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Federalist Versus Antifederalists Essay

2359 words - 9 pages

From the birth of our Republic, Federalists and Antifederalist debated the nature of democracy and representation. One argument involved competing views of “communities of interest” and the nature of representation. Federalists desired a strong national government ruled by the political elite. Leaders should be isolated from the public and focus on making broad decisions at the national level. Antifederalists favor promotion of local interests through likeminded congressional representation. Government should be as close to the people as possible and representatives’ actions should be based on their constituent’s wishes. Political compromises were reached as demonstrated in the constitution and subsequent composition of congress. The debate concerning the nature of democracy and representation continues today, reflected in the differing and competing goals of redistricting, in part due to the vague nature and wording within the constitution. Both Federalist and Antifederalist views are reflected in modern politics however American politics has consistently moved towards an Antifederalist ideology since the decline in power of political parties.
For the Antifederalists, “communities of interest” have a narrow definition, one which is both geographically and interest specific. Government should be close to the people; with direct democracy impractical, representation becomes necessary (FF 7, p.43). For representation to be accurate congressmen should reflect the local communities they represent; a large number of representatives with small constituencies are necessary to insure individual interests are entertained. Small constituencies provide a more intimate relationship; an increase in personal knowledge and communal ties protects against corruption through peer pressure and increased accountability. The Antifederalist desired to increase voter eligibility by removing property ownership as a prerequisite to voting. Government is only a strong as the support from citizens; if wealth is required to have a voice in government then those disenfranchised from the vote will have no recourse but rebellion (Paine, p. 24). The more citizens are given a voice in government, by vote or descriptive representation, the stronger the government becomes. Those excluded have no choice but to rise up in protest as the colonists had against England. Strong local and state rights strengthened the nation by protecting against future revolutions.
The Federalists were not against state rights or local interests; they simply believed the addition of a separate strong federal government was necessary to unite the Republic. “The Federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular, to the state legislatures” (Madison, p. 50). The reason for this division of power was the need for a national ideology, a body of government to act in the nation’s...

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