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The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates (Signet Classics)

4.7 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0451528841
ISBN-10: 9780451528841
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ralph Ketcham is Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is the author of many books, including The Idea of Democracy in the Modern Era and Individualism and Public Life.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780451528841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451528841
  • ASIN: 0451528840
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I highly recommend "The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates" along with the companion volume "The Federalist Papers." Reading these two books will give you both sides of the arguments that revolved around the creation and adoption of our Constitutional government. "The Anit-Federalist Papers.." contains an excellent introduction by Ralph Ketcham, the complete Anti-Federalist papers and Constitutional Convention Debates with commentaries, an Index of Ideas, and cross-references to "The Federalist Papers."
The original intent of the Convention of States was to simply amend the Articles of Confederation, but instead it set out to frame an entirely new constitution. The Conventional debates began on May 29, 1787, in Philadelphia, with the "Virginia Plan" as the topic of the debates. This was James Madison's plan to strengthen the national government. However, not all our founding fathers wanted a centralized government. Statesmen such as Patrick Henry and John DeWitt argued for a decentralized government with a minimal central government. These men saw that the government as depicted in the Constitution would not represent the people adequately and that rights and liberties recently won from England would be lost.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the political thought which shaped our Constitution.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Everyone is probably familiar with what the Anti-Federalist papers are, and the other reviews do a great job of explaining this aspect for those who aren't, so there is no great need to do it again. Needless to say, familiarity with the basic Anti-Federalist arguments and their general themes is essential to understanding the foundation from which the Constitution arose and the twists its historical development would undertake. Believe it or not, but strains of Anti-Federalism are apparent even in today's politics, like the arguments for state power found in debates about topics like abortion or gay-marriage.

The biggest question to ask before buying this book, then, isn't why the information is important, but why you should pay money for something that can be found for free online. There are several reasons, for which I give this edition 4 stars:

First, it is an accompaniment to the Signet Classics edition of the Federalist Papers, and has a variety of cross-references to it. If you have both, it makes the search for certain topics and both sides' arguments in its regard much easier.

Second, it has a great introduction. The problem with approaching the Anti-Federalists without any editorial priming beforehand (whether from an introduction, a class, or both) is that one becomes liable to think of the group as nothing but a rag-tag group of guys with as many different opinions as there are men professing them, whose only point of unity is their opposition to Federalism. Their negative name--the "Anti-"Federalists--implies this, after all, and Madison himself tries to play off this point in one of his papers.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
These often intense and firey speeches made by the Anti-Federalists or the detractors of the Constitution (as it was being written and then debated) are powerful, passionate and sharp enough to make one feel these words were meant to be weapons, i.e., the front line defense of the freedom and liberty we so easily take for granted today. I feel that much of what is wrong in our political system today was predicted here, and what would constitute the only real solution, i.e., active, democratic citizenship, is also demonstrated here in their willingness to fight against tyranny with reason and passion. How much greater our public debates would be today if this were required reading for all citizens! "Politics" would be thought well of again and refer to what citizens do in noble service to communities, close to home and far away. Do yourself a favor, get inspired again as to the original principles and purpose of democracy, read this book, and believe again! And do something!
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By Kirk on November 15, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers contain the arguments and debate that surrounded the creation of the federal government. The Federalist Papers argue for a strong, centralized federal government. The Anti-Federalist Papers argue for decentralized government, with only the minimal central government necessary - a confederation - to provide for the common interests of the States without becoming a monarchy or dictatorship. It's good to read both sides. Those who feel the U.S. federal government has become too big and too intrusive may be surprised to find themselves more aligned with the Anti-Federalist Papers.
However, I would not recommend this edition. The editor is clearly Federalist. For example, his bias can be found at the bottom of page 214, where he inserts the comment "[Here Mr. Henry strongly and pathetically expatiated on the probability of the President's enslaving America and the horrible consequences that must result.]" Strongly? Pathetically? Expatiated? These are pretty strong words, certainly not the words of an unbiased historian. The "Mr. Henry" he is referring to is Patrick Henry, one of our nation's greatest patriots. The comment is inserted in the middle of one of Patrick Henry's speeches. The editor's bias casts doubt on the analysis, comments, historical reference, and background information he has inserted throughout the book, ostensibly to provide a frame of reference for better understanding the actual documents. If the frame of reference is tilted, your understanding risks being tilted.
Read the Anti-Federalist papers, by all means. But get an edition with no bias, or a bias in favor of the anti-federalist viewpoint.
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