Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

The Other Founders

Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788–1828

Saul Cornell

Paper: 978-0-8078-4786-2 ($33.95)

Copyright 1999
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title (2000)
  • Cox Book Prize, Society of the Cincinnati (2001)

Fear of centralized authority is deeply rooted in American history. The struggle over the U.S. Constitution in 1788 pitted the Federalists, supporters of a stronger central government, against the Anti-Federalists, the champions of a more localist vision of politics. But, argues Saul Cornell, while the Federalists may have won the battle over ratification, it is the ideas of the Anti-Federalists that continue to define the soul of American politics.

While no Anti-Federalist party emerged after ratification, Anti-Federalism continued to help define the limits of legitimate dissent within the American constitutional tradition for decades. Anti-Federalist ideas also exerted an important influence on Jeffersonianism and Jacksonianism. Exploring the full range of Anti-Federalist thought, Cornell illustrates its continuing relevance in the politics of the early Republic.

A new look at the Anti-Federalists is particularly timely given the recent revival of interest in this once neglected group, notes Cornell. Now widely reprinted, Anti-Federalist writings are increasingly quoted by legal scholars and cited in Supreme Court decisions—clear proof that their authors are now counted among the ranks of America's founders.

About the Author

Saul Cornell is associate professor of history at Ohio State University in Columbus.


A very detailed discussion of the specific ideas of those men who wrote in opposition to the Constitution.... The Anti-Federalists played an important role at a critical stage in nation building. We have not before had as comprehensive a reconstruction of the whole body of their thought and its immediate impact as Cornell gives us in -The Other Founders.

--Joyce O. Appleby

A brilliant and unique book. Its special contribution lies in its explication of the connections between the institutional structures under which late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Americans lived and the political arguments they made in response to efforts to create and then empower the federal government.... Given the context that he so carefully paints, Cornell brings to life in a way no previous historian has done the rhetoric of Anti-Federalists and early nineteenth-century dissenters warning of the destruction of liberty.

--William E. Nelson

An extremely well-researched and well-written work.

--Journal of American Studies

The Other Founders provides a rich guide through the complexities of the original anti-federalist coalition and clearly establishes the foundations and the limits of legitimate dissent in American politics.

--The Historian

Cogently demonstrates the significance of Anti-Federalism to early Republican political thought. This book will become a standard work on the Anti-Federalists and greatly enhances understanding of state's rights thought in the period.


With his insistence on the salience of the problem of the public sphere as a defining issue for antifederalism, Cornell provides us with crucial insights into a particular discursive tradition, a set of political events, and the evolution of democratic politics and culture in the early United States.

--American Quarterly

Most novel and important in Cornell's book is what it shows about the Anti-Federalist contribution to the mainstream of American political thought and practice. . . . The work [Cornell] has done . . . is extraordinary and exhausting. All historians of the early republic are in his debt, and they will henceforth turn to The Other Founders as the essential starting point for work on the specific ideas of those who opposed the federal Constitution.

--Journal of Southern History

The story is by no means simple, but Cornell tells it well in clear and straightforward prose. . . . Perhaps most impressive is Cornell's ability to bring to bear on the topic a broad range of secondary sources, both historical and theoretical, and he is particularly able at applying perspectives from contemporary political thought, including recent work on liberalism and republicanism as well as critical theory, reader response theory, and post-structuralist ideas of intertextuality. The result is rewarding: a book that is both good history and good theory, and a treatment of Anti-Federalist thought that is more historically nuanced and more theoretically sophisticated than any we have had before.

--William and Mary Quarterly

[A] tightly argued volume. . . . Anybody interested in early and modern American politics will enjoy reading this well-written and nuanced study.

--Virginia Quarterly Review

A magisterial work. . . . Anyone wishing to understand the meaning and significance of Anti-Federalist writings will have to consult The Other Founders.

--Rhetoric & Public Affairs

This book is profound, persuasive, and a much-needed taxonomy of Anti-Federalism. . . . The Other Founders notably succeeds in clarifying the importance of dissenting texts in American political culture. This highly readable, comprehensive, and original work deserves to be placed alongside The Federalist Papers on Americans' bookshelves.


Cornell offers an important reminder that published texts and formal legal treaties are not the only ways to recover constitutional ideals. . . . Cornell also heightens our understanding of Anti-Federalism by placing it in social and intellectual context.

--Law and History Review

A fine piece of work. Cornell's research is prodigious, his analysis is judicious, and his thesis is persuasive.

--American Historical Review