Progress Through Compromise: Anti Federalists and Federalists

In the late eighteenth century the Federalists and Anti-Federalists argued for the future of the United States. Arguments lead to progress but often when people think of them there is the belief that there must a clear winner and loser. However, the argument between the Anti-Federalists and the Federalists was heated and polarized much like the ones today between the Democratic and Republican party, finding middle ground did not seem possible. As we discussed in class the Federalists had the stronger argument and ultimately won the debate against the Anti-Federalists.


The Anti-Federalists were defeated but was it truly a complete loss for them?

In a way they achieved a sort of victory in defeat in terms of the Bill of Rights. The Anti-Federalists feared that a central government would have far too much power and become tyrannical. They compared the formation of a central government to the English monarchy the fought to break away from. Ultimately the Anti-Federalists were able to make a compromise with the victorious Federalists. The central government, which today we call the Federal government, would be formed but in exchange the Bill of Rights was included in the Constitution. During the debates the Federalists had written off the Bill of Rights as unnecessary and potentially harmful because the rights guaranteed by it were clearly defined, there were only so many rights that were guaranteed by it. However, the Anti-Federalists deemed it necessary in order to prevent the government from violating the rights of the citizens and becoming tyrannical. 


Although the Anti-Federalists achieved victory to a certain degree through the inclusion of the Bill of Rights often people overlook the importance of this part of the Constitution. In 2010 the Supreme Court case against the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission. The Bill of Rights was key in the ruling. The Court ruled that free speech was essential in a free society and that speech was not less protected because the speaker was a corporation, labor union, or other organization. As part of the ruling the Court struck down parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that put limits on corporate funding for campaigns from corporations and labor unions;Click here to read about more landmark supreme court cases related to the Bill of Rights. Although we do not remember the Anti-Federalists as the victors the compromise between them and the Federalists has had a great impact on the United States. 

We are fortunate for these so-called losers.


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4 Responses to Progress Through Compromise: Anti Federalists and Federalists

  1. ricquelln says:

    You bring up a good put about not being a “middle ground” between the two political parties we have today. That invisible, grey area between the republican and democratic parties is where I struggle; there are so many good, and bad, points that both parties have which make it tough to side, or label, yourself to one party. I do agree that even though a party may “lose” there is always an area they may achieve in. Due to that, I do not believe there should be a “win or lose” type of political system, because if there was a visible grey area there will be more things achieved and more people would become accommodated.

  2. zschilling says:

    Great post! I agree, we are fourtunate for the “so called losers”. The Anti-Federalists small victory is still relevant today. The Bill of Rights is referenced to create/discredit new legislation on a day to day basis. It has helped deter a tyrannical government over the generations and has become one of the most referenced pieces of legislation.

  3. malloysells says:

    This was a super informative post! Once again, I love cartoon videos addressing political topics and their definitions. So I decided to watch a few videos on youtube, found one made by a high school professor, I think, and discovered it to be very useful. He uses Obama and Romney, the two candidates from our most recent presidential election, to explain the differences between Anti-Federalists and Federalists. He also kind of ties in the current political parties to the traditional ideals of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, which is an important aspect for modern day education. Enjoy!

  4. jtoombs51 says:

    I enjoy your discussion of compromise among the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. These were two groups pitted against each other with drastically contrasting ideas regarding the structure/virtue of a federal power, yet they laid the foundation of the federal government. A foundation that is imperfect, which is unavoidable by nature, but allows the United States to grow throughout time, without restricting itself. It truly is fascinating that such a document was produced out of the great debates of the Constitutional Convention.
    When you discuss compromise, my mind wanders to the song “The Room Where It Happens” from Lin Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton.’ While the song is used to show Aaron Burr’s desire to be involved in making decisions/his internal conflict, it also underscores how three men (Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison) possessing drastically different ideas could come together to make crucial decisions through compromise. It is essential in governing, and ensuring the stability of a representative democracy, to find common ground.

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