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What the Anti-Federalists and the Federalist Have to Say”

By jiggyjus15 Nov 18, 2010 1348 Words
Forming this new country was a tough process. There were several different ideas. After realizing that the country was too weak under the Articles of Confederation. In result, there came a new idea; which was to ratify the Constitution. The procedures for ratifying the new Constitution were as controversial as its contents. This is where the fight to ratify the constitution began. The Anti-Federalists had many central arguments against the adoption of the Constitution. The proponents, the Federalist proposed a better argument for defending the ratification of the new Constitution which caused them to prevail.

The Anti-Federalist were those men who opposed the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. The Federalists were those who favored a strong national government and supported the ratification of the constitution proposed at the American constitutional Convention of 1787. The Federalist supported a federal union- a loose, decentralized system. The Second Continental Congress declared that they need 9 out of the 13 colonies to pass the new Constitution. The Federalists proposed a better argument for defending the ratification of the constitution. On the other hand, the Anti-Federalists feel that the new Constitution will hurt the state governments.

The Federalists consisted of leaders such as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington. They were property owners, creditors, and merchants. They believed that elites were the most fit to govern; feared “excessive democracy.” (Ginseberg, Lowi, and Weir 60). They favored a strong national government; believed in “filtration” so that only elites would obtain governmental power.

The Federalists response was that a heterogeneous republic will be better at protecting liberty rather than a small homogeneous republic. They also argued that only a large republic can prevent majority tyranny. Majority tyranny is prevented by increasing the number of interests (factions) in society. (Ginseberg, Lowi, and Weir 63.) They also believed in constructing institutions with teeth in them. This is called separation of powers and federalism.

Anti-Federalists leaders consist of Patrick Henry, George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, George Clinton. They were usually small farmers, frontiersman, debtors, shopkeepers. They believed that government should be closer to the people; feared concentration of power in hands of the elites. Anti-Federalist believed that a strong central government might suppress the liberties of the people. They favored retention of power by state governments and protection of individual rights.

During the ratification struggle several essays, speeches, pamphlets, and letters were presented in support of and opposition to the proposed constitution. The federalist papers defended the principles of the Constitution and sought to dispel fears of national authority. The Anit-federalist published essays arguing that the new constitution betrayed the Revolution, and was a step toward monarchy.

The Federalist were better organized opponents rather than the Anti-Federalists. They appealed to basic principles of government in support of their national vision. Anti-Federalist were in the support of their vision of a looser confederacy.

The main concern for the two sides was representation. The contention between the two was the question of representation. The two sides fought over representation. The Anti-Federalist asserted that representatives must be “a true picture of the people...{processing} the knowledge of their circumstances and their wants. The Anti-federalist believed that they could only be achieved in a small, relatively homogeneous republics such as the existing states. (Ginseberg, Lowi, and Weir 61) In the Anti-Federalist point of view, the size and extent of the entire nation precluded the construction of a truly representative form of government.

According to “Federalist No. 10”, Madison contributed the idea of political thought. He explained thoughtfully that republican governments were suited only to cities or small states. He also said that larger states would better protect republican liberty. Madison wrote it was “sown in the nature of man” that individuals would seek power and form factions to advance their interest. (Madison, Federalist Papers No. 10)

Federalists, strongly opposed that idea of the Ant-Federalists. The Federalist saw no reason that representatives should be precisely like those they represented. They federalists viewed the great advantages of representative government over direct democracy was precisely the possibility that the people wold choose as their representatives possessing ability, experience, and talent superior to their own. Madison had a strong belief that representatives must be “those who posses the most wisdom to discern, and the most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society.”

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” (Madison, Federalist Papers No. 51)
The tyranny of the majority was another big issue among the two groups. Tyranny,-and unjust rule by the group in power. Each side both feared tyrannical rule. The Anti-Federalists perspective was that the great danger was the tendency of all governments -including republican governments to become gradually more and more aristocratic in character. Whereas the smaller number of individuals in positions of authority would use their stations to gain more power. Basically the few would use their power to tyrannize the many. This is why the Anti-Federalists were so sharply critical of the features of the Constitution that separated the governmental institutions from direct responsibility to the people. Institutions such as the Senate, the executive, and the judiciary.

The Federalist believed that the danger particularly associated with the republican government was aristocracy but instead majority tyranny. Their concern was that a popular majority united by a common interest would endeavor to trample the rules of justice. The third major difference between the two groups were governmental power. They both believed in limited government, a government whose powers are defined and limited by a constitution. They differed on how to place those limits. The Anti-federalists favored limiting the powers granted to the national government in relation both to the states and to the people. They felt that the powers give to the national government should be confined to certain defined national objects. They felt if this didn't happen the national government would destroy, and hinder the power of the state government. The Anti-federalists also saw to it that a Bill of Rights to be added to the constitution to place limits on the government’s exercise of power over the citizenry. On the other hand, the Federalist favored a government that was constructed with broad powers. They were interested in a government that was able to fight against foes, guard against domestic strife, promote commerce, and expand the nations economy. The Anti-federalist believed some of this but just highly feared governmental power. The Federalist made a very important point. They stated that in order for the government to carry out these orders, they needed the necessary power to do so. They felt that the right way of controlling power abuse was not by depriving the government of power, but knowing that the governments power would be oversee by the Constitutions checks and controls. “The power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among the distinct and separate departments. Hence, a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” (Madison, The Federalist Papers No. 51) The Federalists opposed the Bill of Rights, which they saw as nothing more than a set of unnecessary restrictions on the government. The final product of the Constitutional Convention showed that the Federalist have prevailed. With strong criticism from the anti-federalist the federalist were forced to adopt the Bill of Rights into the Constitution. This new federal system has now replaced the Articles of Confederation. Despite the powerful government, the checks and balances has prevented the national government from tyrannizing. The Federalist had a better argument than the Anti-federalist, and provided a method that could be fixed with ideas from the federalist that the Anti-Federalist attacked. The Federalist strong arguments is what allowed them to win the fight over the ratification of the Constitution.

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