Conversely, the Federalists' political values were grounded more recently in the experience of government under the Articles of Confederation. They extolled the Constitution as the perfect balance between state and national power, and claimed that the system of checks and balances would keep the government honest and limited in its power. The Federalists had many advantages on their side. Most of the nation's wealthiest and best respected men, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, were Federalists. Most newspapers supported the Constitution, and Federalists dominated the national networks of experienced politicians. The results of the early conventions may well have been more a reflection on the aggressiveness and organization of the Federalists than the actual opinions of the people.

Though the Anti-federalists lost the battle to prevent the ratification of the Constitution, they did make significant progress in some areas. Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York all ratified the Constitution with the request that the government adopt a bill of rights. This became an immediate goal of the government. And, as the government began to take shape, Anti-federalist forces remained vigilant as a counter-balance to the Federalist tendency to accord great powers to the central government. The division of the nation into Federalists and Anti-federalists during the ratification of the Constitution set the stage for the continuing deepening of the rift between those in favor of a strong central government and those wary of the limitation of states' rights.

Popular pages: Building the State (1781-1797)