State House Yard Speech on the Constitution

Essay by candygrl016High School, 11th grade May 2003

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James Wilson's State House Yard Speech on the Constitution was possibly one of the most influential and significant documents in the debate over the ratification of the Constitution. The speech took place on October 6th, 1787, during the Philadelphia Assembly, less than a month after the Constitution was signed. It was intended to nominate delegates to the next Pennsylvania Legislature, but instead, turned into a debate on the ratification of the Constitution. Wilson, who was a delegate in the Federal Convention, was asked to speak to the people to explain the Constitution and answer to some of the criticisms that had been made.

Wilson, a Federalist, and a firm believer in the validity of the Constitution, made his speech in response to the disapproval to the signing of the Constitution, on September 17, of the same year. People were afraid that a centralized government would be insensitive to local affairs, and too oppressive, just like Britain was insensitive to the United States when it was still the dominating country.

Many anti-Federalists also thought that the wealthy families would control the new government, and there would be unfair representation of the common working people, and that everyday liberties would be revoked, including those of trial by jury, and freedom of the press. A lot of people were also worried that the Constitution was perhaps even dangerous, because it allowed for an army to be in place, even in times of peace.

The day before Wilson made his speech, anti-Federalist Samuel Bryan published an essay in the Independent Gazetteer, a Philadelphian newspaper. The essay attacked the power of the central government, the severity of state authority, and the absence of a bill of rights, which should have guaranteed individual liberties like freedom of speech and freedom of religion...