Nathaniel Macon was an Antifederalist who had some very strong, unwavering opinions about how the government should and should not be run. Macon was well respected in his party, as he had some of the most extreme, yet most solidified views that he was not afraid to share. Macon believed that a weak central government was necessary for the individual citizens of the united states to be represented the way that they deserved. Though the central government would be weak, the state governments would make sure that every voice was heard, and that there was no corruption in the government. The central government that James Madison was promoting at the time was unfavorable to Macon, as this system would allow the richer citizen of the United States to become authoritative, and may even turn into tyrannical powers. Macon was an influential being, as he served in the Senate, and as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Although Macon’s ideals were not favorable at the time, many people were interested in hearing what he had to say, and Macon continued to be an influence in political functions throughout his life. Through quotes and stories from Macon’s time, our author, William S. Price JR., exemplifies the ideals that Macon stood for. Price uses a topical approach to this document to introduce the reader to Nathaniel Macon, and support Macon’s ideas of Antifederalism. The main argument of this piece was to provide the reader with information on one of the most influential Antifederalists of the time, and explain why Macon’s ideas were not so far off.
From the third person point of view, Price gives the reader a strong feeling of who Macon was, why he was important, and why his ideas were interesting to everyone around him. Price also provides the audience with a strong sense of who was around Macon at the time, that influenced Macon’s ideas, and helped formulate them. Men such as Andrew Jackson inspired Macon through Jackson’s presidency. Martin Van Buren helped shape Macon’s beliefs, and stances on certain topics. Throughout the document we hear much of the connection that Van Buren and Macon had, and how they played off of one another. We also hear slightly of Macon’s brothers, and how they supported his ideas. These three men may have been what gave Macon his confidence to speak so strongly against the Constitution. We also hear of some of Thomas Jefferson’s input and how that shaped Macon’s beliefs, for better or worse. On the other hand, Price gives us the insight of James Madison, who fought Macon’s ideas as one of the most respected Federalist minds that the country had seen. We are missing much of the other Federalists in this article: John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, et. al. Also, Price did not talk much about the benefits of the Constitution at the time, and why it was important and necessary. There was not much reason to talk highly of the Constitution for Price, but it may have strengthened his argument.
Our two class sources were from a short video where Gordon Wood explains the Antifederalist mentality, and why it was necessary to shape the United States, and an interview from American History Magazine where Carol Berkin denies the arguments of the Antifederalists quite swiftly. Gordon Wood spoke passionately of how a strong central government promotes the elitist culture, just as Macon was worried about. Wood accentuates this argument by explaining to the viewer that the congressmen who were elected would make the decisions, and not the people. Congressmen would be people who have graduated college, who believed that education was important to make decisions for the government. The Constitution, Wood explained, was an aristocrats document. Macon and Wood are essentially arguing the same point: a strong central government would take away the rights of the citizens, leave all of the decision making to the educated congressmen, and that a distant government may be abusive to citizens. In the interview with Carol Berkin, she shoots this idea down very swiftly. When asked why Antifederalists wanted a Bill of Rights, Berkin provides insight on their mindset by explaining what it meant to be an Antifederalist. Someone who wanted to defeat the Constitution, and rely on state governments was an Antifederalist. Macon believed that state governments were beneficial to provide the citizens with the rights that they deserved, but Berkin explains that in the Constitution, there is nothing denying the states those rights. In fact, the Constitution was purposefully written without a Bill of Rights because many states already had their own declarations of rights, so James Madison and Gouverneur Morris did not see the Bill of Rights as a necessity. This would have allowed for the states to keep their own rights, but there were a few states who would not ratify the Constitution without a Bill of Rights.
In class, we discussed some question about Macon and his views. We were asked what the causes of political corruption were to Macon. We answered with a central power that was too concentrated promoted aristocracy inconjunction to the banks in America. These banks would have been made for the nobles and promote wealthy class citizens. We were also asked what the dangers of having a wealthy and privileged society were. We answered that the wealthy promoted hypocrisy, and they were infringing on individual rights. Also that the wealthy would promote certain businesses and religions, which would be against the ideas the Macon had expressed. Power, to Macon, was aggressive. Liberty was passive. We also discussed why wealthy would bring about corruption in the states. Some officials would become selfish and pay their friends to do jobs or grant their businesses the jobs that other people should be doing. This came about on the topic of roads and how people in the 1700s questioned the need for them.
Finally, we are left wondering: why, if Macon was so well respected, were his ideas not expressed more throughout the writing of the constitution? Why did he not have more influence in congress if he was the Speaker of the House? Why did Macon approve of Jefferson’s ideas, and then turn his back after Jefferson had died? Why had I never heard about Macon before today if he was so influential?
To conclude, Nathaniel Macon was one of the most influential Antifederalists of his time. He opposed a strong central government, promoted the rights of the individual, and criticized a aristocratic society. Macon was an interesting political figure in the United States in his time, I just wish I had heard of him before.