Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist factions developed during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Alexander Hamilton, Portrait

Alexander Hamilton was a prominent leader of the Federalist faction. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Federalists and Anti-Federalists Summary

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were two factions that emerged in American politics during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. The original purpose of the Convention was to discuss problems with the government under the Articles of Confederation and find reasonable solutions. Instead of updating the Articles, the delegates replaced the Articles with something entirely new — the Constitution of the United States. Despite the development of the Constitution, there was disagreement. The people who favored the Constitution became known as Federalists. Those who disagreed, or even opposed it, were called Anti-Federalists. Anti-Federalists argued the Constitution failed to provide details regarding basic civil rights — a Bill of Rights — while Federalists argued the Constitution provided significant protection for individual rights. After the Constitution was adopted by the Convention, it was sent to the individual states for ratification. The ensuing debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists that followed remains of the great debates in American history, and eventually led to the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Constitutional Convention, Signing the Constitution, Christy
“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States” by Howard Chandler Christy. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Quick Facts About Federalists

  • The name “Federalists” was adopted by people who supported the ratification of the new United States Constitution.
  • Federalists favored a strong central government and believed the Constitution provided adequate protection for individual rights.
  • The group was primarily made up of large property owners, merchants, and businessmen, along with the clergy, and others who favored consistent law and order throughout the states.
  • Prominent Federalists were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.
  • During the debate on the Constitution, the Federalists published a series of articles known as the “Federalists Papers” that argued for the passage of the Constitution.
  • The Federalists eventually formed the Federalist Party in 1791.

Quick Facts About Anti-Federalists

  • Anti-Federalists had concerns about a central government that had too much power.
  • They favored the system of government under the Articles of Confederation but were adamant the Constitution needed a defined Bill of Rights.
  • The Anti-Federalists were typically small farmers, landowners, independent shopkeepers, and laborers.
  • Prominent Anti-Federalists were Patrick Henry, Melancton Smith, Robert Yates, George Clinton, Samuel Bryan, and Richard Henry Lee.
  • The Anti-Federalists delivered speeches and wrote pamphlets that explained their positions on the Constitution. The pamphlets are collectively known as the “Anti-Federalist Papers.”
  • The Anti-Federalists formed the Democratic-Republican Party in 1792.

Significance of Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The Federalists and Anti-Federalists are important to the history of the United States because their differences over the United States Constitution led to its ratification and the adoption of the Bill of Rights — the first 10 Amendments.

Learn More About Federalists and Anti-Federalists on American History Central

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Federalists and Anti-Federalists
  • Author
  • Keywords Federalists, Anti-Federalists, Debate on the Constitution, Philadelphia Convention
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 14, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 29, 2024