Debate over Constitution - Arguments made for and against Constitution.

Essay #1 – The Debate over the Constitution
QUESTION: Compare and contrast the arguments made for and against the Constitution.

Why did the
Federalists believe that the national government under the Articles of Confederation was ineffective and needed
to be replaced?

Did the Anti-Federalists make any valid criticisms against the adoption of the Constitution?

did the Federalists counter those arguments?

• Textbook (OpenStax) – Chapter 7.3 (p. 195-207), Chapter 8.1 (p. 211-214) and the Constitution
(Appendix B, p. 991-1005)
• Primary Sources from the workbook and online (must use two of the four):

1) Document 23 (p. 47-48) – Patrick Henry on the Proposed Constitution (1786)

2) Document 25 (p. 52-53) – The Case Against Centralization: [James Winthrop], “The Agrippa
Letters” (1787-1788)

3) Online Document – George Mason, Objections to the Proposed Constitution (1788):

4) Document 24 (p. 49-51) – James Madison, The Federalist, Number 10 (1789)

I. Format (30 points)
1) Papers should be typed, double-spaced, and no less than two full pages long. Students should use 12
pt font and 1-inch margins.

2) A header is required at the top of the first page and should include the following information:
student’s name, date, class (HIST 201), and instructor’s name (Jones). There should be only one or two
spaces at most between the header and the beginning of the paper.

3) Students may include a title for their papers. If they choose to include this, it should be no more than
one space underneath the header in the center of the paper. The body of the paper should begin no
more than one space underneath the title. Titles are optional.

4) Papers should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. The body of the paper should be divided
up into separate paragraphs, one for each main topic or point made. The first sentence of each
paragraph should be indented.

5) Papers should have a clear and specific thesis statement in the introduction of the essay that does not
just restate the main question being asked. Thesis statements can be more than one sentence long, but
should also be concise.

6) Sources should be cited using MLA format. This means that students should use parenthetical
documentation when directly quoting something or when paraphrasing another author’s idea or
argument. Sentences that convey a student’s own thoughts or arguments, or state factual information,
do not need to be cited. Citations should include the author’s last name and the page number when

7) A Works Cited page is not required. Students must only use the sources that are assigned in the

8) It is fairly standard to use third person point of view and past tense when writing history papers.
Most of the events you will be discussing happened in the past and all of the people you will be writing
about are dead. Writing about them in the present tense (as though they are still living) is inaccurate
and strange.

II. Spelling/Grammar and Style (20 points)
Papers should have minimal spelling and grammatical errors. Please use spell check while writing your paper.

Spell check does not catch every misspelled word, so be sure to also proofread your papers carefully for any
spelling errors. Sentence fragments, incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, misuse of words, and
inappropriate use of punctuation are all considered serious grammatical errors and will negatively affect your

Sentences and paragraphs should be coherent, clear, and well organized. If you feel you need assistance
with spelling, grammar, or style, please either turn in a rough draft to me or visit the Writing Center.

III. Content (50 points)

1) Paper should discuss the different arguments that were made in favor of and against the Constitution.
Students should come up with a specific and clear thesis statement that addresses why some felt the
Constitution would be a necessary and good thing and why some felt it would negatively affect the

2) In addition to the background information from the lectures and textbook, students must specifically
use at least two of the four assigned primary source documents to back up their arguments.

3) Papers should discuss the specific arguments and points made by each author in the primary sources.
Students should also discuss each author’s point of view (biases, background, reasons why they might
have held the viewpoint they did).

4) Students should demonstrate in their paper that they have completed the required textbook readings by
incorporating relevant background information into their papers. Papers should not just be a summary
of the primary source documents.

5) While the main focus of the essay should be centered on addressing the main questions that is at the
beginning of these instructions, students should try to address some of the following questions about
the documents in their papers:

• What kind of government did the Constitution establish? Why did the men who wrote it feel
the government under the Articles of Confederation was not working? Why did they feel that
the government needed to be completely restructured? Why did they set up the government in
such a way in the Constitution? Who were they and what kind of backgrounds did they come
from? Do you think this shaped their actions in any way?

• What main arguments were made against the Constitution? What did Patrick Henry criticize
most about it? What kind of government did he believe the Constitution would establish?
What kind of government did he feel was better for the country and its people? Why? What
did he worry would happen under the Constitution? Who was Henry? Did anything from his
background shape his beliefs on this matter?

• Many Anti-Federalists believed that a republican government could not work in a large nation.
What arguments did James Winthrop make on this matter? What did he believe would happen
if the Constitution was adopted? Why did he feel it wouldn’t work? Why did he believe that
having a strong national government would be a detriment to the nation? Why did he feel a Bill
of Rights was necessary? Who was Winthrop? Did anything from his background shape his
beliefs on this matter?

• What kind of government did James Madison believe the Constitution would create? Why did
he feel this would be the best type of government for the country? Why was it better than
other types? What advantages did he feel the Constitution would give the government? Many
criticized the Constitution by saying that the government would be controlled by powerful and
elite factions. How did Madison argue against this? Who was Madison? How was he involved
in the writing of the Constitution?

• What major criticisms did George Mason make about the proposed Constitution? What
problems did he have with the way representation, the judiciary, and the Executive and
Legislative branches were set up under the Constitution? What kind of government did he feel
the Constitution would establish and why?

Debate over Constitution - Arguments made for and against Constitution.

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