G CS 06

Basic Principles of the U.S. Constitution

Principles related to representative democracy are reflected in the articles and amendments of the U.S. Constitution and provide structure for the government of the United States.

Content Statement

6. The Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers framed the national debate over the basic principles of government encompassed by the Constitution of the United States.

Content Elaborations

When the Constitution of the United States was before the states for ratification, various attempts were made to influence the ratification debates. The proponents of ratification became known as Federalists and the opponents as Anti-Federalists. Both sides prepared essays that outlined their arguments. The Federalist Papers and the Anti- Federalist Papers discussed key principles of government as they related to the circumstances of that time.

One key argument during the ratification debate concerned the extent of power that should be held by the national government. Federalists argued that the powers bestowed upon the national government helped to counteract the problems encountered under the Articles of Confederation. State sovereignty would have to give way in favor of the general welfare of the nation. In any case, according to the Federalists, federal power was defined and limited, while the states still held many residual powers.

The Anti-Federalists responded that the truly important powers to govern had been delegated to the national government and that the states had little role other than to oversee the selection of federal officials. In addition, argued the Anti-Federalists, the “necessary and proper” and “supremacy” clauses rendered ineffective any limitations on the powers of the national government.

Federalists can be said to have won the overall debate on the basic principles of government with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Anti-Federalists did achieve some success with the limitations on government embraced by the Bill of Rights.

Expectations for Learning

Cite arguments from the Federalist Papers and/or the Anti- Federalist Papers that supported their position on the issue of how well the Constitution upheld the principle of limited government.