Emerging out of the Constitutional Convention, the emergence of two visions of national government threatened to divide the delegates. For their part, the Federalists favored a type of government that was able to hold national power and enforcement strength. The Federalists were concerned with a weakened central government. They saw Shays' Rebellion and the Articles of Confederation. They understood that the need for a national government that had enforcement power and the ability to control the affairs of the nation was of vital interest if the new nation was to succeed. The Federalists were convinced that the nation can only find peace, law, and order with a strong national government.
The vision of national government that Antifederalists held was a minimal one. Coming off of the nightmare of King George that sparked the revolution in the first place, the Antifederalists were determined to not exchange one oppressive form of government with another one. For their part, they wanted national government to be able to be checked by the state government. It was important for them to advocate a form of nationalized government that would be limited by the states and by individuals, allowing individual freedom to be the most important element in national government.
The major difference between these two sides' views of the national government had to do with the amount of power that the federal government would have relative to the states. The federalists wanted the national government to have a great deal of power while the antifederalists wanted it to be weak.
The federalists worried about excessive democracy. They thought the states were too controlled by the people and that they would, therefore, enact policies that were popular but ill-advised. That is why they wanted a strong national government that would be more insulated from the popular will.
By contrast, the anti-federalists were worried about a central government taking away their rights. Therefore, they wanted a weak central government and strong states. They felt the states would be nearer to the people and therefore less likely to want to infringe on the people's rights.