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Other delegates, such as Edmund Randolph of Virginia, disapproved of the Constitution because it created a new federal judicial system. Their fear was that the federal courts would be too far away from where those who were tried lived. State courts were located closer to the homes of both plaintiffs and defendants, and it was believed that judges and juries in state courts could better understand the actions of those who appeared before them. In response to these fears, the federal government created federal courts in each of the states as well as in Maine, which was then part of Massachusetts, and Kentucky, which was part of Virginia.

Pauline Maier. 2010. Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution , 1787-1788. New York: Simon&Schuster, 464.

Perhaps the greatest source of dissatisfaction with the Constitution was that it did not guarantee protection of individual liberties. State governments had given jury trials to residents charged with violating the law and allowed their residents to possess weapons for their protection. Some had practiced religious tolerance as well. The Constitution, however, did not contain reassurances that the federal government would do so. Although it provided for habeas corpus and prohibited both a religious test for holding office and granting noble titles, some citizens feared the loss of their traditional rights and the violation of their liberties. This led many of the Constitution’s opponents to call for a bill of rights and the refusal to ratify the document without one. The lack of a bill of rights was especially problematic in Virginia, as the Virginia Declaration of Rights was the most extensive rights-granting document among the states. The promise that a bill of rights would be drafted for the Constitution persuaded delegates in many states to support ratification.

Maier, Ratification , 431.

Thomas jefferson on the bill of rights

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson carried on a lively correspondence regarding the ratification of the Constitution. In the following excerpt (reproduced as written) from a letter dated March 15, 1789, after the Constitution had been ratified by nine states but before it had been approved by all thirteen, Jefferson reiterates his previously expressed concerns that a bill of rights to protect citizens’ freedoms was necessary and should be added to the Constitution:

“In the arguments in favor of a declaration of rights, . . . I am happy to find that on the whole you are a friend to this amendment. The Declaration of rights is like all other human blessings alloyed with some inconveniences, and not accomplishing fully it’s object. But the good in this instance vastly overweighs the evil. . . . This instrument [the Constitution] forms us into one state as to certain objects, and gives us a legislative&executive body for these objects. It should therefore guard us against their abuses of power. . . . Experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights. True. But tho it is not absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious. . . . There is a remarkeable difference between the . . . Inconveniences which attend a Declaration of rights,&those which attend the want of it. . . . The inconveniences of the want of a Declaration are permanent, afflicting&irreparable: they are in constant progression from bad to worse.”
Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, March 15, 1789, https://www.gwu.edu/~ffcp/exhibit/p7/p7_1text.html.

What were some of the inconveniences of not having a bill of rights that Jefferson mentioned? Why did he decide in favor of having one?

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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