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Anti-federal party.

At the close of the war for independence the mass of the population was agricultural and democratic, and devoted to the advancement of their separate commonwealths, the legislatures of which, under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, articles of), had seized upon the powers which the King had abandoned, and which the national popular will was not yet sufficiently educated to assume. In the years from 1780 to 1787, in spite of lawlessness and bad government, great development had taken place in the United States. The commercial and creditor classes, and the Southern property owners, who had learned their weaknesses and their needs, united for the control of the convention, in 1787, under the leadership of Hamilton, and a few other of the advanced thinkers, and formed the nucleus of what was soon to be called the Federal party. As the old government had been strictly federal, or league, in its nature, it would seem natural that its supporters should be called federalist, and Gerry, of Massachusetts, and a few others made some effort to secure this party title, and give their opponents that of anti-federalists or nationalists. But the object of the Constitution was to secure a strong federal government; and all who were opposed to this new feature of American politics at once accepted the name of Anti-Federalists, and opposed the ratification of the Constitution, inside and outside of the conventions. In Rhode Island and North Carolina this opposition was for a time successful, but in all the other States it was overcome, though in Pennsylvania there were strong protests of unfair treatment on the part of the Federalists. Many prominent men, such as Edmund Randolph, Robert R. Livingston, Madison, and Jefferson, while opposed by nature to a strong federal government, saw in the adoption of the Constitution the only salvation for the young Republic, and voted with the Federalists in this contest; but, after the Constitution had been adopted, it was natural that these men should aim at a construction of its terms which should not give the new government extensive power. These temporary Federalists, in about 1791-93, united with the old Anti-Federalists, and the party that had absolutely opposed the Constitution, through fear of a strong central government, now became, through the same fear, the champions of the exact and literal language of the Constitution, and the opponents of every attempt to extend its meaning by ingenious interpretations of its terms. The former party name was no longer applicable, and in 1792, through the influence of Jefferson, it began to be called a “Republican” party, in opposition to the “Monarchical” Federalists. It soon adopted this name, in 1793, which was afterwards lengthened into the Democratic-Republican party (q. v.).

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