The Federalists vs. the Republicans

The Federalists vs. the Republicans


History 231 Assessment cycle 2019-2022



The Federalists vs. the Republicans

Although the first president of the United States, George Washington, advised against the nation dividing based on political affiliations and the creation of political factions, two groups emerged with different views on the constitution. One was the federalists led by Alexander Hamilton, and the others were republicans under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. The fight for the ratification of the constitution was long and difficult as support was sought from the nine states required to ratify it. States were, however, reluctant to ratify it as they were interested in retaining power, which a strong central government would undermine. Those that supported the ratification of the constitution were federalists and those that did not were Democratic-Republicans or anti-federalists. This paper discusses the similarities and differences between the federalists and the republicans based on philosophies, the reason for the emergence of each faction, the section of society that supported each faction, and their view on pertinent issues such as slavery.

The Republicans did not understand why the Bill of rights was not included in the constitution and could only ratify it unless there was a guarantee that the Bill of rights would be included later. The Federalists, on their part, did not think the listing of rights was a good idea. They argued that if the national government was given a list of rights, it was supposed to protect, it meant that it was not bound from violating rights that were not listed. Because it was virtually impossible to list all rights, the Federalists argued that it was better to list none at all.2 Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans were skeptical of the powers the constitution was giving the national government at the expense of States. On this view, Federalists suggested the separation of powers between three branches of government, each independent of the other. Each branch represented a specific aspect of the people, and the equality between them ensured none could assume control of the other. The Republicans did not see it this way as the “necessary and proper clause” gave Congress too much power. The executive branch was also given too much power.

Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans were in support of a nation whose economy was based on agriculture, while Alexander Hamilton supported the creation of a national bank that could support industrial development.1 The Federalists wanted an economy supported by manufacturing, overseas trade, commerce, and finance. The Republicans, on the other hand, were of the idea of a pure agrarian economy and favored the yeoman farmer. This meant the small farmers and not the big plantation owners. They wanted the government to support the common man and his interests.

These two factions emerged after the revolutionary war, and the founding fathers had to create a nation from the ground up. It was no surprise that they relied heavily on the constitution of their colonizers as the foundation, as they were familiar with it. Because of the different backgrounds of the founding fathers, some being humble while others coming from Affluent backgrounds, the idea of what the nation was supposed to be differed. Each group wanted to push its interests, which led to the emergence of Federalist and Republican parties.

Federalists were merchants bankers and manufacturers and large plantation owners who were significantly educated. In simpler terms, the Federalists included the wealthy class that lived along the coast and in New England. The republicans drew support from the common man, artisans, frontier settlers, shopkeepers, small poor farmers who were not well educated. Majority of them were from the South and the interior.

Slavery was one of the key elements in deciding whether to ratify the constitution. Although the constitution abolished the importation of slaves after 1808, there was no restriction on the continued ownership or the commercial exchange of slaves in the South. The federalists argued that the protection of slavery by the constitution ensured that this protection did not interfere with the rights of those that did not own slaves. The Republicans were of the opinion that any system that puts a value on a person was not fair. It considered slaves property as opposed to people, which was wrong in every measure. Thomas Jefferson was a consistent opponent of slavery and contested it publicly, claiming that it was the greatest threat to the new American Nation. He believed that it was immoral and against the laws of nature, which provide that every human being has a right to personal liberty. It is important to mention, however, that Thomas Jefferson was quite hypocritical in his sentiments as he owned over 600 slaves in his lifetime being a wealthy plantation owner.

The views of anti-slavery cannot be considered a strong precursor to abolition calls in the Antebellum Period. The Missouri Compromise and the arguments around it had died down, and there were other issues that raised the debate and were more pertinent to the time. However, the debate between the Federalists and the Republic did create the basis and a significant reference in this debate.

Works Cited

Annals of Congress, ed. Joseph Gales, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1834), I: 448–459, 467–468; available online from A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875. Library of Congress.George W. Carey and James McClellan, eds., The Federalist: The Gideon Edition, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001), 1-4.