in the hands of the new government. Still, others feared the power of the judicial branch, whose pronouncements on the meaning of the Constitution may well run counter to the common understanding of the Framers but against whom the people would have little recourse. That the Antifederalists may have been on to something should be evident from a casual glance at the federal government today, which is not exactly the modest institution scrupulously confining itself to its enumerated powers that the Framers intended.

Some Antifederalists dropped their objections to the Constitution when they were promised that a Bill of Rights would be added. In 1791 that Bill of Rights was ratified, in the form of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The amendments that have provoked the most controversy in recent history are the First, Second, Ninth, and Tenth.

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