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Federalists Compared to Anti-Federalists

Discuss the essential conflicting opinions existing between federalists and anti-federalists during the Revolutionary War and the immediate post-revolutionary period leading to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Essentially, the posting addresses basic questions of government structure/authority, economic concerns, and notions of political ambition. Basic primary and secondary sources are indicated where appropriate.

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The essential conflicts rising from the drafting of the U.S. Constitution remain endemic to American political culture - even today. The Civil War notwithstanding, questions of state, or local, versus federal authority charged public debate during Reconstruction, challenged Indian policy associated with westward expansion, and surfaced many times throughout the twentieth century. The seeds of this debate, however, were planted during the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution; and it was the revolutionary experience that most informed this state/federal debate. Anti-federalists, still smarting from the British colonial era, advocated a weak and decentralized national government that would not seek to replace Great Britain. Federalists, on the other hand, sought to establish a strong central government that would emulate the former mother country. As a result, government structure, economic issues, and political ambition all came together; exacerbating the state/federal debate.

Even as the Revolution raged, government structure prompted debate. The Articles of Confederation, adopted by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, is often seen as the quintessential expression of anti-federalist sentiment. While often characterized by historians as offering a weak and decentralized government, broad disagreements erupted during the Confederation's ratification that turned on both governmental structure and its authority. Small states pushed for equal representation while larger states promoted representation based upon population - a serious debate that would return during the Constitution's ratification in 1787. Claims over ownership of western lands further encouraged debate; with those supporting a weak central government claiming ownership and others supporting a stronger central government calling for such ...

Solution Summary

The solution provides insight on the essential conflict between Federalists and Anti-federalists during and after the American revolution and how this affected the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

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