Purpose, Structure, and Powers

The Federalist-Antifederalist Debates surrounding the ratification of the Constitution took place over a period of about a year, and across the states. The Federalists, in the strictest terms, consisted of Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, and those who agreed with the case they made over the course of The Federalist. The Antifederalist side is more difficult to define, given that the authors of the many editorials and addresses written against the Constitution did not coordinate with one another, took issue with the document for different reasons, and offered different solutions. That is, the Antifederalists were not a single, coherent group, promoting a clear set of ideas.

Rather, the Antifederalists presented and argued a variety of concerns about the purpose, structure, and powers of the proposed government. In so doing they addressed many of the same issues that the Federalists discussed, albeit from a very different perspective. The following list of pairings connects a single Essential Federalist with an Essential Antifederalist, connecting them through an issue addressed in both papers. This is not to suggest that the authors wrote in response to one another, or that these pairings should be taken as opposite sides of the same issue. Rather, these pairings provide the opportunity to consider the prevailing views of the two sides on particular issues, many of which concern questions still relevant today.




Learn about the “Out of Doors” debate that took place across the states between those who supported the Constitution, and those who did not.


View the sequence of events and documents of the 1787-1788 “out-of-doors” debates in newspapers in pamphlets during the ratification of the


Learn about the key figures in the Federalist and Antifederalist debate over the proposed Constitution.

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The Federalists

Read Gordon Lloyd’s introduction to the Federalists who supported the Constitution as well as his essential Federalists.

The Antifederalists

Read Gordon Lloyd’s introduction to the Antifederalists who opposed the Constitution as well as his essential Antifederalists.

The Issues

Read perspectives from both sides of the debate on key issues related to government’s role, structure, and powers is a project of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University

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