Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates” as Want to Read:
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,573 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The dissenting opinions of Patrick Henry and others who saw the Constitution as a threat to our hard-won rights and liberties.

Edited and introduced by Ralph Ketcham.
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by Signet Book (first published October 7th 1986)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Popular Answered Questions
Dan Powers The other side of the argument- the side which lost the argument over having a Constitution.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,573 ratings  ·  61 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
After you read the federalist papers it is so mind blowing to read the counter arguments. Both are such a study in government and propaganda. Again, I would recommend reading these essays over any american history text book to anyone that wants to really understand our government. They are facinating.
Jacob Aitken
Overall it is hit and miss. Ketcham gives a VERY detailed review of the Constitutional Convention (180 pages). If you have read The Federalist Papers then you can probably skip it. He does provide a fine annotated bibliography at the end (this is one of those things that separates good books from great ones).

Summarizing the Anti-Federalist Position

(1) It is agreed that the Articles were defective, but that does not logically prove that the new Constitution is good (Melancton Smith).

(2) The probl
Feb 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I enjoy this even more than the federalist papers, really interesting to anyone who cares about politics or the nature of political thought in this country. This is where it all started.
Sean McGowan
Apr 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kind of tough to read, but if you want to know what went wrong with the country, it's that these guys were right. ...more
Jun 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I would argue that the anti-Federalists' papers are more important than those of the Federalists. I predicate this on the belief that greater comprehension of the status quo comes through studying that which dissents from it.

Believe that or not, either way if you had a teacher who forced you to read the Federalist papers and not the anti-Federalist papers, he was most assuredly a fascist.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-favorites
Reasoning more emotional than logical compared to the Federalist Papers and considering what we know of the complex workings of the world today.
Marcos Augusto
A loose political coalition of popular politicians, such as Patrick Henry, who unsuccessfully opposed the strong central government envisioned in the U.S. Constitution of 1787 and whose agitations led to the addition of a Bill of Rights. The first in the long line of states’ rights advocates, they feared the authority of a single national government, upper-class dominance, inadequate separation of powers, and loss of immediate control over local affairs. The Anti-Federalists were strong in the k ...more
Stevenson Joshua  Hill
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Academic. History debated and made. Get yourself educated please. Read the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. There is a good reason we have the Constitution we have. It took years of study and months of public debate and a string of amendments to make it the greatest leadership roadmap in the history of the world.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Long and tough read, but worth it. Excellent source into what the American founding fathers actually thought when forming the constitution. This book puts a lot of rumors to rest and sheds light on little known topics of debate that led to what we have today.
Ethan S.
The title “The Anti-Federalist Papers” is a misnomer: when we hear “The Federalist Papers,” we know this specifically refers to the series of 85 essays written in an organized and coordinated manner by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay explaining and defending the system of government described in the new United States Constitution, and encouraging the ratification of the same. This has never been the case for “Anti-Federalist papers” because the writing and collection of Anti-Fede ...more
Jun 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
The Anti-Federalist Papers were written less in response to the Federalist arguments than I had anticipated. The true discussion was between the Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitution itself. The Anti-Federalist Papers were not less enjoyable a read for all that; in fact, they were impassioned, with moments of stunningly powerful rhetoric. Their downfall lay more in the repetition of or contradiction between the different arguments, the natural result of their not having been designed to be ...more
Alex Wheeler
Aug 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Finally finally!!! Finishing this was my Christmas present to myself. Also a HUGE realization that I can’t put down a book once I start it. Full (or slow) speed ahead!
This was very interesting to hear the conversations that led to the final draft, but I found what was the very most interesting to me, was reading the last 8 pages with the amendments and their dates. Prohibition, removing the prohibition, ending slavery, women getting the right to vote, gosh it was all so great to read how we’ve e
John Yelverton
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful, classic rebuttal to the argument that the United States needed a Constitution. It was through the works of these arguments that the Bill of Rights was passed.
Oct 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very thankful for Hemingway. ...more
Talmadge Walker
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A collection of various speeches and arguments that took place during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and the debates that occurred during the ratification process. Several things really struck a chord with me:
1) James Wilson of Pennsylvania had a much more assertive personality than he was portrayed as having in the musical 1776;
2) A common assumption among the debaters seemed to be that the Electoral College would often fail to provide a majority of votes to any single candidate for Pre
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
The new American republic struggled to devise a system of government that would work for the "average" citizen by creating checks and balances to each aspect of the federal system: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The Articles of Confederation was first. Using that as a starting point, the founding fathers argued both for and against a strong federal government. The Federalist Papers contain the arguments in favor, and the Anti-Federalist Papers contain the arguments against. Af ...more
Thomas S
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent material, largely quoted from James Madison's notes written as the debates were occurring. Puts into perspective some of the critical, delicate elements in the formation of a Senate, an Electoral College, and a Supreme Court. Strong participation by George Mason, James Wilson, and Gouverneur Morris, as well as by Madison himself, provides a much-expanded view of the Founding. Alexander Hamilton in particular stands out as a sort of "devil's advocate:" after saying he believes the Conve ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This took a while to read but was very interesting. Though it felt repetitive at times (the idea that there wouldn't be enough representatives in the House to represent the states' populations was a common refrain) it was interesting how many of the objections brought up back then are still brought up today (like congressmen and senators having no term limits or objections about states rights).

Favorite quote:
"When the public is called to investigate and decide upon a question in which not only t
Dennis Murphy
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-america, classics
The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates by Ralph Louis Ketcham is a very good introduction to and compilation of the the debates regarding the the adoption constitution. If there is a flaw to note here, it is that too little is given in the way of explanation, and the key content of these documents are not highlighted all too often. We are left more informed for information's sake, but we are left bereft of guiding stars for what, exactly, we are meant to take away. ...more
Spacek Kim
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
I had read the Federalist Papers in the 1990's and thought this would be a good book to read to refresh myself on the constitutional convention. The portion of this book that addressed the convention was informative. I had a little disappointment with the lack of material on the papers the Anti-Federalists wrote. When I purchased the book I thought it would be similar to the Federalist Papers, the entire volume present. It was an informative read, based on what the presidential election of 2020 ...more
Alex Stephenson
Feb 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
I understand and validate that reading this is important context for the Federalist Papers, especially seeing as most of the writings here were created before the Federalist Papers were even conceived. That said, the writing is simply not as proficient in these works (comparing Madison and Hamilton to George Clinton - assuming he's responsible for some of these - is hardly fair), and the Anti-Federalist arguments tend to promote opposition while failing to offer solutions. So I don't find it har ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I believe it's important to read both sides of any argument. The Anti-Federalists had real concerns over a Federal Government, and the issues they pushed for are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Melancton Smith in the end brought up some interesting thoughts such as term limits in the Senate. I would love to have term limits for both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and return power to state legislatures to appoint Senators. ...more
James R.
Jan 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Anti-Federalists Were Prophets!

Over and over the pro-republicanism, big government skeptics such as Melanchthon Smith of New York, made the case for liberty under God, not under all-powerful government. All of the then warned about the flaws of a national government—these have now all become freedom destroying social democratic mandates funded by unimaginable debt. History never repeats itself, but it sure buries timeless truth under new layers of lies and destruction.
Austin Wrathall
Jun 14, 2022 rated it really liked it
This was an eye-opening read. The documents show how many different objections prominent Americans had to the Constitution and how many different opinions the delegates to the Constitutional convention had about what form of government we should have. Excellent compilation. (It was missing the 27th amendment for some reason…)
Nathan Larsson
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Very difficult to read and understand but also very interesting to discover more about the governmental beliefs of the founding fathers and what influenced them. The same goes for the Federalist Papers.
Josh Craddock
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
‪The Anti-Federalists were wrong in 1787, but were eventually proven (mostly) right by events they could not have anticipated.‬ Particularly prescience are Brutus’s observations about the federal judiciary.
Dana Powers
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not everyone agreed w/ Hamilton, Madison, and Jay
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was definitely not my style, as I don't appeal to such books. But overall seeing the cleverness of the writing was very neat. ...more
David Rogers
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very prophetical criticisms of our constitution by the founding fathers. I was surprised at how close we were to not adopting the Constitution.
« previous 1 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The History Book ...: INTRODUCTION - ANTI-FEDERALISTS 13 34 Feb 04, 2011 09:38PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Federalist Papers
  • The Constitution of the United States of America
  • Democracy in America
  • The Second Treatise of Government/A Letter Concerning Toleration
  • Common Sense
  • Two Treatises of Government
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
  • Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Camping & Outdoor Survival Guide: 101 Tips, Tricks & Uses
  • All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World
  • Threat Vector (Jack Ryan Universe, #15)
  • Intellectuals and Society
  • Executive Orders (Jack Ryan, #8)
  • Discourses and Selected Writings
  • The Social Contract
  • How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
  • La fille de Brooklyn
  • The Sum of All Fears (Jack Ryan, #6)
See similar books…
A specialist in American constitutional and political theory in the early republic and a former editor of the papers of James Madison, Ralph Ketcham was Maxwell Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs emeritus at Syracuse University. Ketcham attended the Coast Guard Academy, Allegheny College, and Colgate University before earning his doctorate in Ameican Studies from the Maxwell School in 195 ...more

News & Interviews

If summer book releases are any indication, and they are, then we’ve been in a rather dark mood of late, collectively. But, you know, dark in a...
55 likes · 3 comments
“Whenever a clamor is raised, and idle men get to work, it is highly necessary to examine facts carefully, and without unreasonably suspecting men of falshood, to examine, and enquire attentively, under what impressions they act.” 0 likes
“It is too often the case in political concerns, that men state facts not as they are, but as they wish them to be; and almost every man, by calling to mind past scenes, will find this to be true.” 0 likes
More quotes…