Federalist vs. Anti-federalist Perspectives on the Constitution

After the Philadelphia Convention, public opinion about the proposed Constitution divided into two camps: the federalists and the anti-federalists. The Federalists were mostly rich, educated, and they desired to have a powerful and centralized government. Their main aim was to protect their economic status. In 1787, James Madison published an essay, Federalist 10. The essay was in favor of the federalists and it was mainly focused on how to protect the society or community from individuals or groups of people with malicious self-interests. On the other hand, the anti-federalists were mainly farmers, debtors and other lower class people. Their main aim was to fight for individual liberties. In 1780 Robert Yates became the acknowledged leader of the Anti-federalists. Together with John Lansing, they warned the Philadelphia congress against the dangers of centralizing the government through a couple of letters signed Brutus and Sydney.

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As a result of the diversity of the Americans in terms of culture, race and wealth, it would be difficult to govern and control the citizens without sacrificing freedom and liberty of some citizens (Madison). He argued that a small republic would be easy to manage due to its homogeneity as this would ensure total freedom for all American citizens. This way would bring fairness and justice thus eliminating possible conflicts and cases of slavery. He supported Black Americans and Indians who were considered aliens in their own country. He condemned discrimination based on race and stated that all people had equal rights (Madison).

In 1780, Sam Adams wrote a letter to John Scollay expressing how the then constitution was inconsistent with any other treaty ever signed in America. He hoped for equality, fairness and freedom for all people. In addition, each and every individual life should be treated with utmost respect and dignity. Sam dreamed of an era where the United States would abolish all discriminative laws and be free from any form of slavery. He also advocated for concrete principles and policies that would protect all citizens. The law should in the forefront protecting its citizens from any injustice, and it should spell out the fundamental principles for protecting life of every American.

According to (Brutus), power should not rest on a single person. Instead, it should be shared among different leaders to ensure equal distribution of resources. He believes that governance by a single person can be violated and be used to suppress others. He asserts that there should be an independent body to pass laws; moreover, there should be separation of power between different organs of the government, and each should work independently. Brutus is perturbed by one man rule as it may be an opportunity to oppress the poor and pursue his personal interests. He goes ahead to quote Charles Louis, “It is natural to a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot be long subsists” (Brutus).

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Brutus was right, people differ in terms of ideology, interests, expectations, values and manners. You cannot satisfy all the people at the same time. The United States is a large country composed of different people in terms of race, religion, age, education, wealth and social status. All these people think differently. Very often their ideas clash, resulting to conflicts, and thus leading to slow economic growth. At times, junior civil servants may be forced to bend the laws to pave the way for the top officials` selfish interests.

Madison rejects the virtue and homogeneity because in England where power lies with the monarchy, people complain that it is difficult to implement the laws. Therefore, threats can be used against magistrates and other officials. He believes that proper leadership and management should be in place.

By giving the government sufficient support to implement the passed laws, a large population provides the answer to the problem (Madison).  There will be no intimidation of any kind, and the magistrates can apply the laws devoid of any influence. According to Madison the rule of human nature is important as most people expect that the power should be fair to all.

According to Madison, power should be exercised in accordance with the laws of the land, but some may use it to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority. It is hard to achieve democracy since large states take advantage of the small states and exploit their resources (Madison). The role of a representative was to ensure that people`s voices are heard, but in contrary it perpetuated slavery. Representation should ensure uniform distribution of resources.

Madison`s opinion on human nature is reflected in the federalist 51. It explains how power should be separated from the government. The bodies of government should work independently but together for a common goal, which is preservation of liberty (Federalist No. 51). In order to avoid conflicts, the Federalist 51 recommends one appointing authority.

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Madison believes in democracy. He is a person who believes that everyone should be involved in the decision-making process. He also believes that all are equal before the law and none should suffer at the expense of the others. He holds that power and authority should be held by few people but be used to serve many. For these reasons some call him, “The Pluralist” or the first political scientist.

Finally, it can be seen that the US political tradition is an inter-play of both the federalists and the anti-federalists. Both perspectives are correct and applicable; at times both may be used or one is chosen at the expense of the other, depending on the context and applicability. There are those who support the federalists while some support the anti-federalists.

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