Throughout the history of this nation, there has been countless debates concerning how much power the federal government should have. But before the United States Constitution was ratified by the states, there was a debate between what is considered the first political parties of this country. Those being federalists, who wanted the Constitution ratified as it was and anti-federalist, who did not want the Constitution ratified without a Bill of Rights. In this assignment, the ideas and philosophies behind each party will be examined, along with how they would set-up their government and which one I would align with in that time.
Lead by a few different key figures, such as James Madison, this party believed that there was need for a central government because it would help provide a more perfect union in the United States (Would you have been a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist? n.d.). In organizing their idea of a perfect government, this party would look to have one powerful government supported by a bi-cameral legislature. Essentially, this group of people believed that one entity should be in complete control of the nation and its citizens. One item of importance that was lacking for the Federalists was the Bill of Rights, which was one of the reasons that the Anti-Federalist opposed the ratification of the Constitution.
On the complete opposite side of the Federalist were the Anti-Federalist. While Federalists generally consisted of individuals that were landowners and had a higher statue sociologically, the Anti-Federalist were made up of lower-class citizens, such as farmers and laborers (O’Conner, Sabato, & Yanus, 2016). Due to this difference, those associated with the Anti-Federalist had the belief that each state should be allowed to do as they see fit, including creating their own laws and regulations. If an Anti-Federalists were to create the government, they would do so by allowing the states to be individual without the presence of a central government. It was believed that having an all-powerful government would severely limit the personal rights of the citizens. And this was illustrated by their demand for a Bill of Rights, as it would protect these personal freedoms.
To decide which side, I would have been on during this period, I must forget that the Constitution, since its inception over 200 years ago, has been successful in regulating the Federal government. Putting myself in this situation, I would have been on the side of the Anti-Federalist. This is because of how they viewed what a tyrannous government could do and that the citizens needed something that guaranteed their personal freedoms from government interference. Two of the Anti-Federalist papers that would have been of interest to me are No. 51 and No. 84.
The first, No. 51, is dedicated to the topic of checks and balances in the Constitution and whether this would secure the rights of the people. This paper was authored and included in a pamphlet produced by someone under the pen-name of “Aristocrotis.” In this article, the author details how the system of Congress could be fatal to the foundation of this country, particularly the power that the House of Representatives has. This is because it was viewed that these individuals would pursue their own business rather than that of the people. Reading this back in 1788 would put some fear into me, because elected officials are supposed to do what their constituents want, not what they want to do. Especially after just dealing with the Revolutionary War, it would be much more difficult to trust anyone.
The second of these papers that would have influenced my decision is paper No. 84. This paper was authored under the pen-name of “Brutus” and was on the topic of the necessity of the Bill of Rights. One statement made in this paper about the need of these rights regarding criminal prosecution really caught my eye. Because without a Bill of Rights, nobody would be afforded the right of counsel or the ability to not incriminate themselves. This is something that I would support in 1788 or 2018, as I believe having personal rights is what this country the best in the world.
Even though each side had their own ideas, they eventually compromised to create the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But without the terms that states like New York agreed to, that a Bill of Rights must be added for them to ratify, this doctrine may have never been included. To me, it seems like the people that lived back then had more sense than those involved in politics today, and thank goodness for this, because without this kind of structure, this country would not be the same.
“Aristocrotis,” (1788) Antifederalist No. 51, Do Checks and Balances Really Secure the Rights of the People? Retrieved from http://resources.utulsa.edu/law/classes/rice/Constitutional/AntiFederalist/51.htm
“Brutus,” (n.d.) Antifederalist No. 84, On the Lack of a Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://resources.utulsa.edu/law/classes/rice/Constitutional/AntiFederalist/84.htm
Would you have been a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://billofrightsinstitute.org/would-you-have-been-a-federalist-or-an-anti-federalist/