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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 Constitution's 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 nations 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.
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 nations political life.