Document Type



The Ancient Constitution vs. the Federalist Empire: Antifederalism from the Attack on "Monarchism" to Modern Localism, 84 Northwestern University Law Review 74 (1989)


Anti-Federalism is generally thought to represent a major "road not taken" in our political history. The Anti-Federalists, after all, lost the great debate in 1787-88, while their opponents' constitution prevailed and prospered over the years. If we needed proof of the staggering victory of the Federalist Constitutional project, the 200th anniversary celebrations of 1987 would certainly seem to have given it, at least insofar as victory is measured by longevity and adulation.

One of the most imposing signals of the Federalists' triumph is the manner in which their constitution has come to dominate the very rhetoric of constitutionalism. This is particularly the case in the United States, where the federal Constitution has the status of what might be called the "plain vanilla" brand—a brand so familiar that it is assumed to be correct for every occasion. This Constitution is the standard by which we understand and judge other constitutions, as for example those of states and localities. Indeed, the federal Constitution's rhetorical dominance extends to some degree even to other parts of the world, when foreign citizens look to it for guidance about their own governmental structures.

Date of Authorship for this Version


Included in

Law Commons