Studies in American Political Development

“It is Natural to Care for the Crazy Machine”: 1 The Antifederalists' Post-Ratification Acquiescence

a1 Wellesley College


The classical problem of any opposition . . . is how much to oppose and by what means. 2

Adam Przeworski

Even if members of an opposition group could be entirely uniform in their beliefs and goals, there are myriad strategic choices to be made by those out of power. Leaders must decide whether to concentrate on a few agenda items or press for wholesale change. They must determine the pitch of their opposition, choosing conciliatio n or adamancy. Tactics and arguments require formulation and reformulation, offering a kaleidoscope of possibilities but also peril. Opposition groups in particular need to evolve – not an easy task – for their previous attempts at winning hea rts and minds proved unsuccessful. The clearest political analyses focus on who won: elections, policy battles, and revolutions. Unfortunately, clarity is frequently bought at a high price: a lack of nuanced attention to the positions and strategies of op position leaders and groups. Their choices matter.


1 Patrick Henry to James Monroe, letter, January 24, 1791, in William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York: Charles Scri bner's Sons, 1891), 2:460.

2 Przeworski quoted in Issues in Democratic Consolidation: The New South American Democracies in Comparative Perspective, e d. Scott Mainwaring, Guillermo O'Donnell and J. Samuel Valenzuela (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 124.