What was the Fugitive Slave Clause?

The Fugitive Slave Clause in Article IV, Section 2 provided that masters could recover their fugitive slaves as property.

After the Constitution was signed, what happened during the ratification process?

Article VII of the Constitution provides: "The ratification of the conventions of nine states shall be sufficient for the establishment of the Constitution between the states so ratifying the same." This meant that the "real fight" did not come on the convention floor. It came in the states over whether to ratify the Constitution. Many merchants, manufacturers, and big plantation owners in the South favored the Constitution. They knew the new Constitution would help protect their business interests.

But, many small farmers did not want to sacrifice their individual freedom and become dependent on the business people. The battle over ratification became a great issue of the day. It captured the headlines and great space in the newspapers. Pamphlets were printed on each side. Congress directed the state legislatures to call ratification conventions to vote on the new document. Under the ratification process, the state legislatures would vote to call special conventions. Delegates, often the state legislators themselves, would vote at the conventions.

The ratification process was not easy. Political leaders were divided. Supporters of the new Constitution with its strong central government called themselves Federalists. Opponents of the Constitution were called Anti-Federalists. Many of them opposed the Constitution because it failed to provide for a bill of rights and gave too much power to the federal government at the expense of the state governments.

What were the principal objections of the Anti-Federalists to the Constitution?

The Anti-Federalists were particularly concerned with the so-called "necessary and proper" clause of the new Constitution. Article I, Section 8 provided Congress with the power to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" for executing its powers vested in the Constitution. Other Anti-Federalists were concerned with the supremacy clause in Article I. Many Anti-Federalists viewed this clause as wiping out the powers of state governments.

Many Anti-Federalists also argued that the Constitution gave too much power to the president. Some feared that the president and the Senate would unite to become similar to the King of England and the upper house of the English Parliament, the House of Lords. The King of England and the House of Lords represented aristocrats, the upper class of society, and tended to ignore the interests of regular people.

What were the Federalist Papers and what was their importance?

The Federalist Papers were a series of essays that galvanized much popular support for the Constitution during the ratification struggle. In the most populous states of New York and Virginia the Anti-Federalists fought hard. After the Philadelphia Convention, James Madison co-wrote a series of articles with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay that became known as The Federalist Papers. These 85 essays written under the pen name Publics are still considered the definitive work on the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson once called them "the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written."

These articles discussed the framework of the Constitution, including the principles of checks and balances and separation of powers among three branches of government. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison sought to persuade the readers that the newly designed government was the best course of action for the young country. Hamilton wrote that the nation faced a "crisis." He wrote that if the country voted against the new Constitution, that decision would "deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

In Federalist 45 Madison argued that the state governments did not have much to fear from the federal government. Madison wrote: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

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