Soon after America?s victorious fight for independence from British sovereignty, the new nation formed under the Articles of Confederation exhibited signs of instability. The initial spirit of a ?firm league of friendship? was replaced with turmoil and instability. The need for strong-centralized government was apparent. In response, a Constitutional Convention was approved to revise the Articles of Confederation. Over the summer of 1787, despite much debate, passion, differing opinions, sweat, and tears, the United States Constitution was drafted and signed by Congress on September 17, 1787 and was then submitted to the states for approval and final ratification. The debate over the Constitution and its formation of a central federal government did not end with the Constitutional Convention. Two factions formed within the political arena: the Federalists, who were supporters of the Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists, those opposed to the federalist government. The Federalists and Anti-Federalists were a motley crew of political genius possessing colorful backgrounds, varied experience and ages, persuasive eloquence, and patriotic passion.
Supporters of the new Constitution and its strong, central government were known as the Federalists. These patriots worked diligently to persuade the ratification of the new Constitution and passionately supported a strong, central government. They gave eloquent speeches and wrote detailed analysis of this new government and attempted to dispel the fears and trepidations associated with a federalist government. The Federalist group was mostly comprised of fresh-faced, passionate, young emerging political stars; the average age of the main Federalist players was 36 years old while the Anti-Federalist group averaged 49 years old. The main leader of the Federalists, Alexander Hamilton, was the most outspoken of the group, having co-authored most of The Federalist Papers. Hamilton was not born into privilege or politics, having been an illegitimate child born in the West Indian island of Nevis. He was raised by a merchant who sought to enroll him in the College of New Jersey at Princeton. Hamilton was not accepted and enrolled at King?s College (now Columbia University). While in his 20?s, Hamilton took part in the Revolutionary War, serving as a lieutenant colonel and leading troops into the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781 (Americanrevwar.com). Hamilton enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer, served as the first secretary of the treasury, and remained a strong voice in the Federalist movement until his death on July 11, 1804, receiving a fatal shot from Aaron Burr in a duel.
The other colorful fellows in the Federalist group were John Jay, James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, and James Wilson. Jay and Madison co-authored The Federalist Papers with Hamilton, and both were passionate and promising young members of the Founding Fathers. Jay, like Hamilton, graduated from King?s College at a very young age and quickly began his involvement in politics. Madison graduated from the College of New Jersey and studied history and law as well. When Gouverneur Morris wrote the immortal words, ?We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union?, he was a 30-year-old patriot and lawyer. Born into American aristocracy, he graduated from King?s College at the age of 12 and was known as being impulsive, witty, and brilliant, yet ironically was known to possess ?a streak of laziness? (Wright). James Wilson traveled to America from Scotland in 1766 at the age of 24. He became involved in politics and served as a member of Congress for many years. He passionately supported the new Constitution and spoke vehemently in defense of Federalism. At a public meeting held soon after the Constitutional Convention, Wilson addressed the concerns of a strong central government and concluded by saying, ?I am bold to assert that it is the best form of government which has ever been offered to the world? (Constition.org). This speech was soon reprinted across America and received more coverage than The Federalist Papers.
With the tyranny of King George III still fresh in America?s mind, the threat of an all-powerful, national government was very real to the colonists. The Anti-Federalists formed out of concern that under the Constitution, the national government would overpower government and serve the aristocracy, rather than the average citizen. These men were just as passionate and patriotic as the Federalists. This group helped to spur the ratification debate by publishing a series of writing, collectively called The Antifederalist Papers, posing questions and concerns about the new Constitution. This prompted the response of The Federalist Papers