An Anti-Federalist Constitution

The Development of Dissent in the Ratification Debates

Michael J. Faber

What would an Anti-Federalist Constitution look like? Because we view the Constitution through the lens of the Federalists who came to control the narrative, we tend to forget those who opposed its ratification. And yet the Anti-Federalist arguments, so critical to an understanding of the Constitutions origins and meaning, resonate throughout American history. By reconstructing these arguments and tracing their development through the ratification debates, Michael J. Faber presents an alternative perspective on constitutional history. Telling, in a sense, the other side of the story of the Constitution, his book offers key insights into the ideas that helped to form the nation’s founding document and that continue to inform American politics and public life.

Faber identifies three distinct strands of political thought that eventually came together in a clear and coherent Anti-Federalism position: (1) the individual and the potential for governmental tyranny; (2) power, specifically the states as defenders of the people; and (3) democratic principles and popular sovereignty. After clarifying and elaborating these separate strands of thought and analyzing a well-known proponent of each, Faber goes on to tell the story of the resistance to the Constitution, focusing on ideas but also following and explaining events and strategies. Finally, he produces a “counterfactual” Anti-Federalist Constitution, summing up the Anti-Federalist position as it might have emerged had the opposition drafted the document.

“Faber’s book chronicles the anti-federalist mind-set well and offers a unique thought exercise in what might have been different had the anti-federalists won.

—Choice

“Michael Faber has written a remarkable book—a tour de force. Faber’s classification of Anti-Federalist writers as Democratic Anti-Federalists, Power Anti-Federalists, and Rights Anti-Federalists is unique and compelling. Fabers scholarship is first rate; it represents perhaps the finest use to date of the more than twenty-six volumes of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Faber adds to this his extraordinary use of the newspapers of the era.”

—Ralph A. Rossum
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How would such a constitution have worked in practice? A close consideration reveals the legacy of the Anti-Federalists in early American history, in the US Constitution and its role in the nation’s political life.

About the Author

Michael J. Faber is assistant professor of political science at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas. He is the author of Our Federalist Constitution: The Founders’ Expectations and Contemporary American Government.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series