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PTSRef: Federalists/Anti-Federalists

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posted on Jul, 30 2006 @ 09:36 PM
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The Anti-Federalists (popular democrats) began the Democratic-Republican party in 1792 and was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in opposition to Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists, also created in 1792. The Federalists (elite democrats) believed that most people were more worried about their own lives than politics, and that when they did get involved in political decisions they tended to get a tad bit emotional and intolerant. To the Federalists a democracy basically meant free and fair elections where the elites rule by competing for votes and that the main goal of a democracy should be to protect the rights of its citizens so they can have the freedom to pursue their own interests. On the contrary, the Anti-Federalists believed that people naturally wanted to participate in decisions that affected their everyday lives and that if they did not participate something would be naturally wrong with the democratic system. They believed that through this participation people could keep a check on their government and that the main threat came from the government itself; not from ordinary citizens. To them a Democracy meant more than fair elections it meant the participation of citizens in decisions that would naturally affect their lives; contrary to the Federalists who believed that political representatives should filter people’s views through their superior expertise, temperament and intelligence.

It basically boiled down to the two sides disagreeing on six basic political issues: human nature, the proper scale of political life, representation, separation of powers and checks and balances, the purpose of government and stability and change. So, on one side we had the Popular Democrats that wanted politics that extended self-government to ordinary citizens and on the other side we had the Elite Democrats who wanted to ultimately leave sovereignty to the people, but believed they should actually be governed by the economic elite.

It seems that our founding fathers did not only disagree on such things as our welfare, but also our Economy. In our early years we were a nation of small farmers and were dependent upon European imports. Alexander Hamilton (Elite Democrat) came up with an idea to curb the reliance on Europe and called for a manufacturing sector that would increase the wealth of our young nation. Naturally, Jefferson opposed Hamilton for promoting industrial capitalism primarily because he felt that it would undermine the Democracy. Jefferson thought that working for a wage compromised citizens’ independence and their willingness to participate in the Democracy for the common good. But, after he was elected President in 1800 his views gradually changed, although he continued believing that an agricultural economy was the best foundation for the Democracy.

Federalists basically believe that markets maximize freedom and minimize power, unlike the government which is complicated by laws and bureaucracy because markets don’t force people to do anything. They have a choice. The plan was that if everyone pursues their own selfish interest, the result is the greatest good for the collective whole. In other words, in modern society if a corporation does not perform to satisfy it’s customers then there will always be new companies willing to supply better goods at cheaper prices. They contend that the market is self-regulating and that government should set rules to ensure fair and honest competition. They also felt that the government should only get involved to correct things such as depressions and that it should provide things to the public such as highways, dams, military protection. Furthermore, they believed that government should take care of those who genuinely can’t compete in the marketplace. But, beyond these policies they believed the government should stay out of it.

Anti-Federalists believed in the importance of the markets and private property. However, they contend, that too often corporations use their power and wealth to influence politics and government. Thus, the rising inequalities of the little guy. Small businesses do participate in the market, however they are unable to compete with the corporations due to prices of advertising, tax breaks, price controls and the manipulation of consumer demand. Which means to them that there really isn’t a free market in American Society. They also believe that the corporations only further the monetary inequalities in society while thinking that capitalism is prone to crisis and self-destruction.


Miroff, Seidelman, Swanstrom (2002). The Democratic Debate: An Introduction to American Politics. Houghton Mifflin Company.

Sharp, James Rogers (1993). American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. Yale University Press.




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