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Federalists vs. Antifederalists

To amend the Articles of Confederation, unanimous approval by all thirteen colonies was a necessity. Instead of reforming the preexisting document, it was decided that once approved by nine states, a newly written document would become the supreme law of the land. Framers of the constitution were voted on by the individual colonies to amend the existing law, the Articles of Confederation, but instead, created something entirely different altogether. They wrote the new document and gave it to the people, who were amazed and frightened at the new piece of legislation. Because of the introduction of such a radical change, conflict sprouted throughout the country over views of how government should be, and the rights that it should grant the people.

People who were against a strong federal government were the antifederalists. They were in opposition of the federalists who supported the constitution and a strong central government. The antifederalists consisted mostly of the poorer classes, those who were poorly educated, backcountry dwellers, single-horse farmers, etc. Along with them were debtors who feared that a strong central government would force them to pay off their debts. Antifederalists suspected that the aristocrats were up to something sinister and trying to somehow trick them.

Federalists were more respectable and cultured people. They mostly owned property and lived in settled areas, unlike the antifederalists. who lived in the backcountry. Many of them were former loyalists who had a conservative attitude.

Antifederalists voiced strong objections about the constitution. It had been drawn up by the aristocrats, and therefore was believed to be undemocratic. They spoke out about the loss of sovereignty of the states, and how the freedoms of individuals were in jeopardy because of an absence of a bill of rights. They criticized that there would no longer be annual elections for congressional representatives, the creating of a standing army, the exclusion of any reference to God, and how only two thirds of the states needed to ratify the document.

Special elections for federalists and antifederalists, were held in different states, and were elected based on the pledges for or against the constitution. Four small states and Pennsylvania ratified the document early on. Massachusetts ratified the document as well, but only after the promise that it would include a bill of rights. Three more states then approved the Constitution. All states had agreed upon it except Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, and North Carolina. Although these states had not yet approved, the document was officially adopted on June 21,1788. Virginia had a strong anti-federalists population, but Rhode Island was close to ratify, and because Virginia could not stand as an independent state, the Virginians agreed. Because New York permitted a manhood-suffrage vote, the majority of people were anti-federalists. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote a series of articles in New York newspapers that were the most convincing commentary ever written about the Constitution. New York soon ratified as well, with the realization that it could not prosper on it?s own. North Carolina and Rhode Island were the last two states to agree. They did so, unwillingly, only after the new government had been in effect for several months. Although no one died because of the Antifederalists-Federalist battle, it was very heated and involved many riots and disagreements. The last four states to ratify did so involuntarily because they knew that in order to survive; they needed to be part of the union.


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