Anti-Federalism

Anti-Federalism

Overview

Anti-Federalism refers to a movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and which later opposed the ratification of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 of 1787. The previous constitution, called the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

, gave state governments more authority. Led by Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

 of Virginia, Anti-Federalists worried, among other things, that the position of president, then a novelty, might evolve into a monarchy.
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Anti-Federalism refers to a movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and which later opposed the ratification of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 of 1787. The previous constitution, called the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

, gave state governments more authority. Led by Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

 of Virginia, Anti-Federalists worried, among other things, that the position of president, then a novelty, might evolve into a monarchy. A book titled "The Anti-Federalist Papers
Anti-Federalist Papers
The Anti-Federalist Papers are a collection of articles, written in opposition to the ratification of the 1787 United States Constitution. Unlike the Federalist Papers written in support of the Constitution, the authors of these articles, mostly operating under pen names, were not engaged in a...

"
is a detailed explanation of American Anti-Federalist thought.

History


During the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 and its immediate aftermath the term "federal" was applied to any person who supported the colonial union and the government formed under the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

. After the war the group who felt that the national government under the Articles was too weak appropriated the name Federalist
Federalist
The term federalist describes several political beliefs around the world. Also, it may refer to the concept of federalism or the type of government called a federation...

 for themselves. Historian Jackson Turner Main wrote that, "to them, the man of 'federal principles' approved of 'federal measures,' which meant those that increased the weight and authority or extended the influence of the Confederation Congress."

As the Federalists moved to amend the Articles, eventually leading to the Constitutional Convention, they applied the term anti-federalist to their opposition. The term implied, correctly or not, both opposition to Congress and unpatriotic motives. The Anti-Federalists rejected the term, arguing that they were the true Federalists. In both their correspondence and their local groups they tried to capture the term. For example, an unknown anti-federalist signed his public correspondence as "A Federal Farmer" and the New York committee opposing the Constitution was called the "Federal Republican Committee." However the Federalists carried the day and the name Anti-Federalist stuck.

The Anti-Federalists were composed of diverse elements, including those opposed to the Constitution because they thought that a stronger government threatened the sovereignty and prestige of the states, localities, or individuals; those that claimed a new centralized, disguised "monarchic" power that would only replace the cast-off despotism of Great Britain with the proposed government; and those who simply feared that the new government threatened their personal liberties. Some of the opposition believed that the central government under the Articles of Confederation was sufficient. Still others believed that while the national government under the Articles was too weak, the national government under the Constitution would be too strong. Another complaint of the Anti-Federalists was that the Constitution provided for a centralized rather than Federal Government (and in the Federalist papers James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 admits that the new Constitution has the characteristics of both a centralized and federal form of the government) and that a truly federal form of government was a leaguing of states as under the Articles of Confederation.

During the period of debate over the ratification of the Constitution, numerous independent local speeches and articles were published all across the country. Initially, many of the articles in opposition were written under pseudonyms, such as "Brutus
Robert Yates (politician)
Robert Yates was a politician and judge well known for his Anti-Federalist stances. He is also well known as the presumed author of political essays published in 1787 and 1788 under the pseudonyms "Brutus" and "Sydney"...

," "Centinel
Samuel Bryan
Samuel Bryan was a Pennsylvanian Anti-Federalist author, who wrote during the American Revolution. Historians generally ascribe to him the Letters of Centinel written under the pseudonym Centinel between 1787 and 1789. Centinel attacked the proposed Constitution of the United States as a document...

," and "Federal Farmer
Federal farmer
The Federal Farmer was an Anti-Federalist who wrote a methodical assessment of the proposed United States Constitution that was among the more important documents of the constitutional ratification debate. The assessment appeared in the form of two pamphlets, the first published in November 1787...

." Eventually, famous revolutionary figures such as Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

 came out publicly against the Constitution. They argued that the strong national government proposed by the Federalists was a threat to the rights of individuals and that the President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 would become a king. They objected to the federal court system created by the proposed constitution. This produced a phenomenal body of political writing; the best and most influential of these articles and speeches were gathered by historians into a collection known as the Anti-Federalist Papers
Anti-Federalist Papers
The Anti-Federalist Papers are a collection of articles, written in opposition to the ratification of the 1787 United States Constitution. Unlike the Federalist Papers written in support of the Constitution, the authors of these articles, mostly operating under pen names, were not engaged in a...

in allusion to the Federalist Papers
Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven of the essays were published serially in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788...

.

In every state the opposition to the Constitution was strong, and in two states — North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 and Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

 — it prevented ratification until the definite establishment of the new government practically forced their adherence. Individualism was the strongest element of opposition; the necessity, or at least the desirability, of a bill of rights was almost universally felt. In Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

 resistance against the Constitution was so strong that civil war almost broke out on July 4, 1788, when anti-federalist members of the Country Party
Country Party (Rhode Island)
The Country Party, Rhode Island's anti-federalist political party, controlled the Rhode Island General Assembly from 1786 and 1790 and opposed the Federalist Party, which supported the U.S. Constitution. The Federalists were largely from the "town," Providence, Rhode Island, while the Country...

 led by Judge William West marched into Providence with over 1,000 armed protesters.

The Anti-Federalists played upon these feelings in the ratification convention in Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

. By this point, five of the states had ratified the Constitution with relative ease, but the Massachusetts convention was far more bitter and contentious. Finally, after long debate, a compromise (known as the "Massachusetts compromise
Massachusetts Compromise
The Massachusetts Compromise was the solution reached in the controversy between Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the debate over the ratification of the United States Constitution in which the Federalists won...

") was reached. Massachusetts would ratify the Constitution with recommended provisions in the ratifying instrument that the Constitution be amended with a bill of rights. (The Federalists contended that a conditional ratification would be void, so the recommendation was the strongest support that the ratifying convention could give to a bill of rights short of rejecting the Constitution.)

Four of the next five states to ratify, including New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, included similar language in their ratification instruments. As a result, once the Constitution became operative in 1789, Congress sent a set of twelve amendments to the states. Ten of these amendments were immediately ratified and became known as the Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

, with one of the other two becoming the 27th Amendment
Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twenty-seventh Amendment prohibits any law that increases or decreases the salary of members of the Congress from taking effect until the start of the next set of terms of office for Representatives...

--almost 200 years later. Thus, while the Anti-Federalists were unsuccessful in their quest to prevent the adoption of the Constitution, their efforts were not totally in vain. Anti-Federalists thus became recognized as an influential group among the founding fathers of the United States.

With the passage of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Anti-Federalist movement was exhausted. It was succeeded by the more broadly based Anti-Administration Party, which opposed the fiscal and foreign policies of U.S. President George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

.

Noted Anti-Federalists



  • Patrick Henry
    Patrick Henry
    Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

  • Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

  • George Mason
    George Mason
    George Mason IV was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention...

  • Richard Henry Lee
    Richard Henry Lee
    Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

  • Robert Yates
    Robert Yates (politician)
    Robert Yates was a politician and judge well known for his Anti-Federalist stances. He is also well known as the presumed author of political essays published in 1787 and 1788 under the pseudonyms "Brutus" and "Sydney"...

  • James Monroe
    James Monroe
    James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States . Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation...


  • Mercy Otis Warren
    Mercy Otis Warren
    Mercy Otis Warren was a political writer and propagandist of the American Revolution. In the eighteenth century, topics such as politics and war were thought to be the province of men. Few women had the education or training to write about these subjects. Warren was the exception...

  • George Clinton
    George Clinton (vice president)
    George Clinton was an American soldier and politician, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was the first Governor of New York, and then the fourth Vice President of the United States , serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He and John C...

  • Melancton Smith
    Melancton Smith
    Melancton Smith was a New York Delegate to the Continental Congress. His first name is sometimes spelled "Melanchthon"; it derives from Philipp Melanchthon, the leader in the Reformation....

  • Arthur Fenner
    Arthur Fenner
    Arthur Fenner served as the fourth Governor of Rhode Island from 1790 until his death in 1805 and was a prominent Country Party leader...

  • James Winthrop
    James Winthrop
    James Winthrop wrote the Letters of Agrippa which appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette. He was part of the anti-federalist movement....



One can also argue that Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 expressed several anti-federalist thoughts throughout his life, but that his involvement in the discussion was limited, since he was stationed as Ambassador to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 while the debate over federalism was going on in America in the Federalist papers
Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven of the essays were published serially in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788...

 and Anti-Federalist Papers
Anti-Federalist Papers
The Anti-Federalist Papers are a collection of articles, written in opposition to the ratification of the 1787 United States Constitution. Unlike the Federalist Papers written in support of the Constitution, the authors of these articles, mostly operating under pen names, were not engaged in a...

.

External links