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The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,440 ratings  ·  51 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)
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Dan Powers The other side of the argument- the side which lost the argument over having a Constitution.

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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Alex Schwerdt
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
Oct 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very thankful for Hemingway.
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
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
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.
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.
Nov 06, 2018 added it
Had to give up on this book, my eyes not what they once were- the print too small
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
Students of US History have likely read the Federalist papers, or some of them, and even if they haven't , they refer to them. This is the next course, the Anti- Federalist papers. These are source documents of what the opposition of the time had to say, on perhaps why this Constitution business may not have been such a good idea. Some of their thoughts and criticisms are not only timely, some seemed ripped right out of todays news from voices of both the Right and the Left.

Some of these source
Larry Killion
The Anti-Federalist Papers. By Ralph Ketcham.

Here is 406 pages about some of the most important events in the history of America. The decade of 1770 – 1780 was a crucial time. After the Revolutionary War and the break from Briton, most modern Americans do not realize how much thought, discussion and debate occurred in the establishment of the founding documents of the Constitution. After the Declaration of Independence and the Colonial Rebellion, a Constitutional Convention was held by our found
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
I really enjoyed reading the Anti-Federalist Papers. Before reading the book, I had thought of those who didn’t sign the Constitution at the Convention as …not bright enough to get it. Great men, but just a little short compared to those that signed. Now having read the arguments against, I realized that these men were patriots and statesmen who contributed much by their voice of caution and their criticisms. This resistance I feel helped improve the dialogue, discussions, and ultimately the con ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This volume is an excellent companion to the Federalist Papers. Although far from being a comprehensive collection of Anti-Federalist writings, it provides an excellent summary of key points of debate in the shaping of the U.S. Constitution.

The book's introduction provides a brief summary of Federalist and Anti-Federalist principles, as well as some historical context, a brief chronology, and a summary of Anti-Federalist arguments. The book then moved on to James Madison's notes on the Federal
I have nothing interesting to say. I know very little about the Anti-Federalists, other than the pro-"small government" idea, since according to the blurb, "Although the Anti-Federalists lost, they came close to winning..."

They say the winners write the history books...


Another 1776 moment...Edward Rutledge saying that slavery has to do with interest, not religion, and that South Carolinans and Georgians are not such fools as to abolish slavery...

Eerily close to the musical...guess the prod
May 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, being a collection of primary source documents it seems a bit silly to rate them. But I found them to be precious, informative and stimulating. This edition especially gave some keen insights into the process by which our country was created, the players, their thoughts. The things I have always taken for granted about our government and the way it runs. So many statements I agreed with, so many persons that seemed interesting. I don't know that this would be fun reading for all, but if yo ...more
John Johnson
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This is a compilation of articles written by men who opposed the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, or at least had some reservations about it as it had been originally written. These articles provide a thorough understanding of the arguments for and against the constitution as presented at the Constitutional Convention. The book also includes a copy of the Articles of Confederation, the document the colonies held before the ratification of the constitution.

I felt this book
This was an excellent collection of essays written in competition with the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers were written primarily (at the time at least) by men who were arguing in favor a large centralized federal government, and even a central bank independent from the government itself (later to become The Fed). The lead writer of the Federalist Papers was knowingly supported by and an agent of the European bankers (even argued in favor of a monarchy). The writers of the Anti-Federali ...more
Feb 08, 2009 added it
The most fascinating part of this book is the Constitutional Convention debates, via Madison's daily journal. The day-to-day accounts of the major events in the construction of the U.S. government remind you that the people who organized the American government were really just a bunch of guys in a room who'd been allowed the unusual privilege to organize their ideal political system. The only question was what did that look like and how would it actually work? Really strips away the facade of h ...more
Jul 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
It was good to read this to get the perspective of those who believed in something that didn't come to be the reality of what America is. However, when read with the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers really couldn't hold a candle to them.
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The History Book ...: INTRODUCTION - ANTI-FEDERALISTS 13 34 Feb 04, 2011 09:38PM  

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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

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