A History of the Political Conflict Between Federalists and Anti-Federalists

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During the formation of the United States in the late 1700s, there was a group of people who believed that the Constitution should be ratified and a group of people who opposed this ratification of the Constitution. The group who approved of the ratification of the Constitution was called the Federalists. They had multiple reasons for the purpose of supporting the Constitution. Then, there were the Anti-Federalists who were seen as the opponents. The Federalists established a separation of powers by splitting the central government into three branches, the legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch is made up of congress: the Senate and House of Representatives. The executive branch includes the president of the United States. The Judicial branch includes the Supreme Court. The Anti-Federalists. The Anti Federalists wanted a small republic, believed in voluntary attachment, civic virtue, and in a democracy. Their central argument was that the central government would have too much power and the states’ government would be too weak to accomplish anything. The Federalists had the better reasons as to why the Constitution had to be ratified, which is why they came ahead and happened to be a true success. Reasons supporting the Constitution are stated in the Federalist Papers.

The Federalist Papers are “eighty-five short essays that appeared in newspapers to explain and defend the Constitution” that were written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (Morone & Kersh, Page 72). They were written for three purposes. The first purpose was “to get New York to approve the new Constitution” (Morone & Kersh, Page 73). The second one being that “they are the single best guide to the thinking that guided the Constitution” (Morone & Kersh, Page 73). Third, “The Federalist Papers are brilliant theoretical essays about politics and government” (Morone & Kersh, Page 73). Popular Anti-Federalists include Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee. These are two of the many people who opposed the ratification of the American Constitution in 1789. They argued that a small republic was better for multiple reasons. First, they said that the states are the natural homes of liberty and self-government. In addition to that, the states also do primary businesses that the government is supposed to do because of an issue of size. The Anti Federalists believed it was shown throughout history and also theoretically that a republic government could extend only over a small territory with a homogeneous population. A homogenous population is a population containing the same type of people who, for example, have the same or similar beliefs.

The Anti-Federalists also argued that a small republic is the only kind of republic that can enjoy the voluntary attachment of the people and voluntary obedience to laws. In other words, it would not be possible for people to obey laws by their own means if the population was way too large. Also, Anti-Federalists stated that a small republic would secure genuine equality. Genuine equality is all types of equality, especially economic. A small republic also made it easier to shape the “right” kind of citizens, leading to a properly structured republic. This would be by means of shaping the small population into having civic virtue. This is the willingness of people to sacrifice their own private interest for that of the public. Patriotism falls into this definition of civic virtue. Examples are serving in the military for purpose of the safety of one’s country and loved ones, and being polite in the community so that everyone feels comfortable and safe. The Anti-Federalists also had their argument against the Federalist Papers called the Anti-Federalist Papers. These were also essays that went against what the Federalists had to tell the people. A main argument written in the first paper was that “in a republic of such vast extent as the United States, the legislature cannot attend to the various concerns and wants of its different parts. It cannot be sufficiently numerous to be acquainted with the local condition and wants of the different districts, and if it could, it is impossible it should have sufficient time to attend to and provide for all the variety of cases of this nature, that would be continually arising” (Robert “Brutus” Yates, Anti-Federalist No. 1). This pretty much stated that it is impossible for a large republic to properly care for all of its people because there is simply not enough time to do so.

While the Anti-Federalists believed that a smaller republic is better overall, the Federalists thought otherwise and said that a larger republic surpasses the smaller one. The Federalists include popular members such as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and John Adams. They responded to the Anti-Federalists’ idea of having a small republic. The Federalists pretty much countered every reason that the Anti-Federalist’s had. The Federalists said that a large, heterogeneous republic is better for purposes of securing liberty. A big idea that was mentioned was that, unlike the Anti-Federalists, they believed that a republic government can operate without classic civic virtue and homogeneity in the populace that the small republic proponents and Anti-Federalists demanded. They said that the way to win the loyalty of the people was through a more efficient and effective administration. The Federalists also believed that only a stronger national government that could act directly on individuals, rather than through the states, could achieve security and stability for the purpose of the nation. They favored a stronger central government in which the authority of states was subordinate to that of the national government. More power for the national government meant that there will be greater distance from popular opinion, causing a greater discretion for the national government to act in. In the Federalist Papers: No. 10, James Madison’s main idea is to tell the people that only a large republic can prevent majority tyranny.

In the words of James Madison, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” (James Madison, The Federalist Papers: No. 47). He is theoretically explaining how a small republic would lead to a majority tyranny: “The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression” -James Madison: The Federalist Papers: No. 10 These majorities are part of a faction. Madison tells us what a faction is in the same essay. A faction can be either a majority or minority, it does not matter, but a faction is “a number of citizens…who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community” (James Madison, The Federalist Papers: No. 10).

Majority tyranny is prevented by increasing the number of factions in society, or constructing institutions with teeth in them (federalism). James Madison appoints a fault that having a small republic can have, “a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction” (James Madison, The Federalist Papers: No. 10). In this statement, he is saying that a small republic will not be able to answer to the bad actions, biases, and other problems that the nation is having. When James Madison states “as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried,” he is explaining how with a larger population there will be more votes for each representative, naturally leading to the election of the better leader (James Madison, The Federalist Papers: No. 10).

James Madison knew that people would always act on self-interest, so he writes “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. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself “(James Madison, The Federalist Papers: No. 51). This clearly explains why the separation of powers and checks and balances are necessary. If these do not exist, then the people who are in power will act selfishly. When there are people looking over them, there will be less acts of selfishness in the central government because each action is overlooked by several other people (the other branches). The United States turned out to be one of the strongest forces in the world thanks to the ideas of the Federalists and the Founding Fathers.

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A History of the Political Conflict Between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. (2022, Aug 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/a-history-of-the-political-conflict-between-federalists-and-anti-federalists/

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