Following the end of the American Revolution in 1783, in which the fledgling country ousted the British, the new United States were not so united when faced with how to structure their new government. This question soon fell into hot debate with two camps arguing for their vision of the country’s future: the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. On one hand the Federalists called for the formation of a strong centralized and national government with the ratification of a constitution to help manage the budding country’s needs. While on the other hand the Anti-Federalists, wary that a large federal government might sap power from the states and therefore destroying what they had fought for, opposed the constitution preferring that the power to govern stay with the states. While both sides brought excellent arguments to the table it is seen that the Federalists ultimately “won” the debate with the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. But what if the Anti-Federalists had won the debate, what would the United States look like today?
Imagine for a minute that you’re back in the time of the Federalists and Antifederalists. They are still arguing over the best way that the country could and should be run. Which side are you on? Now take a moment and imagine that this time history has changed and the anti-federalists won the debate. Their ideas were the considered to be the best and that is the way they decided to set up our country. What does America look like? America is not the America we know. There is no FDA or any other type of Federal programs at all. Some states didn’t make it, they were too small and couldn’t budget correctly so they were merged with other states. America looks a lot like Europe; extremely divided but all squashed together, each varying from the other and having to merge and constantly change the way they handle the state affairs. Programs like welfare are a state to state basis and it is a bit chaotic because the laws change from state to state. Which state has the best programs? Are all of these places overcrowded because of the difference in laws? Does this over-crowding cause the state’s resources to be drained too quickly? See, in this anti-federalist world the States hold all of the power. Fearful as they were of big government, the anti-federalists made sure that was no big government. Anti-federalists believed that a central government couldn’t possibly support itself because how could a select few represent such a large and diverse population? Where was the intimacy of elected official and common person? They believed that state governments would be better because it is a smaller population, there wouldn’t be a chaotic confused and disjointed system that needed a constant peacekeeper army waiting quietly to take care of the angry citizen clashes that were surely a result of big government. Right?
In the end, it is a good thing that the Federalists won the debate. We have had to learn how to fix the holes and other issues of a centralized government but we were able to find the middle ground of both sides. The centralized government handles federal issues of foreign policy, welfare, budget and much more while the states handle local laws and policy well enough to sustain its population. While the state’s law may differ from the federal laws, they are, for the most part, cohesive governing entities. We have proved that, with checks and balances, a central government can work. It can be a representative governing body without chaotic outbreaks of violence. We have learned that checks and balances keep our government from turning too big, tyrannical and into a dictatorship or back into a monarchy like the antifederalists feared.
If you would like to know more on Federalists and Anti-Federalists click here. I found this site to be extremely informative and interesting expansion on our readings from class.