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Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists: Who Were They?

These two groups had different visions for America.

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The United States was built on two papers, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The creation of these documents was not smooth and easy. The Founding Fathers and the rest of the country had a debate to decide what powers the new government should have.

Two groups had opposing views on how the country should run. These groups were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.

Strong Government Federalists

The Federalist group thought a strong central government should rule over the people. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison were federalist leaders.

They said this type of government was needed to create a “more perfect union” that could protect the rights of the people. They thought the federal government should have powers to make laws. Anything outside of these powers would be decided by the states.

The Federalists believed the central government should collect taxes directly from the people. The group also felt the central government should hold the power to trade with other countries.

The Federalists supported the Constitution.

Weak Government Anti-Federalists

The Anti-Federalists argued against a strong central government. This group fought against the Constitution because they believed it gave the federal government too much power over the people. They were led by George Mason, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson.

Anti-Federalists wanted to see a more local form of government that gave citizens more rights.

Anti-Federalists did not like the idea of a central government that could tax citizens directly.

How Did it Work Out?

The two groups tried to sway public opinion after the Revolutionary War. Some Anti-Federalist states only agreed to accept the Constitution if it also included a bill of rights.

In 1789, the states accepted the Constitution. After this, Congress made ten amendments to the Constitution, which became known as the Bill of Rights.

Jeff Charles

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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