Federalists and Anti-Federalists Infor and contrasts
Federalism in the United States
Federalism in the United States is the evolving relationship between U.S. state governments and the federal government of the United States. Since the founding of the country, power has usually shifted away from the states and towards the national government.
The first Federalist movement was distinguished by a belief that the national government under the Articles of Confederation was too weak, and that a stronger federal government was needed. The underlying objectives of the Federalists were to extend protectionist barriers, guarantee the recovery of debts, and collect taxes. Also, they believed in sustaining a military capable of enforcing internal colonization and slavery, as well as suppressing protest within a society of "different and unequal distribution of property."
The movement was greatly strengthened by the reaction to Shays' Rebellion of 1786–1787, which was an armed uprising of yeoman farmers in western Massachusetts. The rebellion was fueled by a poor economy that was created, in part, by the inability of the federal government to deal effectively with the debt from the American Revolution. Moreover, the federal government had proven incapable of raising an army to quell the rebellion, so that Massachusetts had been forced to raise an army of mercenaries.
In 1787, with Shays' Rebellion highlighting several deficiencies in the government under the Articles of Confederation, the Federalist push for a convention to propose amendments to the Articles was successful. This convention almost immediately dropped its original mandate and instead set about constructing a new Constitution of the United States. Once the convention concluded and released the Constitution for public consumption, the Federalist movement became focused on getting the Constitution ratified.
The most forceful defense of the new Constitution was The Federalist Papers, a compilation of 85 essays written in New York City to convince the people of the State of New York to vote for ratification. These articles, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, examined the defects of the Articles of Confederation and the benefits of the new, proposed Constitution, and analyzed the political theory and function behind the various articles of the Constitution. The Federalist Papers remains one of the most important documents in American political science.
Those opposed to the new Constitution became known as the "Anti-Federalists". They generally were local rather than cosmopolitan in perspective, oriented to farming rather than commerce, and were happy enough with the status quo. However, the Anti-Federalists also included luminaries such as George Mason. The Anti-Federalists had doubts about the new proposal, especially about the absence of a Bill of Rights and the potential for an elected monarchy.
Because George Washington lent his prestige to the Constitution and because of the ingenuity and organizational skills of its proponents, the Constitution was ratified by enough states to become operative on June 21, 1788. The outgoing government under the Articles of Confederation scheduled elections for the new government, and set March 4, 1789 as the date that the new government would take power. However, the Anti-Federalists cause was not totally fought in vain. During the ratification debates, they had secured a promise that the new government would submit a set of amendments to the states, incorporating a Bill of Rights into the Constitution. This promise, known as the "Massachusetts compromise", was made good on September 25, 1789, when Congress submitted twelve articles of amendment to the states. Ten of these articles achieved passage on December 15, 1791 and are what we now know as the Bill of Rights.
With the passage of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the first Federalist movement and the Anti-Federalist movement were exhausted, so they dispersed. A new movement took on the name of "Federalism", and, like its predecessor, it generated an opposition movement, this time called "Republicanism".
Federalist Party (United States)
As soon as the first Federalist movement dissipated, a second one sprang up to take its place. This movement was based on the policies of Alexander Hamilton and his allies for a stronger national government, a loose construction of the Constitution, and a mercantile (rather than agricultural) economy. As time progressed, the factions which adhered to these policies organized themselves into the nation's first political party, the Federalist Party, and the movement's focus and fortunes began to track those of the party it spawned. The movement reached its zenith with the election of an overtly Federalist President, John Adams; however, with the defeat of Adams in the election of 1800 and the death of Hamilton in a duel with Aaron Burr, the Federalist Party began a long decline from which it never recovered.
While the Federalist movement of the 1780s and the Federalist Party were distinct entities, they were related in more than just a common name. The Republican Party, the opposition to the Federalist Party, emphasized the fear that a strong national government was a threat to the liberties of the people. They stressed that the national debt created by the new government would bankrupt the country, and that federal bondholders were paid from taxes paid by honest farmers and workingmen. These themes resonated with the Anti-Federalists, the opposition to the Federalist movement of the 1780s. As Norman Risjord has documented for Virginia, of the supporters of the Constitution in 1788, 69% joined the Federalist party, while nearly all (94%) of the opponents joined the Republicans. 71% of Jefferson's supporters in Virginia were former anti-federalists who continued to fear centralized government, while only 29% had been proponents of the Constitution a few years before. In short, nearly all of the opponents of the Federalist movement became opponents of the Federalist Party.
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison were the most vocal supporters of Federalism.
Anti-Federalism was the name given to two distinct counter-movements in the late 18th Century American politics:
The first Anti-Federalist movement of the 1780s opposed the creation of a stronger national government under the Constitution and sought to leave the government under the Articles of Confederation intact.
The second Anti-Federalist movement formed in reaction to Alexander Hamilton's aggressive fiscal policies of George Washington's first administration. This movement is sometimes called the Anti-Administration "Party", and it would coalesce into one of the nation's first two true political parties, the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
1 Anti-Federalism of the 1780s
2 Anti-Federalism in the Early 19th century
Anti-Federalism of the 1780s
The Federalist movement of the 1780s was motivated by the proposition that the national government under the Articles of Confederation was too weak, and needed to be amended or replaced. Eventually, they managed to get the national government to sanction a convention to amend the Articles. Opposition to its ratification immediately appeared when the convention concluded and published the proposed Constitution.
The opposition was composed of diverse elements, including those opposed to the Constitution because they thought that a stronger government threatened the sovereignty and prestige of the states, localities, or individuals; those that fancied a new centralized, disguised "monarchic" power that would only replace the cast-off despotism of Great Britain with the proposed government; and those who simply feared that the new government threatened their personal liberties. Some of the opposition believed that the central government under the Articles of Confederation was sufficient. Still others believed that while the national government under the Articles was too weak, the national government under the Constitution would be too strong.
During the period of debate over the ratification of the Constitution, numerous independent local speeches and articles were published all across the country. Initially, many of the articles in opposition were written under pseudonyms, such as "Brutus", "Centinel", and "Federal Farmer". Eventually, famous revolutionary figures such as Patrick Henry came out publicly against the Constitution. They argued that the strong national government proposed by the Federalists was a threat to the rights of individuals and that the President would become a king. They objected to the federal court system created by the proposed constitution. This produced a phenomenal body of political writing; the best and most influential of these articles and speeches were gathered by historians into a collection known as the Anti-Federalist Papers in allusion to the Federalist Papers.
In every state the opposition to the Constitution was strong, and in two states — North Carolina and Rhode Island — it prevented ratification until the definite establishment of the new government practically forced their adhesion. Individualism was the strongest element of opposition; the necessity, or at least the desirability, of a bill of rights was almost universally felt. In Rhode Island resistance against the Constitution was so strong that civil war almost broke out on July 4, 1788, when anti-federalists led by Judge William West marched into Providence with over 1,000 armed protesters.
The Anti-Federalists played upon these feelings in the ratification convention in Massachusetts. By this point, five of the states had ratified the Constitution with relative ease, but the Massachusetts convention was far more bitter and contentious. Finally, after long debate, a compromise (known as the "Massachusetts compromise") was reached. Massachusetts would ratify the Constitution with recommended provisions in the ratifying instrument that the Constitution be amended with a bill of rights. (The Federalists contended that a conditional ratification would be void, so the recommendation was the strongest support that the ratifying convention could give to a bill of rights short of rejecting the Constitution.)
Four of the next five states to ratify, including New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York, included similar language in their ratification instruments. As a result, once the Constitution became operative in 1789, Congress sent a set of twelve amendments to the states. Ten of these amendments were immediately ratified and became known as the Bill of Rights. Thus, while the Anti-Federalists were unsuccessful in their quest to prevent the adoption of the Constitution, their efforts were not totally in vain. Anti-Federalists thus became recognized as an influential group among the founding fathers of the United States.
Anti-Federalism in the Early 19th century
With the passage of the Constitution and the Bills, both the first Federalist and Anti-Federalist movement were exhausted. However, a second Federalist movement almost immediately arose, this time to support the aggressive fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton. In turn, this ignited a second Anti-Federalist opposition. The composition of this second movement was different and broader than the first. The Federalist movement gradually showed Broad construction, nationalistic tendencies; the Anti-Federalist movement favored strict-constructionism and advocated popular rights against the asserted aristocratic, centralizing tendencies of its opponent, and gradually was transformed into the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson.