We have another Constitutional crisis…..233 year in the making.
These days there is lots of debate on the Constitution…..and in the beginning there were two sides…the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists…….
But what does that mean?
Federalism was born in 1787, when Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote 85 essays collectively known as the Federalist papers. These eloquent political documents encouraged Americans to adopt the newly-written Constitution and its stronger central government.
Largely influenced by the ideas of Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists succeeded in convincing the Washington administration to assume national and state debts, pass tax laws, and create a central bank. These moves undoubtedly saved the fledgling democracy from poverty and even destruction. In foreign policy, Federalists generally favored England over France.
And their opponents in the Constitution fight…..the Anti-Federalists……but who were these men?
Not all Americans liked the new U.S. Constitution offered to them in 1787. Some, particularly the Anti-Federalists, downright hated it.
The Anti-Federalists were a group of Americans who objected to the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and opposed final ratification of the U.S. Constitution as approved by the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Anti-Federalists generally preferred a government as formed in 1781 by the Articles of Confederation, which had granted the predominance of power to the state governments.
Led by Patrick Henry of Virginia – an influential colonial advocate for American independence from England – the Anti-Federalists feared, among other things, that the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution could enable the President of the United States to function as a king, turning the government into a monarchy. This fear can to some degree be explained by the fact that in 1789, most of the world’s governments were still monarchies and the function of a “president” was largely an unknown quantity.
A closer look at these men’s political beliefs in the early days of the Republic….
- The Anti-Federalists were opposed to the Constitution. They feared the power of a national government, the loss of control of local issues, and insufficient separation of powers.
- They believed that the national and centralized government might threaten the sovereignty of the states and of individuals, hence they believed this might lead to the formation of a despotic monarchy.
- Furthermore, the Anti-Federalists believed in the insufficiency, or weakness, of the Articles of Confederation.
- The Anti-Federalists used pseudonyms and published local speeches and news articles opposing the government.
- One of the Anti-Federalists was Patrick Henry from the state of Virginia. Henry and the coalition argued that the government might be a threat to individuals and that the president might declare himself a king.
- The group produced a series of writings declaring their opposition to the government. Historians compiled them together and they are now known as Anti-Federalist Papers.
- Several states opposed the Constitution. On July 4, 1788, a civil war almost broke out in Rhode Island, where Judge William West and over a thousand protesters marched into Providence.
- Five states ratified the constitution. However, in Massachusetts a compromise was agreed upon after a series of debates were held in order for the Constitution to be ratified.
- Several states shared the same prerequisites in ratifying the constitution during the Massachusetts Compromise. Thus, when the Constitution was approved in 1789, twelve amendments were included, and from these the Bill of Rights was produced.
- Even though the Anti-Federalists were not successful, they were an important group amongst the founding fathers of the United States, as they influenced those who sought to ratify the Constitution.
- Some Anti-Federalists joined the Anti-Administration Party of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, opposed to following the policies of Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury Secretary. The party eventually became the Democratic-Republican Party.
Now that the two sides of the Constitutional debate have been set and explained…..
I would like to know which side you, my reader, would have been on during the debate……the question has been asked before…..
One of the great debates in American history was over the ratification of the Constitution in 1787-1788. Those who supported the Constitution and a stronger national republic were known as Federalists. Those who opposed the ratification of the Constitution in favor of small localized government were known as Anti-Federalists. Both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were concerned with the preservation of liberty, however, they disagreed over whether or not a strong national government would preserve or eventually destroy the liberty of the American people. Today, it is easy to accept that the prevailing side was right and claim that, had you been alive, you would have certainly supported ratifying the Constitution. However, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the ideological foundations upon which our government is built, it is important to analyze both the Federalist and Ant-Federalist arguments.
The Anti-Federalists were not as organized as the Federalists. They did not share one unified position on the proper form of government. However, they did unite in their objection to the Constitution as it was proposed for ratification in 1787. The Anti-Federalists argued against the expansion of national power. They favored small localized governments with limited national authority as was exercised under the Articles of Confederation. They generally believed a republican government was only possible on the state level and would not work on the national level. Therefore, only a confederacy of the individual states could protect the nation’s liberty and freedom. Another, and perhaps their most well-known concern, was over the lack of a bill of rights. Most Anti-Federalists feared that without a bill of rights, the Constitution would not be able to sufficiently protect the rights of individuals and the states. Perhaps the strongest voice for this concern was that of George Mason. He believed that state bills of right would be trumped by the new constitution, and not stand as adequate protections for citizens’ rights. It was this concern that ultimately led to the passing of the bill of rights as a condition for ratification in New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.
The Federalists, primarily led by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, believed that establishing a large national government was not only possible, but necessary to “create a more perfect union” by improving the relationship among the states. Until this point, the common belief was that a republic could only function efficiently it was small and localized. The Federalists challenged this belief and claimed that a strong national republic would better preserve the individual liberties of the people. By extending the sphere of the republic, individual and minority rights would be better protected from infringement by a majority. The federalists also wanted to preserve the sovereignty and structure of the states. To do so, they advocated for a federal government with specific, delegated powers. Anything not delegated to the federal government would be reserved to the people and the states. Ultimately, their goal was to preserve the principle of government by consent. By building a government upon a foundation of popular sovereignty, without sacrificing the sovereignty of the states, legitimacy of the new government could be secured.
Are you a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist?
A good time to put all your civics knowledge to work…….
After 233 years we are having the same basic fight about the governing for this country.
I believe it is time to end the silliness of multiple legislative bodies….all seem to be working against the best interests of the country and instead are playing party politics and not governing in a responsible way for ALL the people of this country.
Time for a redo!
I look forward to your comments.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”