Views of the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists on the Interpretation of the Constitution

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The period from 1783 to 1788 was a critical time for the United States, during which the American people debated and ultimately accepted the Constitution. Because of its size, wealth, and influence and because it was the first state to call a ratifying convention, Federalist-dominated Pennsylvania was the center of national attention. The positions of the Federalists, those who encouraged the Constitution, and the anti-Federalists, those who resisted it, were stated in newspapers all over the country. Federalists, who most of them gained their livelihoods as merchants, shopkeepers, professionals, artisans, and commercial farmers, desired a government that would foster the growth of a market economy and facilitate trade with other countries. They also believed that society benefited when people pursued individual goals. Federalist James Madison claimed that the Constitution would be beneficial because a large republic contained more safeguards than a small one, but Anti-Federalists disagreed with that, because they favored small republics and because they feared the actions of men who would likely dominate the central government. Anti-Federalists, who were small farmers, many of them debtors, wanted nothing to do with this Constitution. They believed that the power should remain in the states. They argued that a republic must be geographically small with a homogeneous population in order to meet the needs of its people. Anti-Federalists also thought that the Constitution lacked adequate protection against corruption and abuse of power. The way Anti-Federalists saw the fate of the states was that the general government outlined in the proposed Constitution would swallow up the states, reducing them to administrative districts at best, and thus destroying the people's liberties and right of self-government. The Federalists, citing the history of government under the Confederation, insisted that the possibility was that the states would continue to infringe on the...
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