About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Anti-Federalists and the Bill of Rights

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s program, which explores the topic of “Anti-Federalists and the Bill of Rights.”

Our program is part two of a two-part discussion. Part one, called “Slavery and the Constitution,” aired on October 21 and is available on the National Archives YouTube channel.

I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up in January on YouTube.

On Thursday, January 6, at 1 p.m., award-winning historian and biographer Kate Clifford Larson will tell us about her new book, Walk with Me, a biography of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer.

And on Wednesday, January 12, at 1 p.m., author Warren Eugene Milteer, Jr., will discuss his book Beyond Slavery’s Shadow, which broadens our understanding of life for free people of color in the South.

* * *

On this Bill of Rights Day, which commemorates the date in 1791 when the first 10 amendments to our Constitution were ratified, the National Archives is pleased to present this discussion about the origins of and debates over the Bill of Rights.

Our look at “Anti-Federalists and the Bill of Rights” includes clips from a new documentary series called Confounding Father: A Contrarian View of the U.S. Constitution. This series combines historical film clips with commentary from constitutional scholars who discuss the 1787 debates, compromises, and present-day controversies around the creation of the U.S. Constitution. One chapter tells the story of how pressure from opponents of the Constitution eventually led to the passage of our cherished first 10 amendments.

Confounding Father uses documents and film clips from the National Archives—and, of course, the original Joint Resolution for the Bill of Rights is in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC.

Five days before the Convention ended, Virginia delegate George Mason proposed a Bill of Rights be added to the new plan for a national government, but the motion lost, 0 to 10. The truth is—most framers of the U.S. Constitution opposed a Bill of Rights.

Who were the Anti-Federalists? Why did they oppose ratification of the Constitution? How did their opposition lead to a Bill of Rights? And why were many of them very disappointed with the first 10 amendments?

These are the questions our panel intends to explore as we mark Bill of Rights Day.

* * *

And now it is my honor to welcome our distinguished panel.

Our moderator, Richard Hall, recently retired after a 30-year career with C-SPAN and is the director and co-producer of the four-part series, Confounding Father: A Contrarian View of the U.S. Constitution.

Joining him today are panelists:

Mary Sarah Bilder, Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School whose latest book is Female Genius: George Washington and Eliza Harriot at the Dawn of the Constitution;


Woody Holton, McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, and author of Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution.

Now let’s hear from our panel. Thank you for joining us today.