The Debate Over the Nature of Union and Republican Government

How the Constitution would affect the relationship of the thirteen states that had been united under the Articles of Confederation was passionately debated. Both Federalists and Antifederalist realized the union needed to be strengthened; the question was to what extent. Antifederalists feared that the Constitution would create a consolidated government that would eventually dissolve the states into one. They further argued that such a government would quickly lose its republican nature, because history and political philosophy-especially Montesquieu-proved that republican governments are only sustainable for small countries, not for those with extensive territory. Federalists argued that state governments and the federal government could co-exist as functional republics because they operated at different levels: the federal government would govern issues of national importance (defense, trade, foreign affairs) while the state governments would govern the internal administration of their people at the local level.

The following documents are taken from The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution and have been grouped into sub-categories to better understand the nuances of this debate over the nature of the union and republican government.

(F) Federalist Essays/Speeches
(AF) Antifederalist Essays/Speeches

Confederation Must be Strengthened

Confederation is Weak

Constitution Consolidates the Union

Constitution Preserves Union

Danger of Disunion

Factions and Union

State Sovereignty and Union

Union under Constitution is Republican

Union Strong under Constitution

Union is Perpetual under the Articles

Union Weak under the Articles