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Who To Fear: The People or The Government?

November 16, 2010

The Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists

The question: Whether the people or the government should be more feared?


James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, two Federalists, believed the will of the people was to be feared most. They argued that a majority, if unchecked by the government, would gain enough power to become dominant in the political world. The Federalists feared that a faction that had too much power would actually hurt democracy by forcing its will on the good of the nation. This would eliminate one of the key concepts in American Democracy: the right for the minority to have an opinion.

In response to this threat, the Federalist proposed a strong central government to deter the tyranny of the majority. By imposing a strong system of checks and balances, factions would be unable to motivate political change simply by having a large group of supporters. This solution, though widely accepted amongst Federalists, was exactly what the Anti-Federalists feared.


While Federalists proposed a strong central government as a solution, the Anti-Federalists considered it to be an overwhelming concern. According to them, a strong central government would be to similar to the British rule they had worked so hard to overcome. The Anti-Federalists wanted a loose central government and individual state freedoms to prevent a tyrant from gaining control of the freshly created nation.

To the Anti-Federalists , a strong central government sounded like a monarchy and a president, like a king. The Anti-Federalist wanted strength with the individual states, so that no one would be controlled by the national government.


Both these concepts can be applied to contemporary life. The Federalists were arguing against against factions and ignorance. Now we have uneducated voters and two warring political parties that would much rather stay true to their party agenda than compromise for overall progress.

The Anti-Federalists, who feared a strong, overpowering government, also accurately predicted problems in modern political society. The government has been accused of violating privacy with THE PATRIOT ACT and meddling in state affairs with the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND bill. Both these actions can be considered, whether for good or bad, the government interfering in the personal affairs of the states.


SO, who was right? Which do we fear more? Who deserves the majority of our focus? YOU DECIDE!!!

  1. matteric9 permalink
    November 16, 2010 7:46 PM

    America! Federalism! The two words go together like peanut butter and jelly. For our country was founded based off of the principals of Federalism. Anti-Federalists never made much sense to me. They go around thinking the idea of individual states authoritative powers are a good thing, with no central government to control it. Maybe, but what about the U.S.A? UNITED States of America. I would argue for Federalism because it just feels good being part of America. People from all over the world travel here in hopes of bettering their lives. I like your blog, but I would be inclined to disagree that anyone is going to argue for Anti-Federalism.

  2. neilrab permalink
    November 16, 2010 7:56 PM

    In my opinion, neither group was correct. Today’s society seems to be a combination of both these ideas, considering that we have BOTH a central/federal government and state governments. The problem with the Federalists’ idea is that having centralized power could lead to tyranny and unfair distribution of resources/power amongst the states. However, where they are right and the Anti-Federalists are not is the fact that if you give individuals or in this case the states the power to rule over themselves, it could become hard to act as a united nation.

    Nowadays, each state makes its own laws; however, the federal government has its own laws also, and if they want to intervene in a state matter, they have the authority to do so and the last word. A good example would be the growth and distribution of marijuana in California. Marijuana is legal in California, for medical purposes, but it’s illegal on a federal level. There are always stories in the news regarding federal forces shutting down and arresting a lot of marijuana shop owners, which seems unfair considering they are not doing anything illegal within their state.

    Just like there is a checks-and-balances system in place for the 3 branches of government, having a centralized government that can intervene and enforce certain rules over any state if necessary seems to be vital. It is this hierarchy of power that has enabled the US to become such an advanced nation.

  3. joshuacy permalink
    November 19, 2010 12:30 AM

    Without the Constitution being ratified in every state (the creation of the United States) we would have been left with a loose Confederation holding our country together. If States’ rights were greater now than they already are, the law discrepancies between states would be even more ridiculous than they already are. Rights would vary state to state, creating (even more) a division between “Red States” and “Blue States.” I’m not saying that it’s the worst thing ever, I’m just saying: Civil War, Pt. 2

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