The Federalists and Antifederalists Debates During the 1780s and 1790s

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The Federalists and Antifederalists Debates during the 1780s and 1790s

The American Government has come along way since the American Revolution. The Revolutionary War spawned from America's determination to break free from the British Empire and its monarchy and develop a more democratic form of government. During the revolution, America was looking for a more decentralized form of power and ratified The Articles of Confederation, which divided the majority of the power between the states. The Articles of Confederation had been essential for getting the country through war, but after the war ended, it became apparent that its limitations of governing would be insufficient for leading this developing nation. The Constitutional Convention was developed in 1787 and was left with the responsibility of ratifying a new constitution that would best fit the new country. Controversies over the constitution ultimately caused a separation between the public. This separation resulted in the country's first political parties, the Federalists and the Antifederalists. The two groups engaged in numerous debates concerning the ratification of the Constitution as well as the Alien and Sedition Acts. Each argued for what they felt was in the best interest of the country and each had clear and legitimate reasons backing their opinions.

During the debates over ratification of the new constitution, each party's stance was clear. The Federalists preferred a strong central government, while the Antifederalists favored a more decentralized form of government. The Federalists believed that a strong centralized government was needed to insure the liberty and security of the people. They felt that the separation of power between the states was too unstable to run the country properly. With the many different conflicts that would arise from such a large division of power, the public's best interest would be overlooked. They also felt that it was the unity of the public's interest, a common spirit of America that got them through the war, not the individual state governments. And with the country at peace, it was that unity that the Federalists wanted to harness into a central form of Democracy (Retrieving the American Past, P. 137). The Federalists thought that only a centralized government could insure the liberty and the interests of the people because of its ability to protect the people from faction along with other violations of the rules of society (Retrieving the American Past, P. 137). If the present form of government goes unchanged, they figured the people already in power would use it to their advantage. James Madison explains it best by introducing a number of factions and describing the ways they can be eliminated. He starts by saying, "there are two methods of removing the causes of faction; one, by destroying liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions and the same interests" (Retrieving the American Past, P. 138). This shows that it is human nature for factions to occur. People will always have different opinions and try to do what is in their best interest. Without changing to a more centralized power only the interests of those with high status will be recognized. He then goes on to say, "the most common and durable sources of faction has been the unequal distribution of land. Those with land and those without, creditors and debaters have each formed separate interests in society. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government" (Retrieving the American Past, P. 139). With this statement he is stating that a centralized government is necessary for taking everyone's interest into account so that no minority group's liberty is jeopardized. Although the federalists believe...
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