In September 1787, America’s Founding Fathers started to draft the federal Constitution. Before the ratification, a powerful debate emerged on the weaknesses of the new constitution and how they will be corrected. Anti-federalists strongly opposed the ratification of the new constitution. They had reservations on assignment of power to the national government. On the contrary, federalists insisted that the assignment of power would be interpreted in a strict and narrow manner. The anti-federalist believed that if an interpretation of the law is objectionable, then it is definitely unconstitutional (Kennedy 20). This paper traces the roots of the federal system of America and highlights the issues that surround the power allocated to citizens versus the federal government. Other issues discussed in the paper are the side with the most vindicated issues and the side that resembles the contemporary Republican and Democratic Parties.
Anti-Federalists were against the ideology of the formation of a republican government because it would not work at a national level. Besides that, they felt that the new constitution did not protect the rights of persons. Anti-federalists like Thomas Paine, Luther Martin, George Clinton, Patrick Henry, and George Mason presented themselves as revolutionary leaders. The federalists included James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton.
Anti-federalists wrote articles and several speeches that were printed in newspapers. These letters had psuedoynms like “Brutus,” “Cincinnatus,” among others (Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry 108). Today the collection is referred to as Anti-federalists papers. In response, federalists responded to the articles by writing about 80 letters entitled “Publis.” The “Publis” sought to explain the novel constitution and answered to the claims made by the anti-federalists. After the public read and weighed the evidence presented by both sides, the Federalists won and the constitution was voted for in all the independent 13 States of America.
After that, George Washington, a very powerful supporter of the new constitution became the first president of America. Later, Alexander Hamilton helped the federalists to form the Federalist Party, which did not survive beyond 1924 (Gordon 71). On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson pulled the efforts of the anti-federalists together and they formed the Democratic Republicans perhaps a precursor of the current Democratic Party.
Issues in the Debate
In the proposed plan, the new federal government derived most of its power from the people. All persons in the 13 independent states would be united to form a national government. In the new constitution, all individuals will be represented in an equal manner in the House irrespective of their states of residence. This implies that, the new constitution would make a United States where all people are united rather than loosely joined confederate states. Anti-federalists argued that, the formation of a large nation or republic will result to an unchecked government that lacks freedom and may be unable to govern itself. James Madison concurred that the unification of states will lead to the formation of a big nation. However, a well-organized system of governance would ensure that the interests of the public are considered. A government that derives power from the people means that the people will check any form of unfairness. Auxiliary measures like the separation of powers and enactment of laws that will act as a check of an unfair system will prohibit the formation of an unjust system of governance.
Most Vindicated Views
The views that have been most supported are those of federalists. Anti-federalists felt that the formation of a large nation would harm the liberty of individuals. In his response, Madison wrote that a representative democracy would discourage the formation of factions. On the same line, he wrote that direct democracy of individuals is a source of faction formation. Madison stated that the only way a government would control the formation of factions is through the destruction of liberty or create a nation where everyone’s choice an interest is considered. Today in America, the government draws its authority from the people. Although there is representative democracy in the House and in the Congress, the Bill of Rights provides for the liberties of individuals. The federalists ensured that a strong Bill of Rights would be drafted and attached to the new constitution. In addition to that, the citizens of America have a democracy where they are free to elect their leaders and are entitled to their own opinions. Although there are elements of republic since they do not vote directly for the laws, instead their representatives are eligible to vote both in the House and in the Congress.
The federalists had power because they influenced the formation of the United States of America, a very large nation. The sovereignty of this popular nation and its authority has prohibited the formation of factions. Most of the American citizenry seem to be somehow content with the system of governance because they have not staged a major revolution since the formation of a united nation.
In America, there are millions of voters and the chances of electing a proficient representative are greater. For example, in a large nation, a corrupt individual will need to bribe millions in order to be voted. The other factor supported by federalists is federalism. The issue of governance of a large area is easier due to the presence of states. This means that local and state officials will look into local concerns.
Federalists argued that a national government would be in a position to protect the ability of an individual to be economically successful and protect the inequality of property. In the American Civil War, the United States federal government went against this power of the government. Researchers have posited that a discrepancies in economic interests lead to the start of the American Civil War.
In 1790, Alexander Hamilton, a federalist proposed that the debts incurred by various states during war should be paid by the national government. The Southern agricultural states did not support this idea since they had paid back all their debt while the Northern states were reluctant to do the same. In addition to that, most of the Southern people were anti-federalists who felt that the power of the federal government should be limited to interstate commerce and national security. The Northerners agreed to move the capital of America to a place south of River Potomac (current location of Washington D.C). The Southerners compromised by allowing the national government to pay all debts owed by the states (Gordon 107).
Hamilton proposed the formation of a National Bank that would provide loans, control the small banks, and act as a reserve of federal revenue. Most of the anti-federalists opposed this creation since it would be an introduction to tyranny. They proposed that, private and rich individuals would be “dangerously” close to the reserves of the federal government, use the reserves, and leave the rest of the individuals to suffer. However, federalists ensured that they carried the day. They used a loose clause in the constitution and endorsed the formation of a national bank against the outcry of anti-federalists. In February 1971, a national bank with a government charter had been formed (Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry 389).
At the end of 1971, Hamilton proposed the passage of tariffs to help the national government in the construction of industries. The anti-federalists who hailed from an agricultural South considered protectionist tariffs as a move to make the North rich and strong. Although federalists had won over debt payment by the national government and creation of a bank, anti-federalists lobbied for the decline of tariff creation. There was strong opposition against this bill and it failed (Kennedy 131).
How the Contemporary Democratic Party fits into the Debate
The present Democratic Party has embraced the ideals of anti-federalism. The party strongly focuses on problems surrounding individuals and does not take the responsibilities of the states that are in debt or economic recession. The party is giving tax cuts to poor working class families and helping students in the university to pay their education loans. The Healthcare Bill popularly known as “Obamacare” aims at providing all citizens with healthcare. In addition to that, they believe in providing every family with clean energy, security, retirement benefits, battling illegitimate drugs, access to technology, and education among others. The party also aims at reducing the national deficit and creating jobs for millions of Americans. In addition to that, the party has put measures to ensure that the American economy does not slide back into recession. Just like the anti-federalists, the party has declined to impose unfair tariffs and taxes on the working class. The party claims that unfair taxing system where the elite are given tax cuts is responsible for the creation of a very big gap between the richest and the poorest Americans. The party also focuses on making the lives of Americans better by enacting laws that prohibit immigration into the U.S. A reduction in immigrants implies that legal Americans will have a higher bargaining power at the work place. Immigrants often use services that they did not help in putting in place like the healthcare system, roads, and houses among others and accept lower salaries.
Finally, the Democrats are pro-abortion. They believe that Americans have the right to choice; a fundamental right entrenched in the Bill of Rights. Democrats believe that the current citizens should get a good life first before thinking of the unborn. In addition to that, they believe that Republicans should use pro-abortion campaign funds to make the lives of Americans better.
How the Contemporary Republican Party fits into the Debate
The ideals of the Republican Party are a mixture of the fundamentals of federalist and anti-federalists. The Republican Party embraces pro-life ideologies, a strong support of a small nation and reduction of taxes. However, the actions of Republican leaders believe in lower taxes for the elite while the poor working class is obliged to pay the majority of taxes leading to extreme poverty among the American poor. The real action of the republicans has been evident during their reign. Under the presidency of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the national deficit increased three-fold (Kennedy 77). This shows the national government has embraced the federalist ideal where the state controls the liberty of its citizens. Anti-federalists also believed in a small nation where factions are oppressed because everyone has a forum where they can air their views. The elite republicans have supported the creation of Enterprise Zones in poor areas. In these areas, rich investors are given tax cuts because they are trying to “help” the poor. Some bills that have been passed by the states that are represented by Republicans have ensured that the working class has the least bargain at the work place. A good example is the Wisconsin Bill that cut the bargaining rights of teachers at the work place. Consequently, this will lead to a decline in education levels in the state (Gordon 66).
In conclusion, the present day Democratic Party has embraced the ideals of anti-federalists while the Republican Party has embraced views from both sides. The federalist and anti-federalist ideals are the basis of party politics in the U.S. Some of the systems that had been established during the early years of the United States like payment of debt for some states have not gone down well across members of the Congress. Thomas Jefferson was against the formation of a federal reserve because it would lead to tyranny and the same reserve led America into the 2007 Economic Recession.