The Authorship of the Letter from the federal Farmers, Revisited.
The debates over ratification of the United States Constitution stimulated the number of pamphlets by proponents and opponents of the new frame of government.
Of the Antifederalist pamphlets, two were of special importance because of their extensive distributions and widespread readership. The work of an author who employed the pseudonym "Federal Farmer". The use of pseudonyms was a common practice in political publications of that day and the task of matching authors with their pseudonyms is something of a cottage industry among historians. But the identity of Federal Farmer did not, it seemed, present a problem. .
In 1974, Gordon Wood disputed the attribution presented in the two Courant letters, though he did not suggest who the author of the letters may actually have been, assuming that Lee was not. Two scholars, Walter H. Bennett and Steven R. Boyd, took exception to Wood's argument. Robert H. Webking recently took the next step toward resolving the controversy when he suggested, in an article in the William and Mary Quarterly, that Melancton Smith, a New York Antifederalist, was the author of the letters. Webking makes a careful analysis in which he compares the Farmer's letter with speeches that smith delivered at the New York ratifying convention Poughkeepsie in June 1788.Webking's analysis is needed valuable, but he neglected to address arguments of those who support Lee's authorship of the Letter from the Federal Farmer.
Wood's argument have been criticized by Walter Bennett and Steven R. Boyd. Bennett, editor of a resent edition of the Farmers Letter, did agree that the evidence supporting Lee's authorship of the letter "hardly seemed sufficient to justified continuing this attribution." But, he believed there was a number of weaknesses in Wood's arguments. He argued that the views toward the Constitution shared by Lee and Farmer were "strictly similar".