Americ’s History

Thus, the people became less empowered while the central government became more controlling and powerful. By design, when the Constitution was ratified, the states were empowered. However, over time a gradual drift toward a dominant national government has become evident.
Two distinct political positions began to evolve from the colonists. Most Americans considered citizen "virtue" fundamental to any successful republican government. Because political power no longer rested with the central, all-powerful authority of the king, individuals in a republic needed to sacrifice their personal self-interest to the public good. The collective good of the people mattered more than the private rights and interests of individuals. Yet, not all Patriots agreed with this viewpoint defining republicanism. Some favored a republic ruled by a group of talented and educated elite. Republicanism for them meant an end to hereditary aristocracy, but not an end to all social hierarchy. These more conservative republicans feared that the fervor for liberty would overwhelm the stability of the social order. They watched with great concern as the lower-class in society – the poor farmers, tenants, and laboring classes in towns and cities seemed to embrace a kind of republicanism with a level playing field. Thus, two groups of people formed different political ideologies.
The first weak national government, the Articl…
They were eager to persuade their fellow citizens to amend the Articles of Confederation in favor of a muscular central government. But the poorer states’ rights people played down the talk of anarchy from Shays rebellion. Many were debtors who feared that a powerful federal government would force them to pay their creditors. Yet, both groups agreed, the Confederation needed some strengthening.
Instead of revising the Articles, the well-off delegates to the Constitutional Convention created a charter for a whole new government. In a series of compromises, the convention produced a plan that provided for a vigorous central government, a strong executive, and protection for property, while still upholding republican principles and states’ rights. The American people were somewhat astonished, so well had the secrets of the convention been concealed. The public had expected the old Articles of Confederation to be patched up. now it was handed a startling new document in which, many thought, the precious jewel of state sovereignty was swallowed up. One of the hottest debates of American history forthwith erupted. The antifederalists, who opposed the stronger federal government, were arrayed against the federalists, who obviously favored it.
Some of the leaders of the antifederalist camp included prominent revolutionaries like Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee. Their followers consisted primarily, though not exclusively, of states’ rights devotees, backcountry dwellers, and one-horse farmers – in general, the poorest classes. Large numbers of antifederalists saw in the Constitution a plot by the upper crust to steal power back from the common