U.S. Government and Politics - Prof. Struening and Prof. Shuster.
Marie PICHARD - Exchange student
The Federalist/Anti-Federalist Debate - Paper
After the Declaration of Independence of 1776, it became obvious to write a text to fix
the rules of the new government. Thus, the articles of Confederation were established in 1777.
A weak central government was created so that the states kept the majority of the power. But
the articles of Confederation quickly showed up that they were not efficient to rule a country
correctly. A lot of conflicts emerged within the states, so it became imperative to do
something. A decade later, the Constitution of United States was ratified after long debates.
One of the main debates concerned the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The Federalists
were in favor of the Constitution. They were mainly composed of James Madison, Alexander
Hamilton and John Jay. They wrote The Federalist Papers between October 1787 and May
1788 in which they stand up for the Constitution with body and soul. On the other hand, the
Anti-Federalists did not agree with most of the principles established in the Constitution.
They were composed of a lot of important farmers and politicians like Robert Yates, Luther
Martin, Melancton Smith and even Thomas Jefferson.
What opinions did the Federalists and Anti-Federalists have for and against the
The Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate is focused on two main points: the distribution
of power between the Union and the States and the institutions and their attachments to
The distribution of power between the National Government and the States is certainly
the major controversial point among the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debate. While the
Federalists argued for a strong Union, the Anti-Federalists wanted a weaker national
government in order to let the states choose on the majority of the subjects. Madison, a
Federalist, wrote that we need a "well constructed Union" (Madison, 1787, p.1). He meant
that the Union, i.e. the national government, has to be strong on the states. It is the Union that
prevails on the states. After the failure of the Confederation in which the government was
weak, the Federalists required a heavy Union, which can act directly on people to pursue its
goals. Madison summed up the Federalists' opinion: "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, 1787, p.6). For the Anti-
Federalists, the view of the distribution of power between the central government and the
States is completely different. They asked for a weaker Union in order to preserve the
authority of the States. Their principal fear was the privation of liberty by the Union. Robert
Whitehill, an Anti-Federalist, said on that purpose that the Constitution would be "the means
of annihilating the constitutions of the...