Stately federalists vs manly anti-federalists

As a compromise to earn support from anti-federalists who believed the Constitution tipped the balance of power too far towards the federal government, the federalists — those who favored a relatively stronger central government, especially believing that a united military was necessary to the security, i.e. continuity, of the nation — agreed to include a Bill of Rights that would outline ten sections of various personal rights and states rights upon which the federal government would be forbidden to tread.

Moreover, it could be loosely said that, when liberty and security must or might compete, the anti-federalists prioritized liberty over security; while the federalists prioritized security over liberty: Anti-federalists were “strong advocates of States’ Rights[,] who believed that self-government, independence, and individual liberty were best protected at the local level,”[1] thus they “opposed [during the conception of the U.S. Constitution] any fundamental change in the existing relationship between the Confederation government and the States,”[2] wherein the lion’s share of power existed apart from the federal government — “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”[3] Thence, the compromise of the federalists assuaged the worry of anti-federalists, the latter of whom simply did not want “a central government that was too strong.”[4]

Conversely, the federalists contended that the Constitution was crafted to “limit those [federal] powers” that had been extended far beyond the “too little power” previously afforded to the federal government by the Articles of Confederation.[5]

The perspectives of both federalists and anti-federalists are consistent with, indeed formative of, the spectrum of “American political thought.” Moreover, with the various federated, united States as “laboratories of democracy;”[6] it is possible to see played-out the competing priorities of the federalists and anti-federalists (and their political progenitors) respectively, on given issues — and make an informed comparison.

One such comparison can be made regarding one of the freedoms explicitly conceded by the heavy-handed federalists, and won by the manly, freedom-loving anti-federalists: The second amendment. According to USA Today, Minnesota and California are ranked side-by-side (44th and 43rd respectively) in regard to “gun violence” (i.e. actions taken by violent people who choose to use a gun to act out their anger, fear, cowardice, despair, etc.).[7] Yet no comparable statement to, “In California, gun control fails once again,”[8] exists in Minnesota; because, while California’s laws are among the strictest in the nation, Minnesota’s are among the most “lax,” i.e. among those which most closely accord with the second amendment’s affording, to individual citizens’, a right to keep and bear arms.[9]

Thus, considering the preceding comparison between anti-federalist thought (generally liberty) and federalist thought (generally security), in relation to “gun control” (i.e. the extent to which the anti-freedom government camel is let to sneak its regulatory nose under the tent of liberty), we see that in no less than matters of life and death, the death-grip of heavy-handed regulation by powerful government — as trumpeted by federalists and their spawns — provides, at least at times, at best equal security for its citizens as compared with the security brought by personal responsibility, which can only come from personal liberty, as extolled by the venerable anti-federalists.


[1] McClellan, James. (2000). Liberty, order, and justice: An introduction to the constitutional principles of American government (3) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund), 385, ¶1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] U.S. Const. Am. 10.

[4] Supra, note 1, at ¶2.

[5] Id. at 393, ¶2.

[6] See New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932) (Brandeis dissenting, ¶56).

[7] Frohlich, T. C. and Harrington, J. (2018). States with the most (and least) gun violence: See where your state stacks up (Tysons Corner: USA Today).

[8] Pratt, Erich. (2018). In California, gun control fails once again (Tysons Corner: USA Today).

[9] See District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

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