The Anti-Federalist Argument
Patrick Henry believed that the new constitution was assigning the government too much power. To understand Henry’s argument, it is essential to recall the historical context before the anti-federalist movement. The United States was from undergoing the American Revolution, which was a rebellion against British rule. The constitution was the result of the War of Independence, which was primarily a revolt against the centralization of power. The new constitution was proposing a unification of all states under one federal government, which was an act of consolidation. Henry argued that small American communities were already flourishing under self-governance (Foner 130). Moreover, the central government will be performing duties similar to the ones carried out by the state government. The new constitution would equally grant the central government power to impose taxes on the people. As opposed to protecting individual rights, the new law would be putting at risk personal liberties.
Patrick Henry feared the establishment of a consolidated government because it gave the administration the potential to become too powerful. A central government shifted political power from personal liberties in favour of the administration. The form of governance will result in the central regime overshadowing the authority of state governments (Foner 128). Given that the new constitution had no Bill of Rights, a consolidated government would suppress individual liberties. To Henry, the calls for having a unified government meant that the majority of America had forgotten the perils of a centralized national authority. Henry also feared that a central government would assign the North political power over the South. Without capable state governments, the liberal drive towards political autonomy would be improbable. In such a scenario, the North will develop faster at the expense of the South.
Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom. W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.