A Comparison of the Federalists and the Republicans

A Comparison of the Federalists and the Republicans

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A Comparison of the Federalists and the Republicans

Federalism a central feature of the American political system has long
been an important issue. The nature of federalism has been shaped
through the years by debates between prominent statesmen, laws, and
Supreme Court decisions. When the colonies declared their independence
from the Britain in 1776, they reacted against the British unitary
system in which all political and economic power was concentrated in
London. A major source of friction between the colonies and the mother
country was the British attempt to reclaim powers previously granted
to the colonial governments. During the American Revolution, the
states reacted to Britain unitary system by creating the Articles of
Confederation that gave virtually all powers to the states.

Anti-federalists were persons who opposed the ratification of the U.S.
Constitution in 1787-1788. They conceded that the central government
needed more power than it had under the Articles of Confederation, but
they argued that the Framers of the Constitution had gone to o far,
and, deeply suspicious of political power, feared that the centralized
government proposed by the Framers would lead to a new kind of
tyranny.

The conflict that took shape in the 1790’s between the Federalists and
Anti-federalist exercised a profound impact on American history. The
Federalist, led by Alexander Hamilton, who had married into the
wealthy Schuyler family, represented the urban mercantile interests of
the seaports; the Anti-federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson, spoke for
the rural and southern interests. The debate between the two concerned
the power of the central government versus that of the states, with
the Federalists favoring the former and the Anti-federalists
advocating states’ rights. Hamilton sought strong central government
acting in the interests of commerce and industry. He brought to public
life a love of efficiency, order and organization.

Few Americans believe that the federalists system should be abandoned,
but the nature of federalism is still a controversy today, and

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Americans still disagree about the balance of power between national
and state governments. An individual’s attitude about federalism
depends partly on how much he or she values equality vs. freedom.
Uniform laws passed by a unitary government tend to emphasize equal
treatment of citizens. The federalist system is rooted in the
Constitution, and even though it has changed dramatically in this
century there is no doubt that government powers will continue to be
shared among national, state, and local levels.
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