Report on the Ratification Debate
Originally, it was agreed that the Constitution should be communicated to the governing body of each state, and when ratified by nine states, Congress should prepare for implementation. It was immediately circulated, and enthusiastically received with favor.
The Constitution was welcomed by farmers, mechanics, and merchants. Soon, however, the newspapers together with the views of men eminent for ability, honesty, and patriotism, were against its adoption; and they won support from others. Therefore, the country became divided into two great parties: one, called the Federalists, composed of those who were in favor of the ratification of the Constitution; the other, Anti-Federalists, or those opposed to the ratification. (Baker Jr., 1993)
The Federalists emphasized the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation and the desirability and need of a stronger central government. They were also concerned about the safeguards of the new Constitution. The Anti-Federalists feared a strong national government.
If it was to be implemented, they felt that it should be modified to give the national government the least possible power.
There was a variety of key issues during the debate. The Anti-Federalists argued that the delegates in Philadelphia had exceeded their authority by replacing the Articles of Confederation with an illegal new document (The Constitution). Others complained that the delegates in Philadelphia represented only the "well-born few" and consequently had crafted a document that served their special interests and reserved the franchise for the propertied classes. Another frequent objection was that the Constitution gave too much power to the national government at the expense of the states and that a representative government could not manage a republic that large. (Baker Jr., 1993)
The Federalists fought back against the Anti-Federalists and were convinced that rejection of the Constitution would result in anarchy and civil strife.