The Bill of Rights is the name of the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution, introduced by James Madison on 1789. It was a series of the articles, which establish certain rules, prohibit Congress to make any law and the federal government to deprive any person of his/her life, property, and, of course, liberty.
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It was James Madison, who offered the Bill of Rights in order to overcome the conflict between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Anti-Federalists were all those people, who opposed the Constitution’s ratification and claimed that the central governing authority of the American nation had to be equal and not more powerful than any sub-national state.
The Bill of Rights may be considered as a document that partially satisfied the Anti-Federalist concerns: it did curb governmental power a bit, as the government could not deprive people of their freedom and lives independently; however, such points as taxes and war powers remained to be the same, and people had nothing to do but follow the established rules and be guided by their governmental authorities.
Anti-Federalists and Their Purposes
The representatives of Anti-Federalism were certainly against a centralized government, and hoped that the Bill of Rights would help to protect people against the powers of the elected officials.
“Anti-Federalists clearly believed that defeating the Constitution required a multipronged attack and that communication with other opponents around the country was essential. They wanted both to influence those in other states and to learn what objections to the Constitution were raised at other ratifying conventions.” (Labunski 2006, 56)
They were not satisfied because the Constitution really gave too many powers to the national government, and such government could easily maintain an army during peaceful period of time. Of course, the lack of the bill of rights played rather considerable role. (Levy 2001, 30) Anti-Federalists admitted that American people had already fought a lot in order to prove their rights and be free, and now, their own government just wanted to deprive them of all those rights and make them slavers again, under their own rules.
Patrick Henry was one of the most known Anti-Federalists during the American Revolution. “If the American nation would ever find itself in danger, Patrick Henry said, he ‘would recur to the American spirit to defend us: – that spirit which has enabled us to surmount the greatest difficulties’.” (Edling 2008, 125)
Henry was ready to some spontaneous actions in order to save his nation and help his people to be free and live in accordance with their own interests and preferences. With the help of other Anti-Federalists like Samuel Adams and George Mason, Henry did everything possible to prevent the adoption of the Constitution that might influence the life of any American.
The Bill of Rights and Anti-Federalists
The Bill of Rights was finally the document lots of Anti-Federalists expected for. The government does not have the right to conduct searches of apartments without a proper permission; it cannot arrest people without proper grounds; it cannot take people’s properties without public procedures; and, finally, the government cannot kill people on their own.
In order to deprive a person of his/her life, numerous procedures should take place, everything has to be proved, and finally, lots of people, taking certain positions, should present a permission.
Lots of historians admit that the actions of Federalist concerning the adaptation of the Constitution were more organized. They had clear enough purposes and were ready to prove any of them.
The desire to separate powers according to different spheres of life in order to protect people and show the necessary way to develop and growth was much more powerful than the only desire to make all people free and independent within one nation. Such independence could lead to chaos in one country. America passed such a long way in order to take the leading position among the other countries all over the world that the government just could allow to destroy everything.
The Effects of the Bill of Rights
Due to these facts and the essence of the Bill of Rights, it can be said that the efforts of the Anti-Federalists were not in vain. Of course, Anti-Federalists were not completely satisfied with the Bill of Rights, but still, some of their demands were met.
After the events at the end of the 1700s, Anti-Federalists were recognized as rather influential group of people, who did care about human rights and always had something to tell in order to prove their positions. Of course, their actions did not lead to prevention of the Constitution’s adoption, but still, certain amendments have been taken into consideration, and nowadays, people have enough rights to live as they want and as they can.
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The Bill of Rights played a very significant role in the life of Anti-Federalists and for America in general. People wanted to be free and could not allow the government to control their lives. With the help of the amendments, the government was deprived of certain powers, and people got more opportunities to live according their own desires. Without any doubts, Anti-Federalists could not be satisfied completely with the Bill of Rights, however, their attempts were not in vain, and people got their freedom from their government.
Edling, Max, M. A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U. S. Constitution and the Making of the American State. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Labunski, Richard, E. James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Levy, Leonard W. Origins of the Bill of Rights. Yale University Press, 2001.