Melancton Smith Hates On The Constitution

Melancton Smith Hates On The Constitution

Melancton Smith was one of the most outspoken Anti-Federalists during the Constitutional Ratification Debates.

Smith was almost able to prevent New York from ratifying, then certain events led to him swaying the vote in the opposite direction.

Melancton Smith

In the days following the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Melancton Smith became radicalized.

An Upstate New York merchant, Smith already had sympathy with for the rebels when he was elected to the Provincial Congress. In this station, he helped lead the colony into revolution.

Simultaneously, Smith began organizing the men of his community into the Dutchess County Rangers, which became a line of the Continental Army.


Smith served as Sheriff of Dutchess County during the Revolutionary War.

With this position, he became part of the commission which attempted to root out Loyalist sympathy in the area. This was important because of the county’s close proximity to British held New York City.

Melancton was responsible for such things as arresting Loyalists, confiscating property and administering oaths of allegiance.


After the war, Smith spent two years as a delegate to the Continental Congress.

When talk of changes to the Articles of Confederation began, Melancton would have none of it. Naturally, when the Constitutional Ratification Debates commenced, he became one of the most outspoken Anti-Federalists.

Several of the most important Anti-Federalist Papers were written under the pseudonyms ‘Brutus’ and ‘Federal Farmer.’ While these essays are thought to have been written by Robert Yates and Richard Henry Lee, respectively, recent historical research seems to have found Melancton Smith’s fingerprints (or should we say handwriting) all over them.

While Smith may not have been the principle author of these papers, he was certainly corresponding with these men and his ideas are prevalent throughout.

A Change of Heart

As a delegate to the New York Ratification Convention, and leader of the Anti-Federalists, Melancton Smith made a decision which resonates with us today.

He changed his mind.

After New Hampshire’s approval gave the Constitution the necessary nine States needed to begin the new Government, and the largest State of Virginia also joined the Union, Smith received a letter from his friend Nathan Dane.

Dane, another Anti-Federalist, saw the writing on the wall. It was too late; the deed had been done. If New York did not join the Union, it would only lead to violence and chaos between them and the United States.

Heeding his friend’s advice, Smith threw in the towel. He stood on the floor of the Convention and announced to New York he would vote for the Constitution he fought so hard against. This import decision brought New York into the Union without a fight, making the beginning of the nation significantly easier on everyone.

To learn about other Anti-Federalists, check out our articles on Philip Pellham and George Mason.

To read more contemporary arguments against the Constitution, you might want to pick up a copy of ‘The Anti-Federalist Writings’ from our Amazon affiliate below. These contain many of the Anti-Federalist Papers as well as some of Smith’s most important speeches.

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