Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


Books

Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are published and distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.


The Antifederalists

Critics of the Constitution, 1781–1788

Jackson Turner Main


Paper: 978-0-8078-5544-7 ($28.95)

Copyright 1961
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Jamestown Prize (1958)

Description

The Antifederalists come alive in this state-by-state analysis of politics during the Confederation and the debates over the enlargement of Congressional powers prior to the formation of the Constitution. On the one side were small and middle-class farmers who subscribed to a libertarian tradition founded in a distrust of power, a preference for local authority, and a concept of private rights that defined liberty against government. On the other, urban centers and commercial farming areas were mercantile and planter aristocracies disposed to qualify libertarian tenets out of a fear of majority rule, a concern for property rights, and a high regard for the positive economic and political possibilities within the power of a more centralized state. Main presents a perceptive account of the deliberations of the ratifying conventions, the local circumstances that affected decisions, the alignment of delegates, and the factors that influenced some of the delegates to change their minds.


About the Author

The late Jackson Turner Main (1917-2003) taught history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the University of Colorado, Boulder.


Reviews

Distinguished by the scope and depth of its author’s scholarship, by a judicious approach to controversial material, and by a perceptive analysis of events.

--Harold C. Syrett


Professor Main has taken a solid step in the direction of re-assessment which should lead to a new understanding of the Antifederalist dilemma and appreciation of their approach to the problem of political organization.

--American Political Science Review


Penetrating conclusions about the role of individuals, the content of their thought, and the means whereby they expressed their opposition to the projected American Constitution.”

--American Historical Review


Professor Main’s work is thorough and his conclusions provocative. His exacting study rescues an important group from the oblivion to which the verdict of history has relegated them.

--Saturday Review


This study of the Antifederalists is welcomed for its penetrating conclusions about the role of individuals, the content of their thought, and the means whereby they expressed their opposition to the projected American Constitution.

--American Historical Review