University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Campaign Against the Critics of the Constitution

The campaign to discredit those who were expected to be opposed to a new system of government began in June 1787. Momentum picked up as the summer progressed as reports were circulated that the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention were working to devise an entirely new system of government. Charges against these critics ranged from being under the influence of Loyalists to charges that state officeholders feared the loss of power. Others were labeled as radicals wedded to the policies of paper money.

Below we have assembled some items that illustrate the effort to adversely portray the critics of a new constitution. When the Convention adjourned in mid-September, the critics had already been cast in a manner that would continue through the ratification debate. In 1955, Professor Cecelia M. Kenyon in a piece originally done for The William and Mary Quarterly labeled these Antifederalists, “men of little faith.”

Various Arguments Against the Constitution’s Critics

The Argument that State Office Holders Were the Constitution’s Critics

This charge was especially prevalent in Pennsylvania and New York. Beginning on 21 June 1787, Alexander Hamilton anonymously launched a harsh attack against Governor George Clinton. For a brief summary of the events surrounding Hamilton’s charges, see Alexander Hamilton attacks Governor Clinton (pdf) .