Elite Democracy: Federalists Papers Vs. Popular Democracy Anti-Federalists Papers
How it works
Although both Federalists and Anti-federalists have compelling points, an undeniable fact of this country is that the great majority of this government is built on Federalist ideals. This fact supports the conclusion that the elite democracy, which was based on Federalist beliefs, had a stronger argument. Having a strong federal government is an important backbone to national growth, and while having certain powers be awarded to state government is important, giving them as much power as Anti-Federalists wanted would only bring vast divisions between states, which would weaken the entire country.
A few literature pieces on the subject at the time, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, give an even deeper look into the beliefs of these two groups as well as the effects that their policies would have on the United States if implemented. Specifically, when looking at the Federalist side of things, one might comment on the argument that was made for executive power. In the 67th article of the Federalist Papers, discussing the aforementioned subject, the author Alexander Hamilton goes into depth on the misconception that a presidency would be essentially the same as a monarchy, specifically referencing the false claim that the president would be able to fill vacancies within the senate. Since the young nation had just escaped a monarchical ruling system, a hot-button subject was how much power could be appointed to the new government before it became just as oppressive as their previous ruler. An example that Anti-Federalists had previously used as proof of the presidency being an overpowered position is the idea that the president would be able to fill vacancies within the senate and therefore surround himself with supporters that mimicked the English King’s parliament of advisors. Within this writing, Hamilton righted this misconception by explaining the very rare situations where a president might fill a senate vacancy and stating that by spreading this misinformation Anti-Federalists were preying, “upon the aversion of the people to monarchy [and] endeavored to enlist all their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended President of the United States” (Hamilton).
How it works
On the other side of the matter, the Anti-Federalist writings pretty much confirm the statements made by Hamilton. The entirety of the 67th article of the Anti-Federalist papers, written under the alias Cato, made attempts to compare the appointed powers of the president to the complete powers given to a king in a monarchy. Cato quotes French philosopher, Montesquieu, in the idea that a man who is given an extended time in a leading position has the power to ruin the nation and insinuates that since members of the senate can be handpicked by the president they are essentially the same as a king who thinks it imprudent to make decisions, “without the advice of his Parliament, from whom be is to derive his support” (Cato). What the author of this article fails to acknowledge is that not only can a president rarely fill even a single vacancy in the senate but also the fact that there is an entire system of checks and balances between the senate, house of representatives, and the president to keep any one group from becoming too powerful. The entirety of this article is a testament to the Anti-Federalist fear-mongering that used the public’s dread of abusive power to advocate for more state power, as opposed to reading the Federalist papers accurately and coming up with more fact-based arguments.
Although Anti-Federalists did make some good contributions to our current government, like the addition of a Bill of Rights, many of their arguments were founded in fear-mongering and didn’t acknowledge what effect their proposed policies would have, if put into practice. The Federalists, however, proposed a strong national government and detailed a system that would allow that government to have power while still giving enough power to the people to avoid repeating the abuse that was suffered under a monarchy. For these reasons it can certainly be said that the elite federalist democracy not only made the better argument but also held up better through the trials and tribulations that the country faced in the years that followed the formation of this government.