More specifically, the people who gathered on a ‘continental’ level to discuss, draft, and formalize documents that would come to constitute the rule of law for the new country [and this was usually between 50 and 100 people] were but a small percentage of the people who lived in the thirteen states. To be sure, each of the thirteen colonies/states supplied more participants for the constitutional forging process, but only a few of the overall total of individuals served as representatives to the national assemblies. Moreover, the discussions which occurred in the states not only took place among a relatively limited number of people, but, as well, many, if not most, of these individuals consisted of lawyers, landowners, rich merchants, and other categories of an elite who presumed that they had the right to form governments which would control the lives of people who were not rich, or who were not landowners, or who were not part of the ‘power elite’ which had begun to form from the earliest days of America.
There were many people among both the power elite and the disenfranchised settlers who were distrustful of government – any kind of government. Indeed, many people came to America for an opportunity to escape the oppressive systems of monarchal governments in Europe, and they were not interested in replacing the old form of monarchy with a new form of monarchy in which some people got to tell others what the latter could and could not do.
Consequently, when one is talking about the championing of states’ rights, different things are understood by this phrase depending on who one is considering. For example, even though Patrick Henry had been invited to attend the Philadelphia sessions where the Articles of Confederation were only supposed to be amended -- but, were instead, thrown out and a new document, called the Constitution, was drawn up through the politicking of such people as Madison and Hamilton -- Patrick Henry declined the invitation because he smelled the rat of a ‘new monarchy’ being established through such proceedings and did not want to be a part of the process, and, Patrick Henry was not alone in his critical rejection of what was transpiring in the different Continental and Constitutional conventions.
Some people view the 1798 confrontation between President Adams and Thomas Jefferson as being about differences over the exact nature of the sort of federalism that would exist in the United States. Would there be a form of federalism in which the central, federal government would have supremacy relative to the powers of the states, or would there be a kind of federalism in which the central, federal government would be constrained by, and subject to, the interests of the respective states?