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Federalists vs Anti-Federalists

Alicia has been a Columnist and Reviewer on HubPages for 11 years; became an Author in 2010. Perseverance has been a key to her success.


In the beginning of our country, the United States of America, the original two parties who helped create the Constitution were the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Parties. Even then, our Founding Fathers, were separated into two factions who did not see eye to eye.

The Federalist were prominent businessmen who had fought in the American Revolution. The most well known Federalist was the 2nd President of the United States John Adams who was the very first Vice President of the United States when George Washington served as President. John Adams stood for a fiscally sound and strong nationalistic government, but disagreed with Alexander Hamilton's economic program that involved the Federal Government to incur the debts of all the states caused by the American Revolution. Hamilton's program would have caused a "national debt", the means to pay it off by having a national bank. Even then "national debt" was an issue, but the Hamilton Economic Program was not enforced because John Adams pointed out the ludicrousness of a country starting off with a "National Debt".

The Anti-Federalists, also fought in the American Revolution, were pro what we now know as The Bill of Rights. They were mostly farmers and workers, not the prominent business owners. They were opposed to a strong nationalistic government. They opposed the originally drafted US Constitution, until the Bill of Rights were added as Amendments, insisting it made the National Government too strong and the ability to wield too much power over the States. They were pro very small national government involvement, have a national government for the sole purpose of giving other countries a way to reach the States and communicate with them with very little authority in order to preserve the sovereignty of the States. A very famous Anti-Federalist was Patrick Henry, who gave many speeches about freedom, liberty, and the hazards of having a national government. The Anti-Federalists did not want an authoritarian national government, fearing it would try to take away their rights including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". They wanted to maintain EVERY THING listed in the Bill of Rights. Why they diligently fought to have it added to the original US Constitution as the first set of Amendments.

As we know, the US Constitution plus the new Amendments (known as The Bill of Rights) was ratified and accepted by the original states. Even though the Federalists wanted a strong and fiscally sound national government, they too did not wish to lose any rights, especially those listed in The Bill of Rights. Their idea of a strong national government equaled a government with three executive branches, neither over each other instead overseeing one another, that would protect the rights of the citizens. Their idea of a strong national government was one "for the people, and by the people". The US Constitution is each citizens and states contract with the Federal (national) Government. The Federalists further felt a fiscally sound (one without debt) would be the best. Why originally our dollars were on the gold standard, backed by gold. The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists did agree that the national government should have funds and NEVER exceed them.

Learn more about the origination of the USA

For more information regarding the origination of the United States of America please read the writings and speeches of Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, and all other Founding Fathers. Further recommend books about the Continental Congress and all Founding Fathers (available online and in local bookstores). There are also vast resources about the roots of the United States of America at one's public library.

Here are some illuminating sources:

1. A list of Founding Fathers on Wikipedia

2. Arguments of the Anti-Federalists view that cemented the Bill of Rights inclusion into the US Constitution

3. The Bill of Rights

4. The Founding Fathers Home Page


Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on June 14, 2016:

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Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on March 16, 2016:

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Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on August 07, 2014:

@ My Esoteric: Reading up more on a topic is always a good thing. ;) Thank you for sharing what you learned that was on topic with this hub. Knowing our American Historical Roots is very important. :) Enjoyed your comment very much. :D

@Richardbib: Boredom can be solved by reading more. I recommend reading fellow Hubbers works like you have mine. Thank you for reading this hub, an honor to share it with you. I do, however, agree that being bored with US Founding Fathers (if American) is not a good for what they did formed our country, made it happen. Our American Historical Roots all Americans should know and be proud of. May I recommend alleviating your boredom by reading the entire US Constitution? It is an eye opener, very surprising, and is one of the shortest (page count) Federal Law documents. Enjoy! :D

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on August 07, 2014:

If the founding of our country bores you, @Richard, I am afraid there is no hope for you boredom.

@aliciaharrell, Henry voted against the ratification of the Constitution in the Virginia assembly; he lost. After that, yes, he did work for a Bill of Rights to make what he thought was a very bad idea a little bit better. Like most anti-federalists, he accepted the fait de compli and participated in the new government, voting for Washington as a Virginia delegate. In the end, he did a 180, after seeing the debacle of the French Revolution, mitigated his State's Rights position a lot and joined Washington and Adams as a Federalist. (Kidd, Thomas S. Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. New York: Basic Books, 2011. p.238)

Thanks for making me read up more on Madison and the 2nd National Bank. While my position is still the same, it is much more nuanced. It seems that Madison, at his core, was, and remained against the idea of a national bank. But, in the end, primarily for the need for a stable national currency, he saw the value in one and did not veto the final bill presented to him; he had vetoed two previous ones. His letter stated that his Constitutional basis for opposition was mute because 1) it was enacted once before, 2) it worked, and 3) it set a precedence. Now, after flip-flopping several times, he decided it was needed and signed it into law.

President Jackson, of course, killed it during his presidency which was one of the prime reason for what was then the worst depression in American history, the Depression of 1837.

Richardbib on August 07, 2014:

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I am just bored, as you can figure out from topic! !! And So I am seeking an excellent effective method to successfully pass my spare time.

If someone can give me choices and tips and hints any thing may help, please help me; I'm going to value it.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on April 09, 2013:

Patrick Henry was an Anti-Federalist and opposed the US Constitution without the Bill of Rights. President James Madison pushed the Bills of Rights as Amendments to the US Constitution’s main body in order to swing the Anti-Federalist vote, including Patrick Henry's.

Patrick Henry was not opposed to the United States of America (per his writings, speeches and biographies I have read). His goal was to maintain individual state sovereignty, and yes, he was opposed to a large central national government - he felt the national government should be small with duties covering defense (military) and acting as liaison to foreign entities.

President James Madison did not personally establish a Second National Bank. Congress created and passed the charter signed into law by President Madison on April 10, 1816. President James Madison's lack of veto, even though he was not exactly in favor of the Second National Bank, was he felt both houses had spoken on behalf of "We The People." (Per Madison biographies, James Madison speeches and writings, personal studies of the 17th and 18th centuries)

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on April 02, 2013:

Just a quikie for right now. You say you are with Patrick Henry. Did you know that Patrick Henry opposed the Constution and the United States of America with or without the Bill of Rights? He wanted 13 independent states acting on their own with no effective central gov't. Also, did you know that James Madison established the Second National Bank near the end of his second term?

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on April 02, 2013:

You bring up more excellent points My Esoteric. There is much to shrink and privatize within all branches of the Federal Government. Before even attempting to clear up the mess in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and the military aspect of the Federal budget, there are plenty of other avenues to address first where financial cut-backs are required. For example: The Federal government gives a lot of money to states for participating in Daylight Saving Time; highly unnecessary.

President Clinton did not recommend to Congress for staying on course with what was set up to shrink the national debt; instead the debt increased while he was President. I remember this well. I have been disappointed with the presidency since Clinton forward; feel the US government has not been putting “We The People” first (both Executive and Legislative Branches). The Founding Fathers would have never approved any bill forcing citizens to purchase anything. They were sick of such practices from the British monarchy. My argument is the Federal Government has become too large; infringing on what is the individual states' business. Again something the Founding Fathers would have opposed.

The 2008 - present day recession (still in it) was not the huge driver for the national debt increase you make it out as, the US government already had a big enough national debt in 2008. The US government doles out more to Foreign Countries than it did to "bail out" businesses during President Obama’s first term. Congress knew the Federal budget was not a true fiscally responsible solution the last time they approved a budget (before 2008 - no budget passed during both President Obama's terms to date 4/2/2013).

I agree the entitlement programs are a drain on the national budget. I disagree that foreign aid is a pittance in comparison. Earlier, I was sharing “starting points” for lessening the national debits without feeling it within the fifty states. Many entitlement programs (departments within the US government) have too many employees on all levels. For every full-time government worker, you need 10 high pay people working in the private sector to be able to afford 1 lowest paid government worker. Currently this is off-balance, too many government workers and not enough private sector tax revenue coming in to cover their wages. Many during 2008 – present lost their high pay private sector occupations (per Fox News Report & CNN Situation Room, January – April 2013). The Federal Government needs to stop hiring; seriously consider a lay-off beginning with mid to upper management per department. They, like in the Post Office, promoted too many into mid and upper management (have more managers than departmental employees = not cost effective, poor budgeting).

The US Federal government needs to break its old spending habit that is leading it toward bankruptcy. President James Madison pointed out in his writings and speeches that he feared if a government held a debt, the chance of being unable to pay it would be the death of that government. He was not the only Founding Father who realized this possibility, the majority of them did. The USSR proved them right; no longer exists because it did go bankrupt. I am with Patrick Henry: keep the national government small and allow the states to handle their own affairs as befitting the people who reside in them.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on March 27, 2013:

Hehe, I suspect the Fathers are rolling in their graves, especially Washington regarding our involvement in foreign affairs. They were, however, a very pragmatic bunch and given how history developed with America's rise to pre-eminence, I wonder if they could have chosen a different course.

As to the debt, consider this: In 2000, the debt was actually shrinking, or on the verge of it anyway (in constant $ terms, it did decrease a little bit, just not in current $); gov't was configured then roughly the way it is today. If Bush had stayed the coarse, we would have had a real shrinking debt, in spite of 9/11 and our reaction to it. So how does that set of circumstances work with your argument about the size and configuration of gov't being the real issue?

The main driver of the debt increase from 2008 to 2010, when it really jumped, is the effect of the Great 2008 recession. By itself, it is responsible for about 2/3 of the growth. The rest is Obama's reaction to the recession and his attempts to stop it from becoming a full-blown depression.

The big drivers of the deficit, are the entitlement programs; they make things like foreign-aid seem like a pittance by comparison. You could fix all of the things you mentioned 100% the way you would like to see them fixed, and you would barely notice a change in the deficit over the long-term. It is the rate of growth of Medicare and Medicaid that must be reduced plus the economic growth of industry must be increased; that is the solution.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on March 27, 2013:

My Esoteric, you bring up many excellent points regarding our Founding Fathers and today’s US Federal Government. I agree about the question being “Is the US Federal Government the right size for 'We The People'?” My answer is, “No, it has grown too large, and is interceding too much on States’ issues.”

There are many US agencies/departments that are redundant, could be combined, to be more cost efficient. There are numerous places where the Federal Budget could wisely be shaved. The biggest budget related Federal problem is the lack of real fiscal responsibility that generated the 16 trillion+ dollars deficit (much caused by too much departmentalization and no real budget created). There is no excuse for the size of the national debt. I disagree that 75% rate of public debt to GDP is a sustainable ratio. No excuses or anything an economist comes up with to justify an unbalanced Federal Budget makes the size of the current national debt acceptable. The Federal Government needs to stop the felonious blank check practice of spending more than it has. Even from a business point of view, it is a bad fiscal practice.

The USA gives an enormous amount of foreign aid to the Middle East and Egypt; way too much in my opinion (good place for a cut-back). The Federal Government needs to cease promising millions of dollars to foreign countries to force their alliance with the US; like US Secretary of State John Kerry has for Egypt (per CNN Situation Room and Fox News Report, February – March 2013). Our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves in opposition to this type of Foreign Policy.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on March 19, 2013:

Alicia, you are certainly correct in your last statement, I doubt they could have ever forseen how big America would get; only a few, like Jefferson, had a keen understanding of what lay beyond the frontiers of the time and what the possibilities were.

However, there are several different ways of measuring size. Our military is 2 million plus strong and we are involved in foreign wars; most of the fathers would be agast at this, espeicially given the idea of a standing Army is antithetical to them and being involved beyond our shores was repugnant to most. Nevertheless, times change and America doesn't have much choice.

Setting aside social programs for the moment, Congresses and Presidents saw the need to manage transportation in this country, both for safety and national security reasons, hense we have the Dept of Transportation. Likewise, they both saw the need to manage America's public lands before they were all logged over, enter the Depts of Interior and Agricuture (they should be combined, in my opinion). Who would have thought corporations would have been so callous as to destroy our air, rivers, and lakes; hense the need for EPA, and so on.

Anyway, I think you get the idea all these organizations need people and each one probably needs more than the whole federal gov't had back then. To me, the question isn't simply the "size" of gov't, the question is "is it right-sized for job the People want it to do?". The answer to that could still be a very large number, but it would be the right number.

The $16 trillion is relative. Granted, it is a massive number, but is it massive in relation to the GDP? Most economists now agree the answer to that question is no, it is not. They believe that the 75% rate of public debt to GDP is a sustainable ratio, and if gov't can ever get its act together so that businesses can plan, then the increased growth that will bring will lower the ratio back down to more normal levels.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on March 19, 2013:

WBA and Estoteric, you both are correct in your Constitutional views. Thank you for sharing. Our Founding Fathers, however, would not have approved of government fiscal irresponsibility, a 16 trillion dollar national deficit and borrowing money from any foreign country to pay our nation's debts. Hamilton would have been in opposition to this too. He would have been appalled by the blank check fiscal budgeting that is currently occurring on the national level.

The US Constitution according to Benjamin Franklin and James Madison was made a living document (amendable) on purpose so future generations could adjust it as needed in order for our national government to survive, but the original intent + principles need to be protected in order to maintain "We the People" are Washington DC's boss. Our Founding Fathers gave us a great gift: voice in our government, taxation with representation and inalienable rights. These were very important to both Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Neither side foresaw a US Federal Government the gigantic size it is today.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on March 18, 2013:

In terms of judges, I assume you are talking about those who inserted the word "expressly" into the 10th amendment, where it doesn't exist. What I am referencing are all the activist judicial decisions made after the Civil War with eviscerated then 13th - 15th Amendments.

As to the debt, the founders were basically silent on deficit spending vis-a-vis the wording of the Constitution. If they were particularly opposed to it, they would have specifically prohibited and they didn't. Now, that isn't to say that the Hamiltonians and Madisonians (or is it Madisonites?) didn't have polar opposite views on this in practice; but the Constitution was written so that each cold have his own way if he could get enough votes - which both did at various points in time.

wba108@yahoo.com from upstate, NY on March 18, 2013:

My Esoteric- I'm not referring to the temporary debt that was necessary to incur to ensure the nations survival in wartime. I'm talking about deficit spending or other spending that would fuel the growth of government.

I have no problem changing the Constitution through the agreed upon amendment process or even a Constitutional convention. What I have a problem with is judges who interpret the Constitution according to their own policy preferences.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on March 18, 2013:

WBA, where do you get the idea the Constitution was written with the intention for the Federal government not to incur debt? Two of the signers, Madison and Hamilton, hotly debated that point during Washington's administration, then the president of the Convention, Washington, chose to establish the national bank that Hamilton wanted as part of his vision to assume the State war debts, establish national credit, and transact with the rest world as America, not 13 colonies.

If you read Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention and the biographies of Adams and Jefferson, you will find all believed the interpretation of the Constitution needed to change with time; in fact, Jefferson, at one time, hyperbolically I hope, that the Constitution being worked on in Philadephia needed to be scarped every generation and a new one created. This is because, like Paine, Jefferson believed the "living" owe no allegiance to the wishes of the "dead". No WBA, the Federalists definitely thought their Constitution needed to be living, not DOA.

wba108@yahoo.com from upstate, NY on March 17, 2013:

Some use this federalist and anti-federalist debate to claim that the federalist backed Constitution was written to to allow to the kind of expansion we see in government today. But as you mentioned, it was their intention for the Federal government not to incur debt.

Also the federalists wouldn't have supported the subversion of the Bill of Rights that is happening today. The modern courts have invented clever ways around the law by claiming the Constitution is a living Document or by interpreting the Constitution without regard to its original meaning.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on January 29, 2013:

Thank you My Esoteric. I look forward to reading your Hub series based on Madison's Journal from the Constitutional Convention. You might want to try footnotes like one would on a term paper instead of quotation marks. You could make it in dialogue fashion which would make for a very interesting read; as if we were at the Constitutional Convention. These are just my thoughts and suggestions. Hope you find them helpful.

Scott Belford from Keystone Heights, FL on January 23, 2013:

Good hub, Alicia, I enjoyed it. I am working on a series of hubs based on Madison's Journal from the Constitutinal Convention; my biggest problem is getting it past the hub moderators because I use extensive quotes from the delegates to tell the story; too many for their computer's taste.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on May 19, 2012:

Thank you Bair! :D Delighted my hub was helpful for a better understanding of our US government roots.

Bair on May 13, 2012:

Your article finally helped me to understand the Federalist vs the Anit Federalist. My Politcial Science professor did a horrible job at lecturing us on this topic. THANK YOU!

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on March 17, 2012:

Thank you very much Lolo and Kenrhoden for your thoughtful comment. It is good to see people reading the articles I write and having a positive reaction to them. Lolo, currently the US Government is acting more Federalist than Anti-Federalist. In the beginning of our country's history it was the reverse. The USA has Anti-Federalist roots. :D

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on March 17, 2012:

Thank you for enjoying my hub and your kind feedback. It is nice to have someone notice the effort of research involved in writing this type of piece.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on March 17, 2012:

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, today we are more of a federalist state than when the US began. Thank you for reading my hub; much appreciated. :)

Kenrhoden from Merritt Island, FL on March 16, 2012:

Extremely interesting article. Thank you for taking the time to research and write it. I enjoy reading the points of view from talented, intelligent individuals.


lolo on March 15, 2012:

we are federalist

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on February 24, 2011:

Thank you for your insightful and uplifting feedback. Appreciate you enjoying this article and for being one of my followers. I shall return the favor so we may know when each of us writes a new hub as a method of sharing hubs. Yes, the Federalist Papers and all the written works our Founding Fathers published are something one should read; especially every elected US government official in Washington D.C.

bewhuebner on February 24, 2011:

I just stumbled on this article and enjoyed it very much! It's amazing to me how we have so much disagreement and strife politically but the Founder's specifically spelled out much of what they thought in their writings. The Federalist Papers is a great source for this kind of stuff. You've got a new follower after this one! Thanx for the good read :)

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on February 16, 2011:

Neil, the USA was the first in the 1700's to break successfully away via a revolution from a monarchy. They did it without a bloodbath after the revolution (unlike France and Russia who held their revolutions later) which is why it seems similar to other countries who had opposing parties.

Rachel, I am glad to be of help. I enjoyed Civics and wish you all the best with your studies. :)

Rachel on February 16, 2011:

Thanks for sharing this. This is very helpful. We are learning about federalists and anti federalists in civics. So thanks (:

Neil74 on February 16, 2011:

Interesting history. Just like many other nations which were formed by opposing parties.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on June 08, 2010:

When it came time for the citizens to vote in the beginning of the USA (after becoming a nation), they had only one type of ballot (not the political party ballots like we do today). At the Constitutional Convention where the US Constitution was voted upon and ratified the voting system was primarily oral and a by hand vote.

Jerad Maplethorpe from Minneapolis, Minn. on June 07, 2010:

When the citizens at the time voted, did they vote for either the federalist or the non-federalist as we do the democrat or the republican?

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on May 01, 2010:

Great! Delighted to help others receive A's by sharing informative non-fiction hubs like this one. Thanks for the uplifting feedback Starjor :)

Starjor on April 25, 2010:

This is very informative this will really help me get an A thank you.

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on April 20, 2010:

This is why I am compelled to write. Hubs reach others. Ideas are shared. Thank you Molly for your inspirational feedback. :)

Molly on April 19, 2010:

Thanks so much! I've been trying to write a paper defending the anti-federalists, and I couldn't find any ideas until I found this article. Thanks so much!

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on February 24, 2010:

Thank you for the "five stars" :) My hub's theme was pointing out that some of today's issues are very old and were the concern of our Founding Fathers. You do bring up some valid points in your comment - much appreciate.

Our Founding Fathers were in hopes that future generations would "come up" with something better than they had that would secure each citizen's inalienable rights and each citizen's liberty. Yes, all of them would be aghast by how strong our current federal government is today, all the laws pro the criminals, and our paying 35% (on the average) of our paychecks in national income tax.

Our Founding Fathers were liberal for their time, but if compared to today's standards would be categorized as very conservative.

David P Shirk on February 23, 2010:

Great article :-)

I really wish you had more article space to discribe the rest of the similarities as well, such as media abuse, one side claiming to be something its not, politicians claiming to be what they weren't etc. I mean, Hamilton was pushing to get back toward the Aristocratic system, and I believe it was a huge mistake for Washington to make him Secretary of Treasury.

It should also be noted that Washington grew to hate what the new government became before he was even dead - politics was not in his nature, and he hated how it grew into what it did. Even most of the federalist back then would be appaled at what we have today.

5 stars man - will need to keep up with your posts!

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on January 22, 2010:

Awesome! Glad my article was a big help for your project, a good deed indeed :)

brian on January 22, 2010:

love this article im doing a project on the history of this and you just got me an a+

escritor on November 14, 2009:

Thanks Alicia, for a good hub and a good topic. It is important to learn what happened, but just as important, is why it happened. Good job.


Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on October 12, 2009:

Thank you James! Appreciate your heartfelt response to my hub :)

James A Watkins from Chicago on October 11, 2009:

This is a marvelous article. I love history and so enjoyed your work here. You have yourself a new fan!

Alicia Rose Harrell (author) from Central Oklahoma on October 01, 2009:

I am facinated by how history repeats itself and how some issues do not seem to disappear, usually are in debate. Thank you for your comments Matt and Mel. Feedback is most welcome :)

melbrown1 on October 01, 2009:

Great and informative hub. It is ironic to see similarities in our 2 party system.

Matt Easterbrook on September 04, 2009:

I enjoyed this historical article. Very interesting and informative.

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