Why Did the Antifederalists Want a Bill of Rights?

The Antifederalists wanted a Bill of Rights to prevent the federal government from becoming too powerful, eventually robbing the citizens of their individual rights and making them no better off than they had been under England’s rule. The Antifederalists feared a large federal government that had the potential of becoming tyrannical.

From the beginning, the Antifederalists thought the Constitution favored a central government too heavily. They felt the state governments, and even individual citizens, lost too much power through its wording. Similarly, they felt the federal judicial system was much too strong. They did not agree that the balance of power provided for by the Constitution prevented one branch from becoming too powerful. They feared that Congress and the court system were too far removed from the people of the nation and that the voice of the people was not likely to be heard or heeded. Antifederalists, therefore, wanted a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution that preserved certain liberties of the common people. Even after the Constitution was ratified, they successfully kept their arguments in the forefront, pushing for the first ten amendments to be added to the document. The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, only two years after the Constitution went into effect.