100 Books for America: The Anti-Federalist Papers

With 87 days until the election, let us continue looking at the 100 books every American should read. These write-ups will be short and not incredibly comprehensive looks at some books and novels that will help you become a better citizen. Check out all of the books that have been picked.

One of the biggest problems in American civics education – and therefore American civics itself is that too few citizens put the context of the Constitution up against its actual predecessor, the Articles of Confederation.

Instead, they measure it against the English Crown.

In doing so, they miss a lot of important points.

For example, when you compare the constitution to the English Monarchy, the document shines as an example of limited government.

When you compare the Constitution to the Articles of Confederation, the document instead shines as an example of a strong, if limited, central government.

One of the great ironies of the Founding Era is that to get the stronger, centralized government they needed, the Federalists needed to play up how it limited itself.

So they had to play down the fact that it had the new, immense power to tax. Or that it could settle debates between states.

Look at George Washington.

Washington saw the problems of the weakness of the Articles up front as a general. Without the power to tax, the colonies’ “central” government couldn’t find the military. As a citizen, he saw how unresolved arguments between the states could stifle local, border communities. So he knew a stronger central government was needed for the former colonies to survive.

But those new powers terrified some of his fellow patriots.

So they argued against the Constitution’s ratification in a series of documents, now in collections known as “The Anti-Federalist Papers.”

For example, here is Samual Bryan complaining about the secretive process of developing the document.

“After so recent a triumph over British despots, after such torrents of blood and treasure have been spent, after involving ourselves in the distresses of an arduous war, and incurring such a debt for the express purpose of asserting the rights of humanity; it is truly astonishing that a set of men among ourselves should have the effrontery to attempt the destruction ofour liberties. But in this enlightened age to hope to dupe the people by the arts they are practicing is still more extraordinary.”

It’s important to see how fractious the Founding Era was, and that people like Patrick Henry didn’t support the new Constitution.

When we forget that, we don’t put the Constitution’a powers in the proper perspective.

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Previously, we looked at some All-American Propaganda. Up next, we go where no One has gone before.

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