The Case against the Constitution: From the Antifederalists to the Present

The Case against the Constitution: From the Antifederalists to the Present

The Case against the Constitution: From the Antifederalists to the Present

The Case against the Constitution: From the Antifederalists to the Present

Synopsis

This is a collection of 1500 quotes from more than 1000 Supreme Court decisions. These excerpts, dating from the beginning of the Republic, are arranged to include the legislative, judicial, and executive branches; states' rights; due process; free speech; equal rights; and freedom of religion.

Excerpt

The Framers of the Constitution would be astonished as well as delighted by the present adoration of their work. In their own day they had to contend with sharp differences among themselves, which led to the familiar constitutional "compromises," and with even greater disagreements within the population generally, which had somehow to be satisfied. The Framers had to seek an accommodation between the kind of government that most of them preferred, and what they thought they could actually achieve. The best they could hope for was not perfection, but improvement: a more perfect union.

For many years before 1787, American voters and their representatives had tended to divide into two major groups or blocs, or (as the word was then used) "parties." The polar nuclei can be characterized as localist vs. cosmopolitan, rural vs. urban, noncommercial vs. commercial, small property vs. large property, and farm vs. nonfarm. The first of each of these pairs valued local control and government dominated by democratic majorities, meaning themselves. The second had ideas and interests best served by a strong central government that could act vigorously in economic and political matters--and that they could control. In concrete terms, the antagonists were the somewhat isolated, rather provincial middle class and small farmers versus the educated, urban, well-to-do business and professional men and large-scale farmers. Their conflict foreshadowed that of the Populists and their opponents in the nineteenth century, and contained all the same prejudices and hostilities.

These two blocs took shape rapidly in 1774-1776 when most of the states, writing their own constitutions, had to confront a complicated series of political, military, economic, social, and religious issues. The questions that were important include the following: Should the states rely on their militias or on a permanent, national army? Should they finance the war for independence by deficit spending or by heavy taxes, and, if the latter, who should pay? Should Congress . . .

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