Friday, July 30, 2010

Upstate New Yorker Anti-Federalism

The post is in response to a friend of this blog, Mark in Spokane of Ordered Liberty, and his assertion that "the anti-federalists were overwhelmingly from the South," "almost always were stalwart defenders of the slaveocracy, and sought the extension of slavery across the continent," and that "[w]hile their rhetoric may have been about 'liberty' and 'little republics,' their actual practice was to embrace tyranny -- the tyranny of slavery," made in comment to this three-day-old post of mine — Back to the Articles. Behold, from Ratification of the Constitution (1786-1790), this map and chart:




The above indicate that the Upstate-Downstate rivalry predates the Union and that Upstate New York was a solid bastion of Anti-Federalism. Famous Anti-Federalists from the region include George Clinton (not of Parliament fame; he was fron New Jersey), and Melancton Smith, who may or may not have been Federal Farmer.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole reason why the Federalist Papers were written.

NY was the original swing state.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Schultz said...

PA, as well, was practically evenly divided along geographic lines. The population, and therefore the votes, was mostly along the Delaware River and, of course, in Phladelphia: bastions of Federalism.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Uh, the demographic map shows the anti-federalists still largely in the South. I didn't say that the anti-federalists were entirely located in the south, just that they were centered there. And almost all of the writers who were ardent anti-federalists came of of the south as well. So, interesting stats, but I don't see how it refutes my argument. In fact, I think it strengthens it.

The delegate votes are interesting, but not conclusive in terms of evaluating strength in a given region. As Forest MacDonald demonstrated in his biography of Alexander Hamilton, the elections for delegates to the state ratifying conventions were among the least popularly supported in American history. Because of various electoral requirements (mostly involving land ownership and property valuation) fewer than one in 25 white males were even qualified to vote for the electors. The Federalists predominated among business owners everywhere and non-slave owning property owners even in the south. So, the idea that the Federalists managed to get an impressive delegate count isn't all that surprising...

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Federalism was just a patch on chaos.

The Whiskey Rebellion and Shay's Rebellion were legitimate violent resistance - Lysander Spooner's life was legitimate nonviolent resistance.

9:52 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

A better map is this one :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Secession_map_1865_(BlankMap_derived).PNG

Because when it came down to war, it was a division of north versus south with the northern States willing to commit total war upon the southern States in order to compel them into an even "more perfect Union"

2:59 PM  
Blogger BJ said...

I don't think Federalists were concentrated in the South. Here is a ratification summary on a state-by-state basis:

1) Delaware: Ratified as quickly as possible. Strongly Federalist, but also wanted to act fast to show that it wasn't Pennsylvania.

Colonial Delaware was at best a half-colony or a half-state and at worst just a geographical expression. It had its own legislature, but it shared Pennsylvania's governor. By ratifying first, Delaware would stake a compelling claim to a real existence, separate from Pennsylvania. This proved to be a successful path for Delaware.

2) Pennsylvania: Ratified suspiciously quickly. There was significant Anti-Federalist representative opinion in the state, but by rushing the ratification, this opinion was intentionally sidelined and silenced (until the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 in the western regions, and until 1800 statewide).

Generally, the Federalists were better organized than the Anti-Federalists and this is the early example of that advantage in action.

Also, the Convention was in Philadelphia, the state's and new nation's leading city (until the Erie Canal was completed) in size, media, publishing, and shaping public opinion. Pennsylvania was a very large, centrally located state. At the time, Philadelphia was the state capital. For all these reasons, it was crucial for the prestige of the whole Constitutional undertaking that Pennsylvania not seem to hesitate. Had the "fight" been fair, the Federalists would have carried Pennsylvania, but it would have taken a long time and been messy, probably with a lot of agitation, angry pamphleteering, and the like. After all that work and difficult compromising, that wasn't what the influential sponsors of the Constitution wanted.

3) New Jersey: Records of this decision are poor but it is probably safe to assume that Federalist opinion genuinely dominated, rather than through a partly underhanded means, as in Pennsylvania.

4) Georgia: The southernmost state was solidly Federalist, belying the impression that "the South" was "anti-Federalist".

Why? The reason is very simple: Georgia was arguably the poorest, least developed colony (if not, it was second only to North Carolina) yet faced the most severe external threats from powerful, organized Indians of the Southeast (supported by foreign powers) and from British/Spanish Florida.

Georgia stood to gain massively by using a Constitution to send the unsupportable bill for its defense to the other states. Ratification was a no-brainer.

5) Connecticut: The vote reflected public opinion. Opinion was not unanimous, but Federalist towns clearly dominated.

This brings us to…

3:30 AM  
Blogger BJ said...

I don't think Federalists were concentrated in the South. Here is a ratification summary on a state-by-state basis:

1) Delaware: Ratified as quickly as possible. Strongly Federalist, but also wanted to act fast to show that it wasn't Pennsylvania.

Colonial Delaware was at best a half-colony or a half-state and at worst just a geographical expression. It had its own legislature, but it shared Pennsylvania's governor. By ratifying first, Delaware would stake a compelling claim to a real existence, separate from Pennsylvania. This proved to be a successful path for Delaware.

2) Pennsylvania: Ratified suspiciously quickly. There was significant Anti-Federalist representative opinion in the state, but by rushing the ratification, this opinion was intentionally sidelined and silenced (until the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 in the western regions, and until 1800 statewide).

Generally, the Federalists were better organized than the Anti-Federalists and this is the early example of that advantage in action.

Also, the Convention was in Philadelphia, the state's and new nation's leading city (until the Erie Canal was completed) in size, media, publishing, and shaping public opinion. Pennsylvania was a very large, centrally located state. At the time, Philadelphia was the state capital. For all these reasons, it was crucial for the prestige of the whole Constitutional undertaking that Pennsylvania not seem to hesitate. Had the "fight" been fair, the Federalists would have carried Pennsylvania, but it would have taken a long time and been messy, probably with a lot of agitation, angry pamphleteering, and the like. After all that work and difficult compromising, that wasn't what the influential sponsors of the Constitution wanted.

3) New Jersey: Records of this decision are poor but it is probably safe to assume that Federalist opinion genuinely dominated, rather than through a partly underhanded means, as in Pennsylvania.

4) Georgia: The southernmost state was solidly Federalist, belying the impression that "the South" was "anti-Federalist".

Why? The reason is very simple: Georgia was arguably the poorest, least developed colony (if not, it was second only to North Carolina) yet faced the most severe external threats from powerful, organized Indians of the Southeast (supported by foreign powers) and from British/Spanish Florida.

Georgia stood to gain massively by using a Constitution to send the unsupportable bill for its defense to the other states. Ratification was a no-brainer.

5) Connecticut: The vote reflected public opinion. Opinion was not unanimous, but Federalist towns clearly dominated.

This brings us to...

3:31 AM  
Blogger BJ said...

6) Massachusetts: Nine states needed to ratify, but for the first time, the Constitution encountered serious opposition here. By now, the Anti-Federalists could see where the program was headed and had awakened to the need to better organize.

Also for the first time, an economic dispute mapped directly onto the political dispute. Indebted farmers in the interior opposed wealthy creditor-merchants in the coastal cities (Salem at the time standing on the verge of massive wealth through trade with southern China). Some of the debts were private, and some were public (tax debts). The farmers were solvent - they had the assets to meet their debts - but were completely illiquid, in a direly cash-poor society, without yet a central-government currency-creating function. Delays, snafus, and asystematic incompletions in paying Continentals for their military service compounded the problem.

Generally this faction started to push for debt relief in various forms, including through the issue by the state of paper money against the value of the farms and for that paper to trade at par with specie coins. Generally these efforts were not successful, and in Massachusetts the result eventually took the form of Shay's Rebellion. These efforts were carried to the most bitter extreme in Rhode Island, which is why Rhode Island ratified last (more on that later) after not even sending delegates to the Convention.

What was successful in Massachusetts, for the Anti-Federalists, was to block adoption conditional on or pending a Bill of Rights. Massachusetts was possibly the most economically developed and highly educated state at the time, and the draft articulation of the Bill of Rights largely emanated from Massachusetts, though it incorporated ideas widely held elsewhere. Federalists realized that by adopting the Bill of Rights they would make ratification virtually certain. Federalist compromise on conditional ratification based on inclusion of the Bill of Rights swayed enough Anti-Federalists to allow a narrow Federalist victory, clearing a crucial hurdle.

This brings us to...

3:32 AM  
Blogger BJ said...

7) Maryland: Like New Jersey, a genuinely Federalist state with little popular opposition. Inclusion of the Bill of Rights softened what opposition existed. Maryland's five-person delegation to the Convention disliked the Constitution more than its people did.

8) South Carolina: Wealthy Federalist slaveocratic coastal planters had rigged the state's electoral system (partly by counting disenfranchised slaves 1:1 on behalf of planters' votes) to guarantee a roughly 2:1 representational advantage over the upland yeomen farmers. Disempowered Anti-Federalists were baldly shut out, left "talking to the hand."

9) New Hampshire: A dynamic similar to Massachusetts on a smaller scale played out the same way.

By now, the Constitution was ratified.

That was a good thing, for the Federalists, because the most articulate and wealthy opposition was found in 10) Virginia and 11) New York. Unfortunately - despite the size and importance of both states - with the Bill of Rights a reality, this opposition was "a day late and a dollar short" at this stage. The prestige of the Framers in Virginia - Washington, Madison - was maximal. More horse-trading and the tireless efforts of the ultra-Federalist Hamilton secured ratification in New York.

This brings us to...

3:33 AM  
Blogger BJ said...

The careful observer will now note the huge, 16-month gap in time before 12) North Carolina ratified. North Carolina was, with Georgia, easily the least developed state. The mercantile class was tiny, educated people were very few, the population was low and thin, and the state was so rustic that it contained the highest proportion of free blacks in the country mainly because vast elbow room does a lot to mitigate racism (which was no higher or lower than elsewhere in the South) or even coercively systematic governmental action. In this empty frontier land, which Cornwallis had vainly crossed searching for a reason to be there (result: none) only to end up at Yorktown, the Constitution seemed like a pointless waste of time, a lot of hot air. Why were faraway intellectuals so worried about needing a central or overarching government at all?

Problematically, though, the new Federal Government was getting impatient. It isn't true that North Carolina and Rhode Island would have been able to hold out as independent republics, bastions of Anti-Federalist virtue. With 11 down, only two to go, and Vermont knocking, the Federal Government was taking steps, step-by-step, to force ratification, starting with a proposed trade embargo and demands for immediate cash satisfaction of central debts. Seeing the writing on the wall, as it were, North Carolina ratified.

This brings us to 13) Rhode Island. For this I recommend

http://history.wisc.edu/csac/documentary_resources/ratification/attachments/rhode_island_essay.pdf

In a nutshell, the state legislature in Rhode Island was under the complete domination of Anti-Federalist rural paper-money extremists (the "Country Party") who were so obdurate that the legislature would not even authorize participation in the Convention. This is why there were no delegates from Rhode Island. Note that even Vermont, which wasn't a state, paid (openly, not corruptly, and acceptably) one of the Connecticut delegates to lobby part-time on its behalf.

The mercantile interests of Newport, Bristol, and Providence complained, badgered, yelled, and cajoled, with zero political impact on the brick wall of stubborn opposition in nearly every other town.

This political stance was completely effective until it emerged that Rhode Island had become the final holdout. It was obvious to all that this situation was politically unsustainable - the mercantile towns even threatened secession and resort to occupation by Federal forces, while the tiny state was in no position to resist any coercion actually applied.

This development finally put that faction under sufficient pressure to crack and ratify, with maximum grudge and maximum local political and financial cost to the compromisers and losers.

And that's the short version of how we got 13 states to ratify :-)

3:33 AM  

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