Secession, State’s Rights, immigration, slavery and voter rights. While these may be some of the hot-button issues of our time, curiously enough – they were significant topics of discussion well over two hundred years ago. It can be pretty eye-opening to pick up a book like the Anti-Federalist Papers and read the statements made by some of the world’s most brilliant thinkers in the 1780s. And while I understand that history isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, and that picking up a meaty book like this might be a bit of a chore for some, I endeavored to create a summary historical resource (available at the bottom of this post) that has some of the most interesting quotes that might be of relevance to today’s reader. Of course I’d absolutely recommend reading the book for yourself, but it’s my hope that this well designed resource is a useful introduction into this fascinating and sometimes strangely prophetic look into what has worked in our communities – and what hasn’t.
In the meantime, below is a small selection of what you’ll find…
“….there is to be a great and mighty President, with very extensive powers; the powers of a King: He is to be supported in extravagant magnificence: So that the whole of our property may be taken by this American Government, by laying what taxes they please, giving themselves what salaries they please, and suspending our laws at their pleasure….” – Patrick Henry (pg 211 of the Anti-Federalist Papers)
Christianity: In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, dated June 28, 1813, John Adams wrote, “The GENERAL PRINCIPLES on which the fathers achieved independence were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these GENERAL PRINCIPLES? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united; and the GENERAL PRINCIPLES of English and American liberty, in which all these young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature, and our terrestrial mundane system. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these GENERAL PRINCIPLES.“
Immigration: Because we value our communities, Immigration continues to be a heated issue with Americans today. Gouverneur Morris shares in the papers an argument which discusses friendship and charity, but not at the expense of sound wisdom, common sense, or our right to declare the conditions of membership. Also of relevence in today’s emotive, feelings-based society, Morris’ statement on being governed by our feelings as little as possible continues to hold a great deal of weight.
“You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government.” – Patrick Henry
Slavery: Also of note is how the Anti-Federalist Papers discussed the issues of slavery. Instead of taking a solid stand for or against Slavery, the Constitutional Convention decided on a compromise that would hopefully keep the 13 States together. The New England states would not vote to prohibit the slave trade if Georgia and South Carolina wouldn’t insist on the 2/3 vote on commercial laws regarding the regulation of commerce. However, much like Roger Sherman (Connecticut) observed, Americans were indeed slowly attempting to peacefully abolish slavery and the slave trade. This is evidenced through Vermont abolishing slavery in 1777, Massachusetts in 1780, and New Hampshire in 1783. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Michigan and others followed in the early 1800’s. But federal government’s interference through excessive taxation (tariffs of 1828 and 1832), hindered this progress through creating deep rifts of ideological distinctions between our people.
Eventually, through Constitutional abuse, frustration, and continued provoking between the sections, approximately 600,000 to 1 million lives would be lost in one of the most bloody Civil Wars the world has ever seen – forever tarnishing the cause of liberty in America.
“We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness.” – Ben Franklin
We The People? A Look at the Anti-federalist Papers (281 KB) is a 14 page PDF resource that includes numerous quotes from the Anti-Federalist Papers. At times hauntingly prophetic, this document provides a fascinating look at what some of the world’s most brilliant individuals thought about in regards to many of the issues we continue to discuss today. Also included are looks into the individuals behind the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and U.S. Constitution Simply click HERE the link to view!