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An Anti-Federalist Constitution: The Development of Dissent in the Ratification Debates, Michael J. Faber

Reviewed by Zachary K. German

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Michael J. Faber places the Anti-Federalists at center stage in the intellectual and political drama that was the debate over the ratification of the Constitution. In doing so, he offers a thorough, useful resource for learning about the ideas, arguments, rhetoric, and experiences of Anti-Federalists in particular places and at particular moments during the ratification debates. The book culminates with the explication of a hypothetical “Anti-Federalist Constitution,” a helpful thought experiment that imagines the concrete document that the Anti-Federalists may have produced, given the opportunity.

Faber’s conceptual innovation is to distinguish the opponents of the Constitution as Rights, Power, or Democratic Anti-Federalists. Rights Anti-Federalists, he writes, were “focused on the individual and the potential for governmental tyranny,” stressing “the absence of a bill of rights” (pp. ix, 25). Power Anti-Federalists were “the truest federalists in the debate”; they “were less concerned about the people as individuals” and more concerned about the distribution of powers, both within the national government and between the national and state governments (pp. ix, x, 25). Democratic Anti-Federalists were more radically committed to the people’s direct role in their government than their peers

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