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The Struggle Between Federalist and Anti-federalist in USA: The Federalist Papers

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 After America gained their independence from Great Britain in 1776, they needed something to bring the colonies together into a single entity. They needed the feeling of a unified government. For this reason, the Articles of Confederation were written and stood as the United State’s first constitution. Though it essentially stood as the country’s first constitution, it wasn’t, by any means, a good one.

The Articles of Confederation had a lot of issues. Amendments were nearly impossible due to the fact that all of the thirteen states must come to an agreement to go through with it. In the case of small legislation, things weren’t as difficult as an amendment, but they were nowhere near effortless. In order for small legislation to pass, nine out of the thirteen states had to agree. The government couldn’t make you do anything, they could only ask for you to do so. The so-called government had no power to tax or to draft the people. Because they did not have the right to tax or to draft there was no money to pay off the United State’s national debt, and because of this they were stuck in a state of the national debt. There was no executive branch so there was no one to enforce the law, because of this, the entire country was living in a constant state of somewhat chaos. No one had absolutely any control over the states. If a conflict were to start it would most definitely be a large one and an armed conflict at that. And that is exactly what happened.

Daniel Shay was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The United States did not have the money to pay all of these veterans, so they gave them war bonds and promised that they would get their money when they took their bonds to the bank. The longer you held on to your bond the more interest it earned and the more money you got. But that didn’t happen. The bank refused Shay’s bond along with everyone else’s, which was a major turning point. Lots of the men were farmers and these farmers had no money to pay off the debts of their farms, and the bank started to take their farms back. These men tried to explain that if the bank would accept their bonds, then they could afford to pay off their debts, but the bank still refused. These men rallied together in an armed protest that lasted about six months in an effort to try and stop the court from sending innocent men to prison for their debts. Shay’s Rebellion showed a lot of issues with the government and how weak The Articles of Confederation were and is thought to be the main reason as to why the new constitution was written and for the fall of The Articles. Shay’s Rebellion couldn’t take all the credit for the failure of the Articles of Confederation though. Poor international relations and the rural/urban divide also played a large part in the fall of The Articles. After the new Constitution was written, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist papers.

The Federalists could be considered as nationalists. The Federalists wanted a strong, central government with very weak state governments. Benjamin Franklin, John Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and George Washington were key Federalists. These men may have been the key or main Federalists, but they had many supporters to go along with them. The support that the Federalists received was largely in urban areas. The Federalists favored the Constitution and believed that it was, in fact, sufficient enough to protect the individual rights of the people of America.

The Anti-Federalists could not have disagreed more. John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, and Mercy Otis Warren were primary Anti Federalists who got their support largely through very rural areas that consisted mostly of farmers. These Anti-Federalists wanted the power to be in the state’s government and not the central government. The Anti-Federalist party believed that the Constitution was not sufficient by any means and favored the Articles of Confederation. Because the Anti-Federalists couldn’t get an organized party across all 13 states, they just had to try and fight the ratification at every state meeting.

Alexander Hamilton, who is better known as Publius in the Federalist papers, is the author of both Federalist papers number 78 and 79. At the beginning of the paper, Hamilton addresses the importance of the judicial branch. According to his beliefs, the judicial branch is the weakest branch out of all the government, this is because he believed that the judicial branch had no involvement in doing things that deal with the government’s responsibilities and that they only had the power to judge. They don’t have power over money or the army. Hamilton told the people that no matter how unfairly the court may treat you, they can never infringe upon or threaten your liberty. The Constitution states that judges will remain in office for their entire life during good behavior.  The only way that a judge may be removed is if they commit a high crime. Hamilton states that the learning and perfecting of being a judge takes a lifetime to learn so there is no reason that a judge should not serve his term for life. Hamilton basically laughs at anyone who thinks that the idea of judges holding their office for life is a bad idea. Judges serving for life frees them from political pressure or swaying one way or another. Although the judges serving a life term was good, the judicial branch was still the weakest. The Judicial review is still a part of the Constitution, however, it stands too much against democracy. According to Hamilton, any responsibilities should be left to the elite and no one else.

Although we do not know who exactly wrote the Anti-Federalist papers number 78 and 79, we do know that he is referred to as Brutus in these papers. Brutus states that the Supreme Court will be ranked higher than anyone else in the government system. Consequently, there will be no power over the judges, and no one can control their decisions leading the judges to have too much say and control the legislature. Brutus said, “I do not object to the judges holding their commissions during good behavior.” But, while he thought that the judges serving a life term were responsible, he did not agree that the judges should be so independent and that it was too much like the English government. Everyone needs a leader or someone to help them stay on the right track, and he thought that since these judges had no power above them that they were way too independent. According to Brutus, any responsibilities should be in the hands of the people, and to not have anything to do with the judicial branch.

The Judicial review is a key aspect in both of these papers and both Hamilton and Brutus agreed that the judiciary needed to be independent, but nothing else was agreed upon between the two. Between the papers, the power that the judges held to declare a law unconstitutional sparked a massive debate. Hamilton argued that the judiciary “may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.” Hamilton found it very important to weaken the fears of the people about excessive judicial power. One of Hamilton’s main points in the Federalist paper was to make the legislative branch superior. However, Brutus thought otherwise. He believed that the judges had way too much power and that this amount of power could allow them to basically shape the federal government however they wanted it. Brutus was worried that if these judges were left too independent that the decisions that they would make would not be in for the good of the government.

Judges are a major factor in these two papers and a factor that the Federalists and Anti Federalists largely disagreed on. During the time that these papers were being written, judges served as a judge for their entire lifetime. Hamilton thought that judging the mental health of a judge just because of their age was wrong. Brutus did not disagree that judges should serve in office for their whole lifetime, but he did not think that it was right to not have anyone higher than a judge. If a judge were to serve for their whole life, they could easily control the legislature because they knew so much about it.

The way that the two parties viewed the Constitution was another large debate. Hamilton believed that the Constitution was sufficient enough to protect the individual rights of the people of America, but Brutus believed that it was necessary to establish a Bill of Rights to protect the individual rights of the people because the constitution violated them. Hamilton argued that there was no need for the Bill of Rights because the Constitution was sufficient enough. Hamilton and Brutus could not come to an agreement of what good or bad could come out of the Constitution.

Brutus made many valid points in his arguments. It was short and straight to the point, while Hamilton’s was very long and drawn out. Brutus got straight to what they wanted and what they wanted to do away with. Brutus did not disagree that judges should serve in their office for life, he just did not approve of the idea of the judges having the most power. Brutus and the rest of the Anti Federalists wanted most of the power to be in each of the states while the federal government only had a fraction of the control. There needs to be control of how much power the federal government has otherwise all of the power is in the hands of the very wealthy and elite and the decisions they make are only to better themselves and their interests. There needs to be a balance between how much power the states and the federal government get. If one or the other were to gain too much power, things could turn bad quickly. Although the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers were written long before our time, without them our society would not be shaped or look the way that it does today. 

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The Struggle Between Federalist and Anti-Federalist in USA: The Federalist Papers. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from
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