If you take a standard American history course at your college or university, they professor will probably tell you that the “antifederalists” opposed the Constitution because it did not contain a bill of rights. Period. That’s it.
Dr. Establishment Professor might also label these people anti-government radicals or link them to modern tea party groups.
Translation: they’re dangerous.
But what if all of this is wrong? If you are reading this email then you probably know I am going to throw some cold water on this interpretation.
Part of it is true. A substantial number of so called “antifederalists” wanted a bill of rights, but that’s only part of the story.
The glue that held all of the “antis” together was fear of nationalization or centralization. They didn’t believe in an American national government.
And they weren’t really “antifederalists.” They clearly wanted to maintain the original federal republic as under the Articles of Confederation making them the real “federalists” and their opponents the “nationalists.” Of course, that is not how establishment history remembers those men.
Which is why it’s so refreshing to read people who think otherwise, like Aaron Coleman or Michael Faber.
Coleman wrote a great review of Faber’s new book at Law and Liberty.
Coleman’s money quote: “This overlooks how Anti-Federalists feared consolidation above all other issues precisely because the loss of state sovereignty equated to the loss of both liberty and popular government.”
If you want to understand “think locally, act locally,” then you need to understand the “antis.”
But I have also argued that the real fire comes not from the antis but from the proponents of the Constitution. They sold the document to the States based on the promise that it did not create a national government and that the States still retained control of most aspects of American government.
A great sales job to be sure, but the ultimate bamboozle.
I discuss Coleman, Faber, and the antis in Episode 281 of The Brion McClanahan Show.