The Anti-Federalist Papers were the product of a vast number of authors, working individually rather than as a group. Although there is no canonical list of anti-federalist authors, major authors include Cato (likely George Clinton), Brutus (likely Melancton Smith or Robert Yates or perhaps John Williams), Centinel (Samuel Bryan), and the Federal Farmer (either Melancton Smith, Richard Henry Lee, or Mercy Otis Warren). Works by Patrick Henry and a variety of others are often included as well.
The Anti-Federalist Papers is the collective name given to works written by the Founding Fathers who were opposed to or concerned with the merits of the United States Constitution of 1787. Starting on 25 September 1787 (8 days after the final draft of the US Constitution) and running through the early 1790s, these anti-Federalists published a series of essays arguing against a stronger and more energetic union as embodied in the new Constitution.
Although less influential and not so coordinated as their counterparts, The Federalist Papers, these works nonetheless played an important role in shaping the early American political landscape and, in particular, the passage of the US Bill of Rights.
Anti-Federalists proved unable to stop the ratification of the US Constitution, which took effect in 1789.
George Clinton was an American soldier and statesman, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A prominent Democratic-Republican, Clinton served as the fourth vice president of the United States from 1805 until his death in 1812. He also served as governor of New York from 1777 to 1795 and from 1801 to 1804.
Smith has been cited as the likely author of some of the more prominent Antifederalist essays written to encourage voters to reject ratification of the Constitution.
Following the ratification of the Constitution by New Hampshire and Virginia, Smith became convinced that New York had no choice but to accept the ratification of the Constitution and could not afford to wait until it had been amended. His vote for the Constitution, with the recommendation of amendments, broke Anti-Federalist ranks and brought down Governor George Clinton‘s wrath.
On May 8, 1777, Yates was appointed to New York’s supreme court and presided as its chief justice from 1790 through 1798.
In the 1780s Robert Yates stood as a recognized leader of the Antifederalists. He opposed any concessions to the federal congress, such as the right to collect impost duties, that might diminish the sovereignty of the states.
When he travelled to Philadelphia in May 1787 for the federal convention, he expected that the delegates would simply discuss revising the existing Articles. Yates was on the committee that debated the question of representation in the legislature, and it soon became apparent that the convention intended much more than modification of the current plan of union.
On July 5, the day the committee presented its report, Yates left the proceedings along with another delegate, James Lansing. In a letter to Gov. George Clinton of New York, Yates and Lansing spelled out the reasons for their early departure. They warned against the dangers of centralizing power and urged opposition to adopting the Constitution. Yates continued to attack the Constitution in a series of letters signed “Brutus” and “Sydney” and voted against ratification at the Poughkeepsie convention.
During 1788 when the American people were debating whether their states should ratify the proposed Constitution of the United States, Williams was an Anti-Federalist and one of several people suspected of having written very influential Anti-Federalist essays under the pen name Brutus.
Williams was subsequently a delegate to the State ratification convention in 1788, where the Anti-Federalists failed to stop the Constitution, but succeeded in obtaining assurances that a Bill of Rights would be added.
Samuel Bryan was a Pennsylvanian Anti-Federalist author, who wrote during the American Revolution. Historians generally ascribe him as writing under the pseudonym Centinel between 1787 and 1789. Centinel attacked the proposed Constitution of the United States as a document in the interests of the “well-born few”.
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the Lee Resolution, the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies’ independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation, and his “resolution for independency” of June 1776 led to the United States Declaration of Independence, which Lee signed.
He also served a one-year term as the President of the Congress of the Confederation, and was a United States Senator from Virginia from 1789 to 1792, serving during part of that time as the second President pro tempore of the upper house.
Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren was a political writer and propagandist of the American Revolution. During the years before the American Revolution, Warren published poems and plays that attacked royal authority in Massachusetts and urged colonists to resist British infringements on colonial rights and liberties.
During the debate over the United States Constitution in 1788, she issued a pamphlet, Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions written under the pseudonym “A Columbian Patriot”, that opposed ratification of the document and advocated the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.
Patrick Henry was an American attorney, planter, and orator best known for his declaration to the Second Virginia Convention (1775): “Give me liberty, or give me death!” A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786.