Process Paper

The Constitution is the basis of our free democratic and compound republic. Noticing the constitution was a revolutionary document for its time, our group understood that the Constitution was a point of contention and controversy in the newly founded United States of America. As research progressed, we came to the conclusion that the revolutionary ideas of the strong federal system present in the Constitution caused a political reaction by Anti-Federalist who did not trust the idea that a distant power could rule without tyranny. From the conflict over the Constitution came a Bill of rights; a reform which settled the waters of partisanship between Federalists and Anti-Federalist, leading to the ratification of the Constitution.

We started our research by going to the Bedford Public Library to acquire helpful sources pertaining to the Constitution. Carol Berkin, Stanley Elkins, Akhil Amar, and Sanford Levinson all have written helpful works about the Constitution. The sources informed us accurately of why the Constitution was created, the events at the Constitutional Convention, and detailed debates between Federalists and Anti-federalists leading to the ratification of the Constitution. In order to further understand the debates leading to ratification, we gathered primary sources written by leaders of Federalists and Anti-Federalist parties. These theses are known as the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. After looking at several of our sources, we wanted to know more about the events that led up to the creation of the Bill of Rights. To further our research, we decided to contact some professors knowledgeable on American history, specifically the Constitution. We contacted Bernard Bailyn, the head of the Harvard History Department. Bailyn specializes in early American history, which suits our needs. He talked to us primarily about the debate for ratification and the Bill of Rights. Bailyn’s key thesis was that not everyone supported the Constitution, but everybody supported a Bill of Rights. After considering what Bailyn had said, we found scholarly journal articles about the constitution that elaborated on the interview. 

For our website, we created three tabs, representing revolution, reaction, and reform. From there, we created subs tabs to allow us to better explain each of our elements in the project. After several revisions, the website finally came together as a final and cohesive website.

From our research, we learned why the Constitution was a revolutionary document. The Constitution suggested a very new and different democratic structure than what the states were used to. It also instituted a strong Federal government that caused uneasiness among a nation that had just fought a war against federal tyranny. These revolutionary ideas created a partisan reaction to the constitution in early America. In the fight for ratification, Federalists and Anti-Federalists battled over the ideas of the Constitution. In this fight, while Federalists saw a strong federal government as a source of freedom, Anti-Federalists saw it as infringement on their liberties afforded to them by the states. After much debate, the newly suggested Bill of Rights quelled fears that the federal government would infringe upon the rights of its citizens. This reform allowed for the popular ratification of the Constitution.

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