The Birth of the Bill of Rights, 1776-1791

By Robert Allen Rutland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE RATIFICATION STRUGGLE

ALTHOUGH Richard Henry Lee and George Mason gave the opponents of the Constitution their best argument against ratification from the popular standpoint, they did not attempt to form committees of correspondence in every state to carry on the fight. Their plans were not so skilfully laid as those of the Federalists. Mason was primarily concerned with Virginia's reaction, possibly because he thought his home state would set an example for the rest of the Republic to follow. Lee, possessed of more energy and strategically located in New York, was a leader of the Antifederalist movement in its early stages and aided the cause with his "Letters by a Federal Farmer," one of the most respected offerings of the opposition press throughout the entire ratification period. Governor George Clinton, a powerful figure in New York politics, determined to oppose the Constitution and proved himself more capable of leading the dissenting elements than either Lee or Mason as the struggle progressed. But during the earliest stages of the fight, Antifederalists from Massachusetts and New Hampshire southward based their opposition on hints thrown their way by pamphlets from the desks of Lee and Mason.

One indication of the Antifederalist strategy came only a few days after the Federal Convention had finished its business. Edmund Randolph wrote both Lee and Mason suggesting the propriety of an act by the Virginia legislature calling for another federal convention to consider the amendments put

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