Federalist Vs AntiFederalist Essay Research Paper Federalists

Federalist Vs. Anti-Federalist Essay, Research Paper Federalists vs. Anti-Federalist: The Constitutional Debate The road to accepting the Constitution of the United

Federalist Vs. Anti-Federalist Essay, Research Paper

Federalists vs. Anti-Federalist: The Constitutional Debate

The road to accepting the Constitution of the United

States was neither easy nor predetermined. In fact during

and after its drafting a wide-ranging debate was held

between those who supported the Constitution, the

Federalists, and those who were against it, the

Anti-Federalists. The basis of this debate regarded the

kind of government the Constitution was proposing, a

centralized republic. Included in the debate over a

centralized government were issues concerning the affect the

Constitution would have on state power, the power of the

different branches of government that the Constitution would

create, and the issue of a standing army.

One of the most important concerns of the

Anti-Federalists was that the new form of government would

strip the states of their own power. The Anti-Federalists

feared that by combining the previously independent states

under one government that, “…the states, once sovereign,

would retain but a shadow of their former power…”(Main

120). The Anti-Federalist claimed that if the sovereignty

of the states was to be maintained then the states must be

granted the vital powers of government and the power of

Congress limited. However, they claimed that this was not

so under the Constitution. The Constitution gave Congress

unlimited power and did not explicitly detail any control

that the states would be able to exercise over the Federal

government. The Anti-Federalists stated that since both the

state and Federal government would frequently legislate on

the same matters, if a conflict among their decisions arose

the Federal government would win out because of its

connection to the Supreme Court (Main 124). They feared

that “the result of (this connection) might be eventual

abolition of the state governments”(Main 124).

In Federalist Paper No. 46, James Madison addresses

these concerns about the well being of the state governments

under the Constitution. Madison argues that the interests

of the states will not be lost in Congress, because the

loyalty of the legislator will be first to the people of his

district and then secondly to the benefit of the whole

country. Madison says that the “members of the Federal

Legislature will be likely to attach themselves too much to

local objects”(Madison 239). Madison tried to alleviate the

concerns of the Anti-Federalist concerning what type of

recourse the states would have against Federal legislation

by saying that the states would have powerful means of

opposition to any unfavorable or unwarranted legislation.

The powerful means of opposition Madison talks about is the

displeasure of the people, whom Madison believes to be the

fountain from which the Federal government draws its power.

The second major concern of the Anti-Federalists was the

power of Congress. It worried the Anti-Federalists a great

deal that the Constitution would grant Congress the power to

tax in “necessary and proper” circumstances (Main 122). Not

only could Congress pass new taxes without the consent of

the people or state governments, the Anti-Federalist also

felt that the Congress would have control over the judiciary

branch. If Congress had influence over the judicial system,

what recourse would the state have against unfair

legislation? The executive’s ability to veto also

displeased the Anti-Federalist, for they feared that such

power was too reminiscent of a monarchy. The

Anti-Federalists debated with the Federalists about the

duration of the terms that Congressmen would have. They

believed that the elections should be held annually, as to

keep the legislators in touch with their constituents. The

Constitution, instead, called for House representatives to

be elected every two years and for Senators to have a term

of six years.

The Federalist answer to these concerns was a system of

checks and balances. Whereas the Anti-Federalists saw all

branches of government working in accordance with each

other, the Federalists believed that the different branches

of government would be able to check the power of each

other. In Federalist Paper No. 51, Madison details why he

thinks the separation of power among three branches will

create checks and balances among those branches. Madison

states that “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition”

(Madison 262). Madison believed that by dividing the power

of the people between two distinct governments and then

subdividing this power among distinct and separate

departments, that a high level of security would be able to

be maintained for the rights of the people (Madison 264).

The Anti-Federalists addressed the issue of a standing army

under the control of the Federal government, they feared

that Congress’ control over both taxes and a standing army

could result in an oppression of the people. This also

factored into the debate over state power, because it was

obvious that the state militias would be no match for the

federal army, if it decided to encroach into the state.

Anti-Federalist John Smilie declared that, “…In a free

Government there never will be Need of standing Armies, for

it depends on the Confidence of the People. If it does not

so depend, it is not free…” (Main 147).

Madison contradicts the arguments of the Anti-Federalist

concerning this issue in Federalist Paper No. 46. He points

out two reasons that the states need not worry about a

standing army. His first argument is that it would be

incredibly unlikely that the people would consistently elect

traitors that would, “…pursue some fixed plan for the

extension of the military establishment…”(Madison 241).

Secondly, Madison points out that Americans are armed and

that the states control of militias will, “…form a barrier

against the enterprizes of ambition…”(Madison 242). Again

in this argument Madison goes back to his belief that the

Federal government is unlikely to become oppressive because

the people grant its power.

Both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists believed

strongly in their convictions about the Constitution.

However, in the end, it was the Federalists who won, and the

Constitution was ratified. Looking back in hindsight, it is

easy to see that both groups were right. The Constitution

created a government that has, for the most part, protected

the rights and freedom of its people, but there have also

been moments in American history where the fears of the

Anti-Federalists were realized and corruption was found in

the government. Admiration is felt for both of these

groups, because their debates over that fledgling government

gave rise to a strong Constitution and a strong

representative republic.

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