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For this assignment, you need to transform yourself into a character, a letter-writer from a particular
state in the year 1787 or 1788. You are entering the controversy over the issue of whether your state
should agree to ratify the Constitution that has been written by the delegates at the Philadelphia
Convention of 1787. You are an anti-federalist, someone arguing against the adoption of the proposed
Constitution, and you are writing an essay in the form of a letter to be published in one of your state’s
newspapers (You should name the paper and date the letter). You are seeking to persuade fellow-
citizens to agree with you.
Here are some suggestions for handling the letter:
Breathe some life into your character. Give him (or her) not only a state but a more particular
identity. Where do you live? What do you do? How long have you been around? Give the paper
a name and your letter a date.
Write from the perspective of the identity you choose. A plantation owner from Georgia and a
Quaker from Pennsylvania might both be opposed to the Constitution but not for all the same
Employ multiple arguments. Even if you decide to give your character one over-riding concern,
you should offer more than one reason why citizens of your state should not accept the
You should get specific. Quote from the document. Point to particular clauses to which you
object. Explain the dangers. Think of yourself as a kind of guide, helping your fellow citizens to
read the document critically.
Show an awareness of what has been argued in favor of the Constitution. You can find some of
these points worthwhile while nevertheless insisting that the advantages are outweighed by the
disadvantages and by the outright dangers. You can treat your Federalists opponents as power-
hungry egotists; but you also have the option of treating them as sincere but misguided patriots.
Show some awareness of the other writers whose letters have been circulating in the newspapers.
The essays of “Publius” in New York have been especially prominent, and you might want to take
one of those letters into account in making a counter-argument. But there are also writers on your
side that you might want to call upon. It would be a good move to quote one or more of them. But
be sure not to plagiarize. If you quote a good sentence (or even paraphrase one), be sure to
acknowledge the writer. For example, “As Brutus has said in his June 2 letter. . .” See what I
mean? You don’t need to use MLA format or formal citations; you do need to show what you are
borrowing by how you word your sentences.
You might try a little prophecy. As you look into the future, what can you see that might go badly
wrong if the Constitution is approved as worded?
AN ANTI-FEDERALIST LETTER
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