I try to get to listener questions when possible, and this past week you, my loyal listeners, gave me a couple of juicy softballs.
I had to hit them out of the park.
The first wondered, “What if the Anti-Federalists won and the Constitution failed ratification?” What would America look like.
The second listener was confused about the use of the word “nation” among so many members of the founding generation. If they didn’t form a real national government, why did they use that word?
These two questions work together.
It’s hard to say precisely what would have happened. Historical inference is a crap-shoot, but opponents of the Constitution thought that if New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts failed to ratify the document, even if 9 other States did, they could force a second convention to draw up a new plan or make modifications to the existing plan.
They eventually settled for a promise of a Bill of Rights.
But what did they really want to prevent during ratification? A “national” government with one size fits all policies that would crush the States. This much was made clear repeatedly during the months leading to ratification in 1787 and 1788.
You might have seen a stronger “10th Amendment” had the so-called Anti-federalists (who were the real federalists) had the power to make substantial changes. You also might have seen a weaker executive and judicial branches.
You can almost guarantee they would have prohibited State court decisions from being appealed to the federal judiciary.
They might have removed the presidential veto, but that is mere speculation.
If you really want to see what these opponents wanted, you should read the Constitution for the Confederate States of America. While not an exact outgrowth of “Anti-Federalist” thought, it did much to spike federal overreach.
The so-called “supremacy clause,” “necessary and proper clause,” and “general welfare clause” were all made safe under the Confederate Constitution because that document curtailed federal power in a way that prevented abuse of those “sweeping clauses” as the opponents of the Constitution labeled them.
And, of course, the “friends of the Constitution” swore up and down the United States that they weren’t creating a “national” government but a “federal republic” with “expressly” granted powers. That’s what makes the United States “is a nation” argument worthless. If so, the Constitution never would have been ratified.
I discuss both questions on Episode 428 of The Brion McClanahan Show.