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The Antifederalists' Victory in Defeat

When Virginia and New York approved the Constitution in 1788, the Federalists had won. The Federalists had successfully led a sweeping change.

For the first time, the people of a nation freely chose and approved their form of government. It was also the first time that people in the United States acted on a national issue. Everyone understood that ratification was part of a larger process where the whole nation decided upon the same issue. In this way, the ratification process itself helped to create a national political community built upon loyalty to distinct states. The development of an American national identity was closely linked to the Constitution.

Even though the Antifederalists lost, they contributed to the type of national government created through ratification. They had insisted on the protection of individual rights and liberties that existed in most state constitutions. They feared that a new national government that was powerful and distant from the people would not offer the same kinds of individual protections in law.

To the Antifederalists, the separation of powers would not prevent government tyranny. As a result, states ratified the Constitution, but demanded that the new Congress immediately establish further protections. The adoption of the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) is a result of Antifederalist efforts. They continued to participate in the political process even when they seemed to have lost on the more general issue. This participation was very important.

The Constitution was created out of a political process that demanded hard work, disagreement, compromise, and conflict. The modern American nation took shape and would continue to be modified from this conflict.


Source: The Antifederalists' Victory in Defeat
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