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Federalists vs. Antifederalists: Why the Battle Over the Constitution Still Matters

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, March 25, 2024 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CV034
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When the Constitutional Convention ended on Sept. 17, 1787, the battle over the Constitution had just begun. The convention drafted a new Constitution for the United States, which required ratification by 9 of the 13 state legislatures. Federalists—including key players such as Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington—advocated for a strong central government. They clashed with opposing Antifederalists—including John Hancock, George Mason, and Patrick Henry—who sought for power to lie within the states and favored the Articles of Confederation. While Federalists ultimately were instrumental in shaping the new Constitution, battles between the two sides played out in each of the original 13 states.

Denver Brunsman, a professor of history at George Washington University, describes the battle of ideas and tactics that surrounded the ratification process and the patterns of political debate—local vs. national, urban vs. rural, elite vs. ordinary citizens—that were introduced and persist to this day.

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