Compare and contrast ideas on government of the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists during their debates on ratification of the U.S. Constitution (1787–1788).

Focus Question: What were the views of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists?

See also:

rotating gif.gifUnited States History I.8
external image 200px-Government_icon.svg.pngAP United States Government: Federalism

Shortly after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, a debate grew regarding the Articles of Confederation. The men of the new nation debated the creation of a new constitution. There were two main opposing views whose dialogue helped shape this. These groups were the "Federalists" and their opponents, who became known as "Anti-Federalists".

Multimedia.pngClick here for a short video which explains the Federalist and Anti-Federalist views on the new Constitution.

Click here for a chart for how Federalists and Anti-Federalists viewed certain policies, and click here for a more in-depth comparison of the differences.


Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Huntington, c.1865
Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Huntington, c.1865

The Federalist Party was founded by Alexander Hamilton during George Washington's presidency. Hamilton was determined to pass the United States Constitution and gained many supporters during his political encounters. The Federalists wrote a collection of 85 articles and essays that were named the "Federalist Papers." These papers consisted of the thoughts of Federalist leaders like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

1) Believed the Articles of Confederation was for the most part a failure.
2.) Believed a strong central government is necessary for the state to operate efficiently.
3.) Were against the autonomy of states over the central government.

primary_sources.PNGThe Federalist Papers: Provided by the Library of Congress.

Female_Rose.pngClick here for a biography of Abigail Adams from the National First Ladies Library.

external image Beautiful_red_apple.jpgFederalist 10: Democratic Republic vs. Pure Democracy


Leaders: Patrick Henry, George Mason

Introduction to the Anti-Federalists from Ashland University

external image George_Mason.jpg
"The 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 too far, and, deeply suspicious of political power, feared that the centralized government proposed by the Framers would lead to a new kind of tyranny. As you read, look for the main arguments that these Anti federalists put forth against the proposed Constitution."

"During the period from the drafting and proposal of the federal Constitution in September, 1787, to its ratification in 1789 there was an intense debate on ratification. The principal arguments in favor of it were stated in the series written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay called the Federalist Papers, although they were not as widely read as numerous independent local speeches and articles. The arguments against ratification appeared in various forms, by various authors, most of whom used a pseudonym. Collectively, these writings have become known as the Anti-Federalist Papers"

Scroll to the bottom of this page for links to the Anti-Federalist Papers.

1.) Believed the basic principles of the Articles of Confederation was a mostly good plan.
2.) Believed in a central government with limited power.
3.) Supported the autonomy of states over the power of a federal government

Portrait of Mercy Otis Warren (circa 1763)
Portrait of Mercy Otis Warren (circa 1763)

Female_Rose.pngRead a short biography of Mercy Otis Warren who opposed the new Constitution.

Read an excerpt of Mercy Otis Warren's "Observations on the New Constitution."

Lesson Plans

lessonplan.jpgHistory Channel lesson plans: List of lesson plans provided by the History Channel, from elementary to high school level plans.

lessonplan.jpgneh.gov lesson plan: Lesson plan provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities/