Here, on a scale unmatched by any previous collection, is the extraordinary energy and eloquence of our first national political campaign: During the secret proceedings of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the framers created a fundamentally new national plan to replace the Articles of Confederation and then submitted it to conventions in each state for ratification. Immediately, a fierce storm of argument broke. Federalist supporters, Antifederalist opponents, and seekers of a middle ground strove to balance public order and personal liberty as they praised, condemned, challenged, and analyzed the new Constitution Gathering hundreds of original texts by Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Washington, and Patrick Henry—as well as many others less well known today—this unrivaled collection allows readers to experience firsthand the intense year-long struggle that created what remains the world’s oldest working national charter.

Assembled here in chronological order are hundreds of newspaper articles, pamphlets, speeches, and private letters written or delivered in the aftermath of the Constitutional Convention. Along with familiar figures like Franklin, Madison, Patrick Henry, Jefferson, and Washington, scores of less famous citizens are represented, all speaking clearly and passionately about government. The most famous writings of the ratification struggle — the Federalist essays of Hamilton and Madison — are placed in their original context, alongside the arguments of able antagonists, such as “Brutus” and the “Federal Farmer.”

Part Two gathers collected press polemics and private commentaries from January to August 1788, including all the amendments proposed by state ratifying conventions as well as dozens of speeches from the South Carolina, Virginia, New York, and North Carolina conventions. Included are dramatic confrontations from Virginia, where Patrick Henry pitted his legendary oratorical skills against the persuasive logic of Madison, and from New York, where Alexander Hamilton faced the brilliant Antifederalist Melancton Smith.

Informative notes, biographical profiles of all writers, speakers, and recipients, and a detailed chronology of relevant events from 1774 to 1804 provide fascinating background. A general index allows readers to follow specific topics, and an appendix includes the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution (with all amendments).

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

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This article has 3 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Pages are a joy to handle Ok its obvious to anyone living in the US these days that we live under a corrupt, anti democratic oligarchy that is literally destroying whole nations to make a few fat cats rich, but most people don’t know what to do about it except write letters or emails and march and protest. Most think nothing can be done about it, and they are right. The Anti Federalists saw this disaster coming in 1787 and tried to stop it but failed. They knew the bulk of the proposed Federalist Constitution was…

  2. Anonymous

    Should be required reading for every American…. Lovely books (I ordered both volumes). Pages are a joy to handle. As they say, very high production values. I knocked a star off since the books are an abbreviated collection of the Federalist and Anti Federalist Papers. I wanted a complete set and the advertising for the two volumes, Parts One and Two, left me thinking that I would be getting the full set of the papers. I agonized over returning them. In the end I’m keeping them as they are physically so nice and there is also a good…

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