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The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were two opposing political groups who emerged in the late-eighteenth century, when the Constitution was under debate.
On one side, the Federalists were strongly in favour of adopting a Constitution. They believed that a strong central government was the only way to protect the liberties earned in the American Revolution. In the words of James Madison, a Federalist leader: the Constitution was a "Republican remedy for the diseases most incident to Republican government."
On the other side were the Anti-Federalists. These men were strongly opposed to the Constitution because they believed that it gave too much power to the central government that, in their opinion, was incapable of representing the ordinary citizen. They were also concerned that the proposed Constitution didn't affirm certain liberties, like freedom of speech. As a compromise, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution in 1791 in the form of the first ten amendments.
The differences between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists are vast and at times complex. Federalists’ beliefs could be better described as nationalist. The Federalists were instrumental in 1787 in shaping the new US Constitution, which strengthened the national government at the expense, according to the Anti-Federalists, of the states and the people. The Anti-Federalists opposed the ratification of the US Constitution, but they never organized efficiently across all thirteen states, and so had to fight the ratification at every state convention. Their great success was in forcing the first Congress under the new Constitution to establish a bill of rights to ensure the liberties the Anti-Federalists felt the Constitution violated. Below are some key differences in the groups.
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