Misunderstanding State and Nation in the Constitution

Following up on the most recent posts by Greg and Ben, let me highlight a book by my Texas Law colleague, Calvin Johnson, Righteous Anger at the Wicked States. Calvin’s book underscores Ben’s point that the federalists, including Madison at the convention and during ratification, were very much nationalists — just as the Anti-Federalists claimed.

The concessions to the states were grudging and reluctant and, as Herbert Storing argued, did not actually represent the states qua states. The Anti-Federalists understood this well, pointed it out repeatedly, and it was the main reason they opposed the Constitution.

Why did it come to pass that most Americans, including most professors who study the founding, think that something like dual sovereignty best captures the Federalist view and the logic of the Constitution? Nicole Mellow and I argue that this is the result of the long term victory of the heirs of the Anti-Federalists in writing the narrative of the founding by exploiting the mollifying rhetoric in early iterations of the federalist position while intentionally ignoring the later sophistical federalist positions as well as their own Anti-Federal ratification arguments.

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