Federalists versus Anti-Federalists

The founding of the US nation and its constitution is largely credited to a number of preeminent statesmen such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington among others.  These individuals are commonly termed as the founding fathers due to their various impeccable contributions to the unification of the various states and the putting together of the present day articles of the US constitution (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus, 2016). In the course of their foundational endeavors, a rift emerged with respect to the distribution of power between the states and the national government as well as the suitability and strength of the constitution. This led to the emergence of federalists and anti-federalists, two antagonistic groups that had sophisticated and commonly disagreeing views about the trajectory the young nation needed to take. Their arguments, largely intellectual, led to the publishing of various stances for and against various ideals in what came to be known as the federalist papers. This paper examines the views on government from both sides and justifies Anti-federalism in the process.

The views of Federalists and Anti-federalists differed regarding the government on various fronts. Federalists envisioned a strong federal government and weak states, while anti-federalists wanted a weak federal government and stronger, autonomous states (O’Connor, Sabato & Yanus, 2016). This was the main point of departure for the two factions and determined their precipitate differences. In essence, the anti-federalists were opposed to the ratification of the constitution until the bill of rights was included to restore the rights and freedoms of people that had been watered down by the constitution which favored a strong national (federal government) (Hamilton et al., 2005). They were successful in this regard, which highlights one of their key successes. The Federalists were hugely opposed to the Bill of Rights with Alexander Hamilton arguing in Federalist paper No. 84 that the bill of rights was unnecessary, dangerous and not even contained in the constitutions of the various states (Hamilton, Jay, & Madison, 2011). Therefore, key differences between the two groups were with respect to the strength of the national government and the ratification of the constitution.

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Anti-federalism is the ideal side to support in the duel. This is first because of the apparent class difference between the two sides. While federalists were largely privileged elites, anti-federalists were poor people living in rural areas (Hamilton et al., 2005). The latter need more protection against the overwhelming executive power yielded by the elites, which in the end would offer protection to every citizen regardless of class or any other form of stratification. In Federalist paper 75, Alexander Hamilton argued that the executive could be checked adequately by a two thirds majority senate that would exercise control over an irresponsible president (Hamilton et al., 2005). Such elitist views clearly only protected the rich as they lacked class sensitivity. The president and the senate were both political class (elite and powerful) and could easily unite for their own interests. The anti-federalists were thus more protective of the people and are the right side to support.

In examining both federalist and anti-federalist values, it is important to note that their major differences were with respect to federal power and the ratification of the constitution. Federalists demanded a strong national government and weak states as well as the ratification of the constitution with the anti-federalists opposing on both accounts. In the end, the anti-federalists are the ideal side to support given their consideration of holistic protection of the people. The federalist elites felt that the executive could be checked by the congress, forgetting that both were of similar elite, political class. Luckily, the anti-federalists had their way leading to the inclusion of the bill of rights in the constitution.


Hamilton, A., Jay, J., & Madison, J. (2011). The federalist papers. The Floating Press.

Hamilton, A., Madison, J., Jay, J., & Pole, J. R. (2005). The federalist (Vol. 43). Hackett Publishing.

O’Connor, K., Sabato, L. J., & Yanus, A. B. (2016). American Government: Roots and Updates Edition. Pearson

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