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Not an AntiFederalist

In response to:

The Enlarged Republic—Then and Now from the March 26, 2009 issue

To the Editors:

In Cass Sunstein’s article “The Enlarged Republic—Then and Now” [NYR, March 26], he writes: “The ranks of the antifederalists included some of the most celebrated names in the nation’s history, such as Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, George Mason, George Clinton, and Luther Martin.” However, Sunstein is mistaken. Paine was no antifederalist. FromCommon Sense (1776) to his “Letter to the Citizens of the United States” (November 22, 1802), Paine argued for a strong national government. As he wrote in the “Letter,” in response to attacks from the Federalist Party: “If by Federalist is to be understood one who was for cementing the Union by a general government operating over all the States I ought to stand first on the list of Federalists, for the proposition for establishing a general government over the Union, came originally from me.” At the same time, what distinguishes him from the likes of Hamilton et al. is that Paine was a radical-democrat.

Harvey J. Kaye
Professor of History
University of Wisconsin–Green Bay
Green Bay, Wisconsin

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