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The Anti-Federalist Papers: Federal Farmer V

On this day in 1787, an author writing under the pseudonym “Federal Farmer” writes his fifth contribution to the anti-Federalist Papers. It would be his last contribution for a while! These papers argued against the new Constitution, then being considered for ratification by the states.


At this point, the Federal Farmer is basically wrapping up his thoughts from previous papers and offering his advice on what to do next. (See prior essays: I, II, III, IV.)

Despite his earlier criticisms, the Federal Farmer acknowledges that there are some good things in the Constitution that has been proposed: “It is founded on elective principles, and the deposits of powers in different hands, is essentially right.” Indeed, he thinks these aspects of the Constitution could have had more value if the legislature were more representative of the people, as he discussed in earlier papers.


What solutions does he propose? He wants the states to evaluate the Constitution, but then he wants them to feel free to propose amendments. He does not agree that “it will be in vain for those conventions to attempt amendments.” How can anyone know what is in vain, unless he first gives it a try? If it is later “determined, by experience, that the conventions cannot agree in amendments,” THEN he thinks the people should consider “whether they will adopt or not the system proposed in its present form,” without amendments.


The Federal Farmer concedes that the Constitutional Convention was composed of many respectable men. However, they met without knowing the sentiments of the people. Now, he believes, is the time for the people to have their say. They should “examine [the proposed Constitution] with freedom and candour” and “examine coolly every article, clause, and word in the system proposed, and to adopt it with such amendments as they shall think fit.”


The Federal Farmer will be back with more thoughts after some of the Federalist Papers have been written and after some state ratification conventions have met. Stay tuned for more of his essays in December.

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