AN02a4_Building a New Nation: The Bill of Rights and Getting the US Constitution Ratified
Timeline: Late 18th – Early 19th C.
FS: Time to Close the Deal between the States- The Bill of Rights
I. Getting the States to Approve
Some feared the central government was being given too much authority. (Anti-federalists)
Others supported a government that had greater authority than that which resulted from the Articles of Confederation. (‘Federalists’)
II. Federalist Papers (Pseudonym: Publius)
- John Jay
- Alexander Hamilton
- James Madison
The Federalist Papers (taking it’s name from the supporters of a ‘Federal’ government with greater powers than that granted by the Articles of Confederation) were a set of 85 tracts/ essays published in local newspapers targeting the people and State leaders that were fearful of adopting the new constitution. The essays were meant to present a philosophical argument in support of the creation of a federal government under the draft of US Constitution. In addition, attention was given to accusations made against the participants of the Constitutional Convention. Arguments that addressed the legality of the convention (Federalist Paper #40, 41) were delivered with the same philosophical flare as all the other points of contention.
The crux of the matter for States, who were ambivalent about the constitution’s worth to them, was the power of the new federal government vis-a-vis the States. Since the ‘People’ were citizens of the States, then it too, as a political group, stood to lose power in the creation of a over-arching federal government.
III. The US Bill of Rights
There have been examples of the creation and promulgation of lists containing the rights of individuals (or groups) within a society. Two that are relevant to our curriculum is the English Bill of Rights and the Virginia Declaration of Rights. While the goal of all these documents was to identify rights that were permanently safeguarded from encroachment by a central governing authority, there is a unique quality to our national version.
The uniqueness comes from the threads that exist between the US Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. In addition, this list of ten amendments to the US Constitution has to address the needs of a people and States who are now incorporated into a unique federal system.
Ratified by the States: 1791
Notable Antecedents and Influences: Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), The Declaration of Independence (1776), English Bill of Rights (1689), Magna Carta (1215), etc.
IV. US Constitution Ratified 1789
– Amended 27 Times (US Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments)
– George Washington is first President of The United States (1789 – 1797). Sets a precedent for two 4-year terms. Unanimous choice of Electors. Did not align with either of the developing ‘political parties’.