What Did the Federalists Stand For?

In early U.S. history, Federalists stood for a decentralized form of government. They wanted a national constitution to protect the independence and freedom created by the Revolutionary War. They viewed their most important role as defending the social advances the war achieved.

The combination of states' rights and federal power in the United States is the result of Federalism. Many of the signers of the U.S. Constitution favored splitting power between the national and state governments. The founders wanted a system of government that differed from the British unitary system, in which power is concentrated in a central government.

The Federalists, including well-known leaders of the time like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, were well-funded and well-organized, and they made effective use of newspapers to get their message out. Many newspapers supported the Federalists and printed articles encouraging people to approve the Constitution. The U.S. Federalist party was opposed by the Democratic-Republicans, including Thomas Jefferson. The group believed that a bill of rights should be part of the constitution to prevent the rise of a dictator.

Following the U.S. Civil War, the federal government greatly increased its influence and size to regulate businesses and industries that conduct commerce across state borders. The expansion also was intended to safeguard civil rights and provide social services.