Northern Illinois University Press

The Anti-Federalists and Early American Political Thought

Christopher M. Duncan

"Offers an expanded access to the American political legacy.... Raises important and complex questions."
óWilliam and Mary Quarterly

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Articles of Confederation, a debate emerged concerning the politcal future of the newly founded country. On one side were the Federalists, champions of a strong central government who with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution ultimately prevailed; on the other were the Anti-Federalists, defenders of an existing political order embodied in the Articles of Confederation. With the triumph of Federalism, Anti-Federalism quickly lost its appeal, and in time its proponents became overlooked as a political force.

This book presents the "forgotten" thought of the Anti-Federalists as an important alternative to the Federalist tradition in American political history. In tracing Anti-Federalist concepts from their origins in prerevolutionary Congregationalist theology to the writing of the U.S. Constitution, Duncan shows that Anti-Federalist theory underscores the religious, localist, and communitarian origins of the American political tradition. He argues that the Anti-Federalists were indeed the true representatives of the American Revolution and the political arrangements that resulted from itómen of a localist, communitarian faith in which political participation is an end in itself rather than a means to other objectives. As such, he concludes, the course bolstered by the Anti-Federalists represents a viable "road not taken" in America's national heritage.

Duncan challenges the dominant view among scholars of the American Anti-Federalists and counters the impression that the Anti-Federalists were liberals whose fear of government and power left them unable to articulate and to construct a lasting political association. Duncan shows that the Anti-Federalists engaged in a rigorous defense of republican political community and its associate ideal of public happiness, in contrast to the liberal ideal of private happiness expressed by their Federalist counterparts.

(1995) 254 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-189-6
cloth $35.50

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Crisis of Faith
1 Puritan Theology as Political Liberation
2 Political Liberation as American Theology
3 American Political Reformations
4 The Faith of the Federalists
5 The Anti-Federalists: Men of a Different Faith
Conclusion: Fruitful Heresy

Shopping Cart Operations

ISBN: 978-0-87580-189-6
cloth $35.50