The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828 / Edition 1

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Fear of centralized authority is deeply rooted in American history. The struggle over the U.S. Constitution in 1788 pitted the Federalists, supporters of a stronger central government, against the Anti-Federalists, the champions of a more localist vision of politics. But, argues Saul Cornell, while the Federalists may have won the battle over ratification, it is the ideas of the Anti-Federalists that continue to define the soul of American politics.

While no Anti-Federalist party emerged after ratification, Anti-Federalism continued to help define the limits of legitimate dissent within the American constitutional tradition for decades. Anti-Federalist ideas also exerted an important influence on Jeffersonianism and Jacksonianism. Exploring the full range of Anti-Federalist thought, Cornell illustrates its continuing relevance in the politics of the early Republic.

A new look at the Anti-Federalists is particularly timely given the recent revival of interest in this once neglected group, notes Cornell. Now widely reprinted, Anti-Federalist writings are increasingly quoted by legal scholars and cited in Supreme Court decisions—clear proof that their authors are now counted among the ranks of America's founders.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Cornell provides us with crucial insights.

American Quarterly

An extremely well-researched and well-written work.

Journal of American Studies

This highly readable, comprehensive, and original work deserves to be placed alongside The Federalist Papers on Americans' bookshelves.


Cornell . . . heightens our understanding of Anti-Federalism by placing it in social and intellectual context.

Law and History Review

A rich guide.

The Historian

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Saul Cornell is associate professor of history at Ohio State University in Columbus.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
List of Abbreviations and a Note on the Notes
Introduction. The Other Founders 1
Pt. I Anti-Federalism and the Constitution
Ch. 1 Ratification and the Politics of the Public Sphere 19
Ch. 2 Elite Anti-Federalist Political and Constitutional Thought 51
Ch. 3 Popular Anti-Federalist Political and Constitutional Thought 81
Ch. 4 Courts, Conventions, and Constitutionalism: The Politics of the Public Sphere 121
Pt. II Anti-Federalism Transformed
Ch. 5 The Emergence of a Loyal Opposition 147
Ch. 6 Anti-Federalist Voices within Democratic-Republicanism 172
Ch. 7 The Limits of Dissenting Constitutionalism 195
Pt. III The Anti-Federalist Legacy
Ch. 8 The Founding Dialogue and the Politics of Constitutional Interpretation 221
Ch. 9 Democratic-Republican Constitutionalism and the Public Sphere 246
Ch. 10 The Dissenting Tradition, from the Revolution of 1800 until Nullification 274
Epilogue. Anti-Federalism and the American Political Tradition 303
App. 1 Reprinting of Anti-Federalist Documents 309
App. 2 Pamphlet, Broadside, and Periodical Republication of Anti-Federalist Documents 316
Index 319
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  • Posted March 22, 2009

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    In "The Other Founders' S. Cornell mines the written archives of the now "forgotten" dissenters to the original ratifaction process of the US Constitution and presents as clearly as I have ever read their rich and relevant thought and prescient objections to that ratification premised, as history has now shown rightfully, on a fear of an ever increasing centralized federal government. Cornell traces a facinating history of the evolution of the first "Anti-Federalists" from the opponents of ratification, to framers and advocates of our Bill of Rights as a condition for ratification and the first "loyal opposition", thru our early history to the emergence of the first coherent statement of a constitutional theory of "State's Rights".
    In the first part of the book, Cornell lays out the subtle differences between the 3 variants of "Anti-Federalist" objection to the ratification in this early period and dispells the contemporary prejudice that all such Anti-Federalists were simply slave holding southern agrarian populists. In fact, opposition arose from all social, economic and political classes (wh Cornell identifies as "Elite" Anti-Federalists; "Middling Democracts" and "Plebian Radicals"). It was these early AFs who forced the Federalists to adopt the Bill of Rights in an attempt to prohibit the "forces of consolidation" of a national centralized federal government from using the constitution and its textual ambiguities as a basis for "constructive interpretation" of the Constitution and, consequentially, an ever broadening expansion of federal power to the detriment of individual liberty. I personally found particularly interesting the evolution of James Madision from committed federalist pre-ratification to loyal opponent of Hamiltonian federalism post ratification.(Hamilton and Madison of course having been 2 of the 3 authors of The Federalists papers arguing for the ratification). Cornell elucidates how Madison opposed AF attempts to include the word "expressly" into the Tenth Amendment to clearly delineate the limited powers confered to the federal government, but then allied with the AFs in interpreting the Tenth Amendment to include such an intent in the face of Hamilton's attempt to form the First bank of the US and Federalist censorship of public criticism via the Alien and Sedition Act.
    In the second part, Cornell traces the evolution of the many varients of AF into the first opposition political party, The Democratic-Republicans, and the centrality of the importance of "the public sphere' and a free press to their political theory of republicanism and constitutional interpretation. Cornell lays out clearly the origins of so many of the arguments of today, not least of which is the concern that federal judges will "constructively interprete" the constitution to erode individual liberty in favor of the federal government. Cornell also shows how the Democratic-Republican, f/k/a AF, were by no means monolithic in their views.
    In his third and final section, Cornell lays out the Anti-Federalist legacy and the emegence of competing views of the 'State's Rights" theory of Federalism pre civil war. I found particularly fascinating Cornell's explication of how even a Northerner like Martin Van Buren advocated a variant of State's Rights.

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