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Soon, anti-federalist movements emerged. The movement called Anti-Federalism thinkers revolved around the issue of government and the attribution of power. In their own view, the ideal configuration of the country would imply a decentralized system of government. More precisely, under the Articles of the Confederation, the states were given increased power to decide for their own on issues affecting them locally. From this point-of-view, the Anti-Federalists considered that the future constitution changed the equilibrium established before. Thus, a better system of government would have to allow states a greater autonomy in matter affecting them. Their main argument was related to the revolutionary ideals which they considered were being forgotten. The end of the British domination also implied the end of a control that was not legitimate from the point-of-view of the local Americans. By comparison, it was considered by the Anti-Federalist supporters that a central government would exercise similar control and tyrannical rule as the British had done. However, a central government with limited powers would have prevented this recurrence.
Another issue the Anti-Federalists argued on was the establishment, in the Constitution, of the rights of the states. In connection with the general idea of local and central government, the Anti-Federalists believed that the power of the states and their influence in comparison to the central government should be stated in the fundamental law of the country.
These types of debates were aiming at other issues of discussion as well. The idea of taxation and the important role of the state also referred to the way in which citizenship and immigration was perceived. George Washington by no means dismissed the issue of immigration in the United States. Perhaps his vision on the issue reflected the actual events which followed in the decades and centuries that went by after his leadership. However, regardless of these facts, he was the "victim" of his era, an era in which immigrants were considered to destroy the core values of a nation. This is largely because the civilized world was restricted to areas such as Europe. Even if this legacy was even then outdated, it influenced the way in which human kind, the individual, and the quality of citizen came to be understood and dealt with.
At the time immigration was not to be encouraged because in turn it would bring about chance which, then, was not necessary for a nation still young. The language, the habits, and the customs were perceived to be pure, regardless of the fact that the American language is in fact a clear descendent of the British one, a mark of the United Kingdom they fought against to retain their freedom.
An important point made by Washington however on the issue was his limitation on the way in which he saw immigration. Although it was not a desirable process to be encouraged, it was something inevitable. Therefore, they should be assimilated, in generations, in such a manner as to adjust to the traits, customs, principles, and morals of the American nation. Therefore the main idea behind the rejection of the immigrants laid, similar to Jefferson, in the way in which they would interfere with the formation of the national identity. However, "in generations," after the formation of the national identity, immigrants were accepted because they would have assimilated the traits of the American people.
After the fall of Federalism, given all the beliefs stated above, Thomas Jefferson was put in change of the Republican government. However, he soon realized that in the end the population was not in disagreement with the initiatives taken by the Federalists and that indeed they did want improvement works that would have eventually unite the country into a single nation.
The contributions of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are in this sense very important. It is not necessarily because of the fact that they debated a crucial issue for the United States, that of internal improvements, but because that single debate gave rise to others that were even more profound and at the core of the establishment of the American system and democracy.
Larson, John Lauritz. Internal Improvement: National Public Works and the Promise of Popular Government in the Early United States. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press,…[continue]
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