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Debate

The new Constitution was first printed in New York in September of 1787. This began the great debate. "Federalists" supported the Constitution: many in New York City argued that a strong new federal government would provide powerful aid to New York's growing commercial activity. "Antifederalists" opposed the Constitution unless it was modified with amendments, arguing that it created an overly powerful national government and did not provide adequate protection for rights. Antifederalists believed that this powerful government had the potential, and may have been intended, to create an authoritarian state dominated by a wealthy elite. Many Antifederalists wanted a second general convention to propose amendments. Federalists were adamant that the Constitution had to be adopted without any amendments. They were especially fearful that a second general convention might undo everything achieved in the Philadelphia Convention: the creation of a powerful modern nation-state that could control both the states and the people directly.

This debate over the Constitution took place in newspapers, broadsides (single sheets of paper), and pamphlets, in the legislature, in taverns and coffee houses, in churches, in public meetings, and in private correspondence. New York had some of the greatest essayists in America. Often these writers used pen names or pseudonyms. They included "Cato," "Federal Farmer," and "Brutus," for the Antifederalists, and on the Federalist side, The Federalist—85 essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay published under the pseudonym "Publius"—and "A Citizen of New-York," by John Jay. The Federalist was originally printed in newspapers and was eventually printed in two volumes in 1788. Today it is the most widely cited writing on the meaning of the Constitution.

Video: Outside Influences

1787

The legislature of New York adopts a bill of rights on January 26. The bill does not create rights, but states what rights people retain. Articles II, III, and IV guarantee "due process of law."

On May 29, delegates from a majority of the states convene in Philadelphia to address problems with the Articles of Confederation.

On September 17, the Philadelphia Convention approves the United States Constitution.

On September 21, the Constitution is printed in New York in the Daily Advertiser and the Packet.

The first of 16 essays by "Brutus" (a pen name) appears in the New York Journal on October 18. James Madison comments that a "new Combatant . . . with considerable address & plausibility, strikes at the foundation" of the Constitution.

The first of 85 essays of The Federalist by "Publius" (Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison) is published in the Independent Journal on October 27. This essay is written by Hamilton.

On November 8, perhaps the greatest of all the Antifederalist essays, written under the pen name "The Federal Farmer" and addressed to "The Republican," is first advertised for sale. The Federalist No. 68 calls the pamphlet "the most plausible" of the arguments against the Constitution.

One of the most famous of the 85 Federalist essays, No. 10, written by James Madison, is published on November 22.

On December 21, John Lansing, Jr., and Robert Yates—who were both New York delegates to the Philadelphia Convention—write a letter to Governor George Clinton to explain why they left the Convention early and why they opposed the Constitution. On January 14, two New York City newspapers print the letter.

By December 31, all nine New York state newspapers publish the Constitution.