Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
(?-1899)
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Editor/Trans.
First Pub. Date
1881
Publisher/Edition
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
1899
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ANTI-FEDERAL PARTY

I.64.1

ANTI-FEDERAL PARTY (IN U. S. HISTORY). At the close of the revolution there was but one party in the United States, the American whigs. They had no organization and needed none, their former opponents, the loyalists or tories, having been banished, killed, or converted. The state legislatures had taken the opportunity offered by the confusion of the revolution to seize, by the articles of confederation, upon the powers which the king had abandoned, and which the national popular will was not yet sufficiently educated to assume (see CONFEDERATION, ARTICLES OF). In this interregnum and in this seizure all America had acquiesced, with the exception of a few advanced thinkers like Hamilton; and the mass of the population was entirely agricultural, democratic, particularist, devoted to the worship of their separate commonwealths, and disposed to look upon the central or federal government very much as they had but recently looked upon the king. The war practically ended in 1780, but a space of seven years is marked by great development in the United States. Before 1787, in spite of lawlessness and bad government, commerce and the commercial class had already reached respectable proportions, a distinct creditor class had been formed with capital to lend, and in the south property owners had learned their weakness and their needs. These three classes, uniting for the control of the convention of 1787, had really split off into a new party (see FEDERAL PARTY), leaving the mass of the people to their particularist prejudices.

I.64.2

—As the old government had been strictly federal, or league, in its nature, it would seem natural at first sight that those who favored its retention or modification should take the name of federalist, and Gerry, of Massachusetts, and a few others, made some efforts to secure this party title, and give their opponents that of anti-federalists or nationalists. But all parties were quick to perceive that the essence of the constitution was its creation of a strong federal government; and all who were opposed to this new and portentous appearance in American politics, all who considered the constitution fantastic, theoretical, and experimental, and a distant attempt to ape European monarchy, all the local magnates who feared to be overshadowed by the new central power, all the small farmers who dreaded the addition of federal to state taxes, at once accepted the name of anti-federalists and opposed the ratification of the constitution, in and out of the conventions.

I.64.3

—In Rhode Island and North Carolina the opposition was successful, (see CONSTITUTION III.), but in the other states it was overcome. In Pennsylvania the anti-federalists protested that they had been unfairly treated. In the legislature, which was slightly federalist, the resolution for a state convention gave but ten days for the choice of delegates, thus cutting off the anti-federalists of western Pennsylvania from all chance to participate. To secure a longer interval of time, the opposition absented themselves, and left the house without a quorum, but two of their number were seized, carried into the house, and held in their seats while the quorum thus secured passed the resolution. In consequence, so the protest alleged, but 13,000 of the 70,000 voters in the state were represented in the convention. September 5, a separate anti-federalist convention at Harrisburgh demanded a second federal convention to revise the constitution.

I.64.4

—Had the anti-federalists followed the concerted plan of ratifying the constitution on condition of its revision by a second federal convention, their general success could hardly have been prevented. But they saw fit to oppose ratification altogether, and, as the federalists were wise enough to yield to ratification on the "Massachusetts plan" of recommending amendments, stiff-necked opposition to the plan indorsed by Washington and Franklin resulted only in general failure and utter demoralization, for the time, of the anti-federal party. When the 1st congress met, the active, energetic and skillful federalist leaders secured control of almost every department of the new government, yielding to their opponents only the speakership of the house, the attorney generalship, and the state department.

I.64.5

—But it must not be supposed that all who were classed as federalists in 1787-8 were really wedded to federalist doctrines as afterward developed by Hamilton. Every convention contained many delegates who, like Madison, Edmond Randolph, and R. R. Livingston, while opposed by nature to a strong federal government, were equally opposed by education and experience to the rickety rump which then figured as a congress, and to the articles of confederation which had stamped upon it its peculiar character. It was natural that such delegates should urge ratification as an escape from present and pressing evils; Jefferson himself, who had at first pronounced against any constitution without a bill of rights, soon came to say—"It has my hearty prayers." But it was natural also that these men, when the constitution had been adopted, should aim at a construction of its terms which should not give the new government extensive power. The consequent divergence between real and temporary federalists became evident about 1791-3, when the latter again coalesced with the former anti-federalists under a new name (see FEDERAL PARTY). In 1793 Madison and Hamilton, who had made common cause in 1787-8, were already attacking one another in the newspapers, each significantly quoting his former associate's language in The Federalist.

I.64.6

—Throughout the 1st congress the anti-federalists made but two essays at party contest. Their opposition to Hamilton's plan for settling the public debt (see FEDERAL PARTY) was defeated by Hamilton, assisted by Jefferson, (see CAPITAL, NATIONAL), and their opposition to his scheme of a national bank (see BANK CONTROVERSIES) was equally unsuccessful. They also very generally opposed the imposition of any higher duties on imports for the benefit of manufactures, but their opposition was without concert and without success. The first session of the 2nd congress has many symptoms of the revival of the anti-federalists as a popular and strict construction party. Their opposition to bounties to the cod-fisheries, and to the senate's proposition to put the head of the president for the time being upon the coins, took a fairly organized form, and by the end of the session the tone of discussion had so risen that allusions were made to the existence of a "corrupt faction" in congress. In the second session party organization took on unmistakable form. The debates on the increase of the army show that the anti-federalists had come to regard Hamilton as the arch-priest of broad construction, and themselves as his appointed adversaries. Toward the end of the session they attempted without success to censure his management of the treasury and his language to the house. Their former party name was no longer entirely applicable, for they were not now opposed to the federal government or to the constitution which had created it. On the contrary, by a process which was very natural, however odd at first sight, they, who had at first absolutely opposed the constitution through their fear of a strong and tyrannical federal government, had now become, through the same fear, the most pronounced champions of the exact and literal language of the constitution, and opponents of all attempts to extend its meaning by ingenious interpretations of its terms. In other words, they were now a strict construction, conservative party (see CONSTRUCTION, I.).

I.64.7

—Jefferson had returned from France in 1789 wholly engrossed by the opening scenes of the French revolution, and personally triumphant in the prospect of the coming success of the principles which he had formulated in the declaration of independence. Very soon after his return he seems to have become fixed in the belief that the conflict between government by the people and government of the people was to be transferred to America also, and that the Hamilton school, under the guise of broad construction, was aiming at monarchy. He soon impressed his belief upon others, and before the summer of 1792 he was able to refer in vague terms to the opposition to Hamilton as a "republican" party, in contrast to the "monarchical" federalists. He was emphatic, at first, in excluding the anti-federalists from the "republican" party, acknowledging them only as allies; but Washington's neutrality proclamation in 1793 brought all the former anti-federalists so prominently forward as friends of the French republic that Jefferson perforce accepted as political facts the death of the anti-federal party and the existence, for the future, of but two parties, the federal party and the republican, or, as it was soon enlarged, the democratic-republican party.

I.64.8

—See Pitkin's Statistical View of American Commerce; Randall's Life of Jefferson; Jefferson's Ana (in Works); Austin's Life of Gerry; 1 Gibbs' Administration of Washington and Adams; 3, 4 Hildreth's United States; 1 Benton's Debates of Congress; and earlier authorities under DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY.

ALEXANDER JOHNSTON.

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