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Map of Maryland

On April 28, 1788, the Maryland Legislature, by a vote of 63 to 11, became the seventh state to ratify the new proposed national Constitution.

With the creation of Allegany on December 25, 1789, the number of counties in Maryland increased to nineteen, a number that stayed constant until 1837. In addition, Baltimore and Annapolis were classified as cities.

Maryland had three Legislative bodies. The House of Delegates, which was elected annually in October, had eighty members; four were chosen at large from each county and two from both Baltimore City and Annapolis.

A State Senate of fifteen members was chosen every five years in early September and by an unusual method. An Electoral College of forty members was chosen, consisting of two members from the counties and one each from Baltimore City and Annapolis. The Electoral College then voted to elect nine Senators to represent the Western Counties and six for what was termed the Eastern Shore. There was not much interest in these elections until 1801, when for the first time; they became a political contest between the Federalist and Republican parties.

In addition to the above, a Governor’s Council of five members was elected annually by a joint session of the House of Delegates and State Senate. They assisted the Governor who was also chosen yearly by the Legislature.

Since the House of Delegates and State Senate voted together in electing the Governor, United States Senators and Governor’s Council, a potentially difficult situation could arise, if control of these two bodies was split between both parties. This played out in the election of 1800, when for the first time, Republicans won control of the House of Delegates, but Federalists still controlled the State Senate. As a result, the Federalists were able to elect their Governor, United States Senator and the entire Governor’s Council, even though Republicans had clearly won the state election.

Popular elections were held in Maryland for Congress, Presidential Electors, House of Delegates, State Senator Electors and County Sheriff. After the elections of 1788 and 1792, all Congressmen and Presidential Electors were chosen by districts. In addition, popular elections for city officers were held in Baltimore and Annapolis.

Except for the overwhelming Republican vote from Baltimore City, the parties were over all fairly evenly matched. After losing control of the state in 1801, the Federalists stayed relatively competitive and were able to rebound and capture the House of Delegates in 1808, and again from 1812–1817. Their greatest victory came in 1816 when they elected five out of nine congressmen, all fifteen State Senators, and had a 56 to 24 edge in the House of Delegates.

With their large majorities in the House of Delegates after 1812 and then by winning the State Senate in 1816, the Federalists were able to elect their Governors and Council members from 1812–1818 along with two United States Senators, one in 1813 and another in 1816. For several years they were in complete control of the Maryland Government.

By 1819 the Federalists lost their majority in the House of Delegates and two years later the entire State Senate. Only fourteen Federalists were elected to the House of Delegates in 1823. However, the following year in an unexpected turn of events, Federalists ran candidates in seven of the eight congressional contests, electing three members and losing another by running two candidates, splitting their votes, thus allowing a Republican to win. Voter turnout for this election was the highest ever cast in Maryland. It was perhaps a precursor to the changing political scene that was about to engulf the nation.


Anti-Federalist

The Anti-Federalists were never a political party as is thought of in modern times. It was a coalesced group of voting interests that were united in their opposition to the Constitution.

"The Antifederal objections to the Constitution fall into four categories. First, some attacked it for violations of the Whig theory. Such criticisms came particularly from merchants, lawyers and large landowners who believed in Whig ideology themselves, and represented a sort of right wing, non-agrarian Antifederalism. Second, almost all of the new plan's opponents accused it of excessive centralization: these were the localists. Third, some critics attacked the Constitution as leading toward monarchy or aristocracy rather than democracy: these comprised the left wing. Finally, the agrarians feared that the commerical, creditor, or large propertied interests would benefit at the expense of the farmers." (Jackson T. Main, History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher. p. 153.)

"Strictly speaking, Antifederalism ended with the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, without ever producing a party in any modern sense. During the next few years the term continued as a word of opprobrium, employed by the Federalists to demean whoever opposed the men or policies of the new government. In some states, opposition nearly ceased. In others, however, former Antifederalists remained strong and even gained ground, especially where they had developed a local political organization: they composed a majority or a strong minority in such states as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, and appeared elsewhere for the first time, as in New Jersey. Although they still lacked an inter-state organization and suffered a serious loss of strength during the election of 1788-1789, bitterly fought in certain areas. Presently, in Congress, they supported amendments and opposed various policies of the Federalists. The close relationship between the Anti-Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans may be traced through a continuity both of men and ideas. At least seven-eighths of those known to have opposed the Constitution in 1787-1788 became Republicans." (Main, p. 166)

"Despite the intensity of Anti-Federalist opposition to the Constitution, no Anti-Constitution party emerged after ratification. With the demise of the second-convention movement, Anti-Federalists turned their attention to seeking office under the new government. Federalist efforts to discredit Anti-Federalists turned their attention to seeking office under the new government. Federalist efforts to discredit Anti-Federalists only diminshed the likelihood of a distinctive Anti-Federalist party's emerging. Instead, Anti-Federalists set about becoming a loyal opposition. A number of other factors facilitated this transformation. The rapid adoption of the Bill of Rights, even if it failed to satisfy many Anti-Federalists, deprived them of an important rallying point. Reverence for the principles of constitutionalism and a belief that, when properly amended, the new frame of government would effectively protect liberty further weakened the chances of an Anti-Federal's party forming. The respect accorded George Washington, the new president, also worked against continued opposition. When coupled with renewed econimic prosperity, all of those factors helped promote the formal demise of Anti-Federalism. Yet, though Anti-Federalism did not generate an Anti-Constitution party, the term 'Anti-Federalist,' the various texts produced by the Anti-Federalists during ratification, and the alternative constitutional discourses that shaped Anti-Federalism did not simply disappear. The emergence of a court faction among Federalists caused many former supporters of the Constitution to rehtink the original Anti-Federalist critique. The efforts of former Federalists, most notable James Madison, and former Anti-Federalists, such as William Findley, were crucial to the creation of a Democratic-Republican opposition. That loyal opposition drew important ideas and rhetorical themes from Anti-Federalism and adapted them to the exigencies of political conflict in the 1790s." (p. 170-171)

Additional Sources:

  • History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher.
  • The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America, 1788-1828. Saul Cornell. Chapel Hill, 1999, University of North Carolina Press.

House of Delegates

House of Delegates: the lower house of the General Assembly in Maryland and Virginia. Please also see House of Representatives.

Oxford English Dictionary

1787 - 1825: Maryland, Virginia

Office Scope: State

Role Scope: County / City / Borough