New Book Reveals the Forgotten History, Wisdom, and Timely Relevance of the Anti-Federalists and their Struggle for Liberty: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
October 18, 2016

New Book Reveals the Forgotten History, Wisdom, and Timely Relevance of the Anti-Federalists and their Struggle for Liberty
How Early Critics of the U.S. Constitution Offer Hope for Today’s America

OAKLAND, CA (October 18, 2016)—America’s government bureaucracies, ominous national debt, and perceptions that the system is “rigged” seem to grow regardless of who gets elected to office. Could these problems have arisen and worsened not despite our much-praised governing institutions, but rather because of them?

Some of the greatest patriots of the Founding Era—men like Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson—would have thought so.

In the 1770s and 1780s, the Anti-Federalists (so-called because they opposed the Federalist Party and its vision of a “strong” national government) even predicted such problems would arise because of design flaws inherent in the U.S. Constitution itself, as attorney and historian William J. Watkins, Jr., explains in his new book, Crossroads for Liberty: Recovering the Anti-Federalist Values of America’s First Constitution (Independent Institute, 2016).

Rather than embrace the new Constitution crafted in 1787, during the Philadelphia Convention, the Anti-Federalists pushed to amend the imperfect Articles of Confederation, not end it. Fearful that the Constitution would weaken political representation and liberties for ordinary citizens, some Anti-Federalists then urged the adoption of the Bill of Rights—although other Anti-Federalists worried that even if amended, the Constitution opened the door to a power-hungry central government.

Crossroads for Liberty offers a fresh perspective on a misunderstood turning point in American history. More than this, it celebrates the achievements of the Articles of Confederation (including its role in winning the American Revolution) and then reveals the worldly wisdom of the Anti-Federalists. Those patriots, Watkins explains, furnished the nation scores of concrete proposals that, more than two centuries later, offer the best hope for curing today’s political malaise and reviving the seeds planted by the Declaration of Independence.

“Their principles can guide us back to stability and limited government,” Watkins writes. “Let us open our ears and hear what they have to say.”

For author interviews or review copies (media only), contact Rob Ade, Communications Manager at Independent Institute, at [email protected]. Independent Institute promotes the power of independent thinking boldly to advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit

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