Debate Over The Ratification of the Constitution The Historical Context The Ratification Debate in Historical Context The Ratification debate addressed two questions: 1. Should the Articles of Confederation be amended or replaced? 2. If the Articles should be replaced, what should be the features of the new constitution? Arguments Against the Articles of Confederation The national government did not have the power to enforce its own laws - - Congress could not effectively regulate trade among states, collect taxes, or try individuals who broke national laws. The federal government was not given sole power to coin money causing inflation. Arguments Against the Articles of Confederation Government was unresponsive to changing circumstances. New laws required super-majorities (9 of the 13 states) that were slow and costly to form. Amendments required unanimity. The Constitution “fixed” the Articles, but at what cost? Anti-Federalists argued that the new Constitution provided insufficient protection for the rights of individuals and states from the powerful new federal government. Anti-Federalists preferred either to 1. scrap the national government entirely. 2. keep the Articles as they stood. What Was the Basis for Anti-Federalist Opposition? In general, the Anti-Federalists viewed the Constitution as a threat to: 1. Sovereignty 2. Political Stability 3. The Principles of the Declaration of Independence 4. Law 5. Commerical Interests The Ratification Controversy Ratification was closely contested nationally during 1787 and 1788 Any nine of the thirteen states were sufficient for ratification But rejection by any of the four most prominent states-Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, or Virginia would have doomed the Constitution New York New York City was the seat of the national government during ratification The state of New York had a powerful executive branch that opposed ratification. The governor would lose power if a strong national government formed. Alexander Hamilton was from New York and led its Federalist faction. Hamilton’s Problem The Anti-Federalists were led by “His Excellency,” Governor George Clinton. Clinton had a vested interest in preventing the formation of a strong national government. Clinton’s popularity as “father of New York” made him a formidable rival. Hamilton’s Strategy Hamilton focused on behind the scenes political manipulation to build support among political elites. He also proposed a series of essays designed to persuade the public of the Constitution’s value. These essays served as a “debaters handbook.” The Role of the Federalist Papers During Ratification The Federalist Papers A set of essays, written by Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, and published in New York newspapers under the pseudonym Publius. During the ratification controversy, these essays were circulated nationally. The essays linked opposition to the new Constitution with hot-headed liberals (Patrick Henry) and those with a vested interest in maintaining a weak government (George Clinton). Themes of the Federalist Papers An explanation of the benefits of national government An indictment of the Articles of Confederation for failing to provide such a government at the national level An analysis and defense of the Constitution as an instrument of federalism and governance An exposition of the costs and benefits of freedom They are essays designed to persuade Federalist #10 - Madison It is believed that James Madison took ideas from Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in regard to ideas of a strong controlling government. Opponents of the Constitution offered counterarguments to his position, which were substantially derived from the commentary of Montesquieu on this subject. Federalist #10 - Madison Addresses the question of how to guard against "factions," or groups of citizens, with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community. In today's discourse the term special interest often carries the same connotation. Madison argued that a strong, large republic would be a better guard against those dangers than smaller republics—for instance, the individual states. It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole. --James Madison Federalist #51 - Madison Why do we need separation of powers? - Because individuals given power will use it for personal advantage. - “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Federalist #51 A constitution must balance two aims: sufficient capacity for governance and effective control over the leadership. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the greatest difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” Federalist #51 - Checks and Balances A system of checks and balances was what Montesquieu meant, rather than a strict separation of powers. To function effectively, the system of checks and balances requires multiple branches of government. Each branch must be independent from the others. Each branch must sufficient power to hold the others in check. Federalist #51 - Conditions for Independence “Each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of members of the others.” But, some deviations from this principal could be tolerated, especially for the judiciary whose lifetime appointments ameliorate any dependency. Federalist #51 “But the greatest security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and motives to resist encroachments of the others, the provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.” Federalist #51 - Legislative Power In a democracy, legislative authority is predominant. The division of the Congress into two different branches curbs the power of the legislature. Each branch has a different constituency- Senators answers to their state, the House to their district. Senators have longer terms in office making them less responsive to their constituents, House members have shorter terms making them more responsive. Importance of Federalist 51 System of checks and balances protects minorities when out of power and not already oppressed; however, checks and balances also limit opportunities for change. Makes Accountability Difficult: if multiple sources for responsibility, who is accountable for good and bad times? Responsible parties + no ticket-splitting creates disciplined national parties and unified partisan control of government offer a vehicle to overcome system of checks and balances. Federalist #51 - Executive Power The weakness of the executive requires that this branch be fortified. The veto power strengthens the president in relation to the legislature.