We, the People, Debate the Constitution

Washington Times, July 4, 1993.


With the publication of the two volumes of “The Debate on the Constitution,” the 62nd and 63rd in the Library of America series, the general public will now have access to a full account of the controversy attending the ratification of the Constitution.

Collected here, and presented chronologically, are the debates in the various state ratifying conventions, the major Federalist and Antifederalist papers, and, in addition, hundreds of other newspaper articles, pamphlets, speeches and letters, some of them from ordinary (and previously unknown) citizens. Together they testify to the popular character of the debates and to the fact that the Constitution does indeed derive from “the people of the United States.”

Many of the items reprinted here are, of course, familiar, especially to students of American government. These include not only the well-known Federalist Papers written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, which are widely available in a number of editions, but also the writings and speeches of Mercy Warren, Patrick Henry, George Clinton, Luther Martin and the pseudonymous Brutus, Federal Farmer, Centinel, Agrippa and the scores of others who opposed ratification, all of them collected in Herbert Storing’s seven-volume “Complete Anti-Federalist,” published by the University of Chicago Press in 1981.