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Federalist Vs. Antifederalists Essay, Research Paper

When comparing and contrasting Anti-Federalist views on the ratification of the

United States Constitution with those of the Federalists, one must also consider

the inherent relationship that represents their respective views upon

principles, problems and solutions, ultimately surmising which side best

reflects or departs from the original principles set forth for the Declaration.

It can be argued that the two sides are quite contrary in their individual perceptions, which each faction believing that its views are of primary integrity.

The debate raged on between the Anti-Federalists and the Federalists as to what, if any, ratification should be implemented with regard to the

Constitution. This period of discord lasted from the moment the first draft was

written in 1787 until such ratification was imposed in 1789. Without question,

this was a time of intense debate between the Anti-Federalists and the

Federalists. Scores of papers were composed from both sides attesting to the

fact that proposed ratification should either take place or should not,

depending upon which group one supported. As a collective work, each side cited

significant points that clearly illustrated their agendas. The Federalists,

however, seem to have struck a chord more influential in the minds of the

citizens. This not only because their attempts to rally a political consensus

on their behalf seemed to have been a step ahead as well as more organized, but

possibly more so because the Anti-Federalists failed to substantially prove that

small republics were better able to sustain individual liberties than were large


The Anti-Federalists were defiantly opposed to any ratification of the

Constitution. Supporting this view were several different authors who composed

stringent papers that reflected the Anti-Federalist belief; however, because of

the intensity with which these papers were written, many of the writers opted to

employ pseudonyms. Within these works was found the reasoning behind why the

Anti-Federalists were against ratifying the Constitution, which focused

primarily upon the dangers of tyranny and how it would further and ultimately

weaken the very essence of the Constitution. It was argued that the

Constitution was not well equipped to deal with a potential monarchy to which

England was so accustomed. Even though it was established that the Bill of

Rights was solid enough to correct some of those weaknesses, there still existed

enough subsequent considerations to cause the Anti-Federalists to continue

opposing any Constitutional ratification.

The Federalists, on the other hand, supported the ratification. Instrumental to the cause were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, who were responsible for composing the collection of writings that came to be known as The Federalist Papers. Basing their argument on the fact that the United States Constitution was fundamentally created as a reflection of human attributes, the men pointed to such examples as separation of powers and other applicable precautions against the concept of totalitarianism. They contended that any such actions only served to focus upon the decidedly pessimistic side of humanity.

Madison’s vocal condemnation of such consideration asked if government was not the most significant of all human reflection, stating that if humanity were comprised of angels, there would exist no need for any governmental control

whatsoever. His point, as well as the point of other Federalists who supported

ratification, addressed the inherent need for man’s activities to remain under

some semblance of control, no matter if it meant the leaders or the common

people. They declared that the Constitution was constructed so as to maintain a

system of checks and balances in order to ward off potential tyranny about which

the Anti-Federalists were so concerned.

Madison, Hamilton and Jay made serious attempts to demonstrate how

ratification was a necessary evil in establishing the best Constitutional

representation possible. While addressing this issue of leadership, Madison

stated that educated and compassionate compatriots would not always occupy the

top position. This fact, in and of itself, was reason enough for the

Constitution to address such issues by limiting potential harm done by inadequate or corrupt leaders.

Hamilton effectively summed up the Federalist viewpoint when he remarked that

the country’s laws cannot be so numerous as to confuse or befuddle the populace.

If they are so disorderly as to be misunderstood

or if they represent various and sundry modifications without merit, then no

person of decent intelligence would ever be able to interpret them.

Two advantages of the proposed union included prevention of domestic faction and the boost of affairs of economics and intercommerce. Where faction wasproposed to induce formation of classes, and spark domestic feuds, union would allow for balance of power and eliminate the labeled inevitable uprising of a single state or power. The lack of power to regulate commerce was becoming

detrimental to the states. The states were erecting tariff barriers against one

another, and making their own trade and shipping regulations.

The provision of a common defense was a major issue of debate as well. The existing procedure in raising an army proved to be greatly inefficient, using a system of quotas and requisitions on states in regard to men and money that was”a system of imbecility in the union, and of inequality and injustice among the members.” The states nearest the area of combat were forced to raise

troops for mere survival. Also, the necessity remained of building and

equipping a navy, as well as a body to direct their actions and provide for

their support. Under the Articles of the Confederation, this safeguard was

nonexistent. Something had to be done or the Confederacy would not be able to

withstand foreign powers for long. The fear held by Anti-Federalists of the

oppression that could be caused by a standing army was addressed by Hamilton,

who clearly expressed that the power of raising military forces “would be

lodged in the legislature, not the executive,” so that the legislators

periodically elected by the people themselves (the representatives), would

provide adequate control, and thus a standing army could not be formed without

the consent of the people.

Along with the fear of the formation of a standing army, the Anti-Federalists

were concerned about the power of taxation that the central government would

have (and that the military would be used to collect them). They feared that

outrageous taxes would be forced upon the country’s inhabitants for everything

from imports to land and goods “at their sovereign pleasure.”

The Federalists saw the need for the institution of the power to tax by the national government. Because the government under the Articles of the

Confederation was quite inefficient in producing revenues necessary to carry out

its purposes, due to the system of making quotas and requisitions upon the

thirteen states, and due to the fact that external taxes such as customs duties

were not adequate revenues, they saw it necessary for the national government to

have the power to tax. Hamilton argued that the states ununified, being closer

to the people, would be more likely to levy unruly taxing measures than would

the national government. In fact, as a unified nation, there would be free

trade among the states, which would stimulate the national economy. The power

to levy taxes would be in the hands of the people’s representatives, who

(theoretically) could be trusted to act with care on behalf of the people’s

wishes, and if this was not so, then new representatives could be elected.

The Anti-Federalists raised uproar over the “necessary and proper” clause, which empowered the government to make all laws deemed “necessary and proper”; and the “supreme law of the land” clause, which declared that all laws passedand all treaties signed by the government were to be “the supreme law of the land; any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary

notwithstanding.” They believed these clauses would allow the local

governments to be destroyed and individual liberties to be eliminated. The

Federalists, namely Hamilton, dismissed these views as misrepresentation. These

backers were firm believers in the institution of “concurrent jurisdiction,” in

which the national government would have “altogether unlimited” means in which

to levy necessary taxes, while the states retained their ability to tax as well.

Hamilton denounced the proposition of the national government raising revenue

only through customs duties on foreign imports and exports. He pointed out that

these duties would have to be raised prodigiously high, encouraging smuggling,

bringing higher prices on essentials, and yielding a market monopoly for

domestic manufacturers.

The Anti-Federalists saw many flaws in the formation of a union, chiefly in specific respect to the proposed Constitution. Concerning the legislative

bodies, the elimination of annual Congressional elections was a danger in that

the term for which Congressmen served was “too long to preserve a due dependence

and accountability for their constituents.” Also, it was proposed that the

number of representatives (one for every 30,000 inhabitants) was too few to

adequately deal with the needs, wants, concerns, and opinions of the people as

well as it was too few to prevent corruption. As far as the Senate was

concerned, the Anti-Federalists held grudgingly the opinion that “the senate . .

. is constituted on the most unequal principles,” where as each state, no matter

how large, has equal representation in this body. Beside this, there lies an

opportunity for the senate to be an instrumental key in the uprising of the

feared despotism, as the six-year position of which one can serve an unlimited

number of terms could lead to permanency. As “Centinel” of the Anti-Federalist

arguments conceded, “of all possible evils, that of despotism is the worst and

the most to be dreaded.” The argument follows that the possibility of the

President facilitating the uprising of a perpetuation of corruption within the

senate and construction of an aristocracy is too great and will ultimately lead

to the evolution of a government which can be described as the furthest thing

from balanced.

The Federalists sought out primarily to unite the states under this

Constitution, knowing that provision must be made for amendment to the document

(provision for which would be much more easily construed once the Constitution

was in effect, as then it would take only a majority concensus as opposed to the

agreement of each of the thirteen parties . In fact, Madison carried out his

promise to make the provisions for amendment and was key in drafting the Bill

of Rights.

The Federalists backed the instituted two-year term for representatives because

one year would not allow ample time for them to learn and effectively perform

duties before it was time to worry about re-election. In a country such as

England where the institution of government had long-ago been established and

the representative body maintained a static position from year to year, an

annual election may have been sufficient; however, in the creation of a new

union and entire new government, bi-annual election would hardly allow for abuse

of power. The concern of the oppostion that a beginning House of sixty-five

would be too few to adequately manage public interests was answered with the

estimation that with population growth, there would probably be two-hundred

reps. in twenty-five years, and four hundred reps. in fifty years. In answer to

the concern that the House would be too small to be sufficiently respondent to

the interests of its constituents, the Federalists maintained that more focus

should be on the issues of commerce, taxation, defense, etc., and they believed

that one representative per 30,000 would be “both a safe and competent guardian

of the interests . . . confided to it.” The Senate, as proposed in the

Constitution would be under rotation so that one-third is up for election every

two years, allowing for a majority of experience, and enabling stability and

continuity. The arrangement of the House and Senate as it were, would be

effective in impeding passage of bad legislation, as a law must be conccured on

by the people (the House) and then a state majority (the Senate).

The drafters of the Constitution found the utmost difficulty in arranging the sections dealing with the executive branch. The opposition held concern ofdespotic value. Their utter aversion to monarchy had them agitatedly eyeing every aspect of this proposed postition. Hamilton held with conviction his belief in the “necessity of an energetic executive.” The President would be up for election every four years, and would be eligible for impeachment, and thus the danger of a monarchial posititon would not be imminent.

The proposed structure of the judiciary was not as controversial as other elements of the Constitution. Balancing the governmental powers, the judiciary was to remain truly distinct from both the legislative and executive branches of the government, and it was to act as a check on both.

The federal courts would have jurisdiction and authority to overrule state laws

that were contrary to the Constitution, to facilitate interpretation of national

laws, and in regard to foreign citizens. Also, the federal courts would have

jurisdiction in conflicts between the states. The Anti-Federalists held

objection to the lack of provision for trial-by-jury. Hamilton argued that this

did not mean that the right was entirely abolished, and pointed out that the

laws and constitutions of the various states did not uphold a uniform standard

in regard to this issue. Regarding the issue of the Court’s ability to

invalidate acts of Congress, much debate has arisen over the years, and the

issue remains a topic of heated argument.

It was obvious to all parties that the constitution was not, for all intents and purposes, perfect. However, the Federalists argued that it should be accepted as it was without prior modification, as provision had been made for

amending it later. Under the circumstances, they contended, it was the best

plan set forth thus far. The Anti-Federalists did not seem to be able to answer

the arguments of the Federalists such that the new plan would be refuted, and

thus since a majority was not willing to discard the the strengths of the

proposed constitution in favor of the Articles in place, the document was

ratified and is held in place today. Those arguments held with strongest

conviction against the proposition regarding the inclusion of the basic

liberties (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly; the right to bear arms,

etc.) were answered quickly as the first ten amendments, or Bill of Rights,

was appended to the Constitution shortly after its ratification. The

Anti-Federalists held many valuable and impactful arguments in opposition to the

formation of the union under the new constitution. However, the wave of

momentum that carried the proposition was far too strong for this opposition to

contend with. They simply could not prove undoubtedly that the current system

held emphasizing the prominence of the small state republics was superior to the

large republic of the union described in the newly proposed constitution. This

failure may have caused the evolution of one of the greatest democratic

republics the world has ever seen.

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