The Antifederalists: A Bibliography
By Quentin Taylor, Resident Scholar Liberty Fund, Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana
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Antifederalists were critics of the Constitution drafted by the Framers and
submitted to the states for ratification in 1787. Some Antifederalists were
unconditionally opposed to adopting the Constitution, while others demanded
amendments or pressed for a second convention to correct the "errors" of the
first. They were not (as the name "Antifederalist" suggests) opposed to a
federal system of government – indeed, they claimed to be the "true
Federalists" – but they believed the proposed Constitution gave too much
power to the national authority and left too little to the states. Ultimately,
they feared a "consolidated" government that would "swallow up" the states and
subvert the liberties of the people.
Antifederalists lost the ratification contest and their direst predications
seemed extreme, they were largely ignored or dismissed in early accounts of the
American Founding. The subsequent growth, expansion, and eminence of the United
States under the Constitution served to place its original critics even further
in the historical shade. As America reached its apogee as a global power
following World War II, the Antifederalists – those "false prophets"
– had fallen into near total obscurity.
revival of interest in the Antifederalists is typically linked to an article by
historian Cecelia Kenyon that appeared in William
and Mary Quarterly in 1955. While characterizing them as "men of little
faith" who failed to provide a positive alternative to the Constitution, Kenyon
did underscore the Antifederalists role as one-side in the greatest public
debate over the principles of government in American history. In the decade
that followed, two prominent historians, Jackson Turner Main (1961) and Forrest
McDonald (1963), contributed to the recovery of the Antifederalist legacy,
while editions of Antifederalist writings were made available for the first
time (Borden, 1965; Kenyon; 1966).
of Gordon Wood's landmark The Creation of
the American Republic, 1776-1787 (1969) gave further impetus to exploring
Antifederalist political thought in its own right, and not simply as a foil to
the Constitution's proponents. Studies of individual thinkers (Diamond, 1976)
as well a second book-length study (Boyd, 1979) were but indicators of a
broader interest in the Antifederalist's role in America's constitutional and
political development. James Hutson (1981) capped this first phase of the
revival with a survey of the past quarter-century of historical scholarship on
A second phase
was inaugurated by Herbert Storing's The
Complete Anti-Federalist, a seven volume collection of representative
Antifederalist writings. A companion monograph, What the Antifederalists Were For, helped overturn the longstanding
view that the critics of the Constitution were merely "nay-sayers" who lacked a
positive vision of government and society. In addition to contrasting this
vision with that of the Federalists, Story highlighted the Antifederalist's principal
contribution to the Constitution – their demand for a Bill of Rights.
collection of Antifederalist writings was far from "complete" and included some
notable omissions, it was (along with his monograph) widely hailed as a milestone
in the recovery of an unduly neglected chapter in the American Founding
(Kaminski, 1983; Nicgorski, 1984). After two centuries on the margins of
history, the opponents of the Constitution were again on center stage, as
historians, political scientists and academic lawyers explored various threads
of Antifederalist thought (Nedlesky, 1982; Finckelman, 1984) and reexamined the
ratification contest from a more balanced perspective (Rutland, 1983). In some
cases, reappraisal led to revisionism, either in the form of a "defense" of
Antifederalist thought (Lienesch, 1983) or in the suggestion that they may
actually have been "right" (McDowell, 1982).
fortunes of the Antifederalists received an additional stimulus from the
bicentennial of the Constitution. Chapters in bicentennial collections
(McDowell, 1987; Ellis, 1987; Dry, 1987, 1989) as well as journal articles
(Massey, 1988; Howe, 1989, McWilliams, 1989) expanded on the first phase of
scholarship and integrated the Antifederalists into standard accounts of the
origins, framing, and ratification of the Constitution. This second phase was
rounded off by Saul Cornell's (1989) retrospective look at "the changing
historical fortunes of the Antifederalists."
interest in the Antifederalists continued unabated through the 1990s. This
third phase witnessed the appearance of both specialized accounts of
Antifederalist thought (Cooper, 1993; Crowley, 1992; Shlomo, 1992) and its
broader applications (Massey, 1990; Amar, 1993), as well as full-length studies
of Antifederalism (Duncan, 1995; Cornell, 1999). Others traced the continuing
influence of Antifederalist politics in the aftermath of ratification and
beyond (Frisch, 1992; Aldrich and Grant, 1993). Building on his previous work
on Antifederalist ideology (1990) and historiography (1994), Saul Cornell
(1999) produced an award-winning volume that traced the "dissenting tradition"
of Antifederalism into the Age of Jackson. Far from merely the losers in the
ratification battle, the Antifederalists and their progeny were lauded as "the
other founders," who, with the rise of Jeffersonian democracy, vindicated the
original vision of a decentralized union of sovereign states.
With the turn of
the century, the Antifederalist revival entered its consolidationist phase. New
editions of Antifederalist writings appeared (Frohnen, 2001; Wakelyn, 2004) or
were reissued (Allan and Lloyd, 2002; Ketchem, 2003), while a reference volume
containing biographical sketches of 140 Antifederalists (Wakelyn, 2004) gave
permanence to the public lives of men who (with few exceptions) had been long
consigned to the political graveyard. The publication of two monographs by
David Siemers (2003, 2004) on Antifederalism and the ratification contest
crowned a half-century of scholarship. Far from "men of little faith," the
Antifederalists were "men of great faith and forbearance," justly wary of the
powers of government, but loyal in opposition. While they failed to articulate
a tangible alternative to the Constitution, they did possess a vision of
republican society and government that outlived the triumph of the Federalists.
The strength and persistence of Antifederalism in the antebellum era
underscores its enduring legacy in American political development.
[The bibliography below is
limited to works in which "Antifederalism" or "Antifederalist(s)" are listed in
the title. There are hundreds of other studies which explore Antifederalist
thought and politics in varying degrees of detail. Readers interested in this
vast literature should check the notes in the works below for relevant
Allen, W. B.,
and Lloyd, Gordon, eds., The Essential
Antifederalist, 2nd ed. (Lanham, Md., 2002).
ed., The Antifederalist Papers (Ann
ed., The Anti-Federalists: Selected
Writings and Speeches (Washington, D.C., 2001).
ed., The Antifederalists (Indianapolis, 1966).
ed., The Anti-Federalist Papers and the
Constitutional Convention Debates (New York, 2003).
Herbert, ed., The Complete Anti-Federalist,
7 vols. (Chicago, 1981).
Wakelyn, Jon L., Birth of the Bill of Rights: Encyclopedia
of the Antifederalists, Vol. 1: Biographies (Westport, Conn., 2004).
__________, ed., Birth of the Bill of Rights: Encyclopedia
of the Antifederalists, Vol. 2: Major Writings (Westport, Conn., 2004).
Boyd, Steven R., The Politics of Opposition:
Antifederalists and the Acceptance of the Constitution (Millwood, N.Y.,
Cornell, Saul, The Other Founders: Antifederalism and the
Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828 (Chapel Hill, 1999).
Christopher M., The Anti-Federalists and
Early American Political Thought (Dekalb, Ill., 1995).
Main, Jackson T., The Antifederalists: Critics of the
Constitution, 1781-1788 (Chapel Hill, 1961).
A., The Ordeal of the Constitution: The
Antifederalists and the Ratification Struggle, 1787-1788 (Norman, Okla.,
Siemers, David, The Antifederalists: Men of Great Faith and
Forbearance (Lanham, Md., 2003).
__________, Ratifying the Republic: Antifederalists and
Federalist in Constitutional Time (Stanford, 2004).
Herbert, What the Antifederalists Were
For (Chicago, 1981).
A., and Grant, Ruth W., "The Anti-Federalists, the First Congress, and the
First Parties," Journal of Politics,
55 (193), 295-326.
Amar, Akil R.,
"Anti-Federalists, 'The Federalist' Papers, and the Big Argument," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,
16 (1993), 111-118.
J. "Independent of Heaven Itself: Different Federalist and Anti-Federalist
Perspectives on the Centralizing Tendency of the Federal Judiciary," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,
16 (1993), 119-128.
Cornel, Saul A.,
"The Changing Historical Fortunes of the Anti-Federalists," Northwestern University Law Review, 70 (1989), 39-74.
Assailed: Back-Country Opposition to the Constitution and the Problem of
Antifederalist Ideology," Journal of
American History, 76 (1990), 1148-1172.
"Moving Beyond the Canon of Traditional Constitutional History:
Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights, and the Promise of Post-Modern
Historiography," Law and History Review,
12 (1994), 1-28.
E., "Commerce and the Philadelphia Constitution: Neo-Mercantilism in Federalist
and Anti-Federalist Political Economy," History
of Political Thought, 13 (1992), 73-97.
Diamond, Ann S.,
"The Anti-Federalist Brutus," Political
Science Reviewer, 6 (1976), 249-281.
"The Case against Ratification: Anti-Federalist Constitutional Thought," in
Leonard W. Levy and Dennis J. Mahoney, eds., The Framing and Ratification of the Constitution (New York, 1987),
Anti-Federalists and the Constitution," in Robert L. Utley, Jr., ed., Principles of the Constitutional Order: The
Ratification Debates (Lanham, Md., 1989), 63-88.
E., "The Persistence of Antifederalism after 1789," in Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National
Identity, ed., Richard Beeman, et al. (Chapel Hill, 1987), 295-314.
Paul, "Antifederalists: The Loyal Opposition and the American Constitution," Cornell Law Review, 70 (1984), 182-207.
J., "The Persistence of Anti-Federalism between the Ratification of the
Constitution and the Nullification Crisis, in Josephine F. Pacheco, ed., Antifederalism: The Legacy of George Mason (Fairfax, Va., 1992), 79-90.
"Anti-Federalist/Federalist Dialogue and It Implications for Constitutional
Understanding," Northwestern University
Law Review, 84 (1989), 1-11.
H., "Country, Court, and Constitution: Antifederalism and the Historians," William and Mary Quarterly, 38 (1981),
"Antifederalism and the Perils of Homogenized History: A Review Essay," Rhode Island History, 42 (1983), 30-37.
M., "Men of Little Faith: The Anti-Federalists on the Nature of Representative
Government," William and Mary Quarterly,
12 (1955), 3-43.
Michael, "In Defense of the Antifederalists," History of Political Thought, 4 (1983), 65-87.
R., "Antifederalism and the Ninth Amendment," Chicago-Kent Law Review, 64 (1988), 9870-1000.
Anti-Federalist Ninth Amendment and Its Implications for State Constitutional
Law," Wisconsin Law Review (1990),
Forrest, "The Anti-Federalists, 1781-1789," Wisconsin
Magazine of History, 46 (1963), 206-214.
L., "Were the Anti-Federalists Right?: Judicial Activism and the Problem of
Consolidated Government," Publius, 12
"Federalism and Civic Virtue: The Antifederalists and the Constitution," in
Robert A. Goldwin and William A Schambra, eds., How Federal is the Constitution? (Washington, D.C., 1987), 122-144.
Wilson C., "The Anti-Federalists, Representation, and Party," Northwestern University Law Review, 84
Jennifer, "Continuing Democratic Politics: Anti-Federalists, Federalists, and
the Constitution," Harvard Law Review,
96 (1982), 340-360.
Walter, "The Anti-Federalists: Collected and Interpreted," Review of Politics, 46 (1984), 113-125.
"Liberalism and Political Allegiance in Anti-Federalist Thought," Publius, 22 (1992), 122-139.