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Anti-Federalist Papers: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

After the Revolutionary War, the United States created a new government and a document, the Constitution, to guide the new nation. Some Americans were opposed to the new government being formed. In this lesson, you will learn about the Anti-Federalist Papers and why they were important.

Purpose

Have you ever disagreed with someone? Perhaps you didn't agree with your sibling about what game to play or you didn't like the book your teacher made you read. When people disagree, they often discuss the reasons why they believe their opinion is correct. This is exactly what happened when the United States won their independence from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.

The Founding Fathers wrote a document to create and guide the new national government. This document, the U.S. Constitution, states the powers and responsibilities of the federal and state governments. However, before the Constitution could go into effect, it had to be ratified, or accepted, by nine out of the thirteen original states.

The Anti-Federalist Papers opposed the proposed Constitution
constitution

Many people agreed with the form of government being created by the Constitution, but others did not. These people decided to write down their opinions on why they opposed the Constitution and the new government. This collection of writings is called the Anti-Federalist Papers.

What are they about? Who wrote them? Let's find out!

Topics

During the Revolutionary War, the colonists fought for independence because Britain was taking away the rights of individual states and citizens. Should Americans then allow their new government to have that same type of power? Didn't they fight for their rights?

The Anti-Federalist Papers were written to warn state governments and the American people about the problems with the proposed Constitution and to convey their belief that allowing a central government to have so much power would make it too strong.

The Anti-Federalist Papers included concerns regarding:

  • protecting citizens' rights
  • the federal government taxing states too much
  • the creation of a standing army that could possibly be used by the federal government to control the states and the people
  • the president having too much power to rule, like a king

To address these concerns, the Anti-Federalist Papers suggested that the Legislative branch - the lawmaking branch - of the federal government should be more powerful than the Executive branch. This would give Congress, who is elected by the people and represents all the states, more power over how the federal government was run. The Papers also suggested that a Bill of Rights, like the one in use today, be created to identify and protect citizens' rights and basic liberties.

Authors

From about 1787 to 1789, different people wrote about their dislike of the Constitution and the new federal government being proposed. During that time, there was no organized group or publication called the Anti-Federalist Papers. It wasn't until much later, in the mid-1900's, that historians started collecting and organizing these writings.

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