Early political party of the United States, precursor of the Democratic-Republican Party lead by Thomas Jefferson. Originally, the term designated the opponents in the United States to the ratification of the federal Constitution following its adoption by the Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia in 1787. Subsequently, the term was meant to signify the advocation of states' rights.
Several representatives of the Second Continental Congress, who convened to vote on the Declaration of Independence in 1776, favored establishing a strong central United States government to supplant the authority of Great Britain prior to a declaration of separation. These aims to establish a strong central government were thwarted, however, in the writing and ratification by the states of the Articles of Confederation. The articles represented the political aspirations of agrarian citizens and small-property owners supporting the war against Great Britain. The Anti-Federalists were proponents of the articles, which allowed for strong state governments. The party feared that in the contests between the states and the new central government envisaged under the Constitution, the states would lose their sovereign powers.
An influential and substantial group, the Anti-Federalist party prevented the ratification of the Constitution by the North Carolina and Rhode Island conventions until 1789 and 1790, respectively. Following the inauguration of the new federal government in 1789, the Anti-Federalists accepted the leadership of Thomas Jefferson in national politics and provided the principal support of the Democratic-Republican Party, which was renamed the Democratic party in 1828.
An American political party of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It originated in the groups advocating the creation of a stronger national government after 1781. Its early leaders included Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, and George Washington. These men provided much of the impetus and the organization behind the movement to draft and ratify the federal Constitution to secure the revolution on an orderly and stable basis. Their support came from the established elites of old wealth in the commercial cities and in the less rapidly developing rural regions.
From 1789 to 1801 the Federalists were the dominant force in the national government. Under Hamilton's leadership, they settled the problems of the revolutionary debt, sought closer relations with Great Britain in Jay's Treaty of 1794, and tried to silence their domestic critics with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. These policies cost them much of their support, including that of Madison, who with Thomas Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party, which drove the Federalists from power in the election of 1800.
Between 1801 and 1815 the Federalists held caucuses and conventions, primarily in the New England states, opposing the commercial and diplomatic policies of the Jefferson and Madison administrations. These efforts climaxed in the Hartford Convention of 1814, which because of its apparent sympathy for the idea of secession, left the party tainted with the image of disloyalty. From 1816 to 1820 Federalist parties in the northern states continued to contest elections and support candidates, such as Rufus King, for the presidency, with virtually no success. By 1824 the Federalists had ceased to function as an effective political organization.
Federalists, as proponents of the Constitution called themselves, were
cosmopolitans who were better organized than their opponents.
Particularly in the beginning of the ratification effort, they made
greater use of pamphlets and newspapers. In New York, Federalist leaders
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison composed the powerful
and enduring Federalist papers to counter doubts about the proposed new
government. By January 1788 conventions in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut had ratified the Constitution.
Opponents of the Constitution, who called themselves Anti–Federalists, were locals who feared a strong national government that would be run by educated and wealthy cosmopolitans who operated far away from most citizens. They were particularly distrustful of a Constitution that lacked a bill of rights protecting citizens from government attacks on their liberties.
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