Antifederalists vs federalists

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Anti-Federalist objections to the Constitution

Federalist defenses of the Constitution

Anti-federalist -- states' rights advocates, backcountry farmers, poor farmers, the ill-educated and illiterate, debtors, & paper-money advocates. 

In general, the poorer classes of society.

Federalists -- Well educated and propertied class. Most lived in settled areas along the seaboard.

Ratification Positions:

1. Articles of Confederation were a good plan.

2. Opposed strong central government. Opposed a standing army and a 10 square mile federal stronghold (later District of Columbia).

3. Strong national government threatened state power.

4. Strong national government threatened rights of the common people. Constitution was created by aristocratic elements. Suspected a sinister plot to suppress liberty of the masses.

5. Constitution favored wealthy men and preserved their power. Opposed the dropping of annual elections for representatives.

6. Constitution lacked a bill of rights. State governments already had bills of rights but they might be overridden by the Constitution.

7. Argued against 2/3 ratification plan. Articles of Confederation required unanimous consent.

8. Opposed omitting any reference to God.

Ratification Positions:

1. Articles of Confederation were weak and ineffective.

2. National government needed to be strong in order to function. Powers in foreign policy needed to be strengthened while excesses at home needed to be controlled.

3. Strong national government needed to control uncooperative states.

4. Men of experience and talent should govern the nation. "Mobocracy" threatened the security of life and property.

5. National government would protect the rights of the people.

6. Constitution and state governments protected individual freedoms without bill of rights. Since people could take back delegated power to the gov’t, there was no risk that the national gov’t would overreach.

7. In favor of establishing the Constitution with almost any means possible.

8. More sympathetic to separation of church and state.


Under Articles of Confederation

Under Federal Constitution

A loose confederation of states –"a firm league of friendship."

A firm union of people where the national government was supreme.

1 vote in Congress for each state

2 votes in Senate for each state; representation by population in House (Art.I, Secs. II., III)

2/3 vote (9 states in Congress for all important measures)

Simple majority vote in Congress, subject to presidential veto (Art. I, Sec. VII, para. 2)

Laws executed by committees of Congress

Laws executed by powerful president (Art. II, Secs. II, III)

No congressional power over commerce. States free to impose levies and restrictions on trade with other states and enter economic agreements with foreign countries.

Congress to regulate both foreign and interstate commerce (Art. I, Sec. VIII, para. 3)

No congressional power to levy taxes – payment of taxes by states was voluntary.

Extensive power in Congress to levy taxes (Art. I, Sec. VIII, para. 1)

No federal courts – states free to resolve their own matters, or conflicts with other states.

Federal courts, capped by Supreme Court (Art. III)

Unanimity of states for amendment

Amendment less difficult (Art. V) – 2/3 Congress and ¾ of the states

No authority to act directly upon individuals and no power to coerce states

Ample power to enforce laws by coercion of individuals and to some extent of states


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