What Were the Five Issues Involved in the Ratification Debate?

The ratification debate involved the following five issues: centralization of power, the powers granted to the executive branch, the Bill of Rights, the issue of slavery and whether the formation of the constitution was legal. The ratification of the United States Constitution triggered lively debates between Federalists and Anti-Federalists.

The ratification debate took place between 1787 and 1788. Most people who contributed to this debate questioned the legality of the Constitution and termed its production as an illegal act. Anti-Federalists were of the view that the men who had been tasked with assembling this document had acted outside the powers accorded to them, which was to amend and improve the Articles of Confederation. On the other hand, Federalists insisted that the Articles be abolished rather than amended.

Another key issue in the ratification debate was the centralization of power. Anti-Federalists were against the new Constitution centralizing the power of the federal government. The Articles of Confederation respected state sovereignty, and the national government had to make requests to state governments when it came to crucial matters. Federalists argued that centralization was needed to help the government respond adequately to any challenges the nation faced.

Anti-Federalists were also against the powers that were granted to the executive, which never existed in the Articles of Confederation. They argued that the president would be too powerful because of the veto power granted to him and his role as commander-in-chief. On the other hand, Federalists claimed that the checks and balances that were inherent in the three branches of government would not allow the president to misuse his power.

The issue of slavery was also debated. Slaveholders demanded that each slave be regarded as one whole person, granting slave states electoral powers that exceeded the population of actual voters. The makers of the Constitution had to compromise, for election purposes, and give recognition to each slave as three-fifths of a person. Those who opposed slavery did not, however, agree with this compromise.

The Anti-Federalists pointed out that the constitution did not provide the rights that were to be retained by states. The Federalists noted this and agreed to attach the Bill of Rights to the Constitution after ratification.