Federalist/Antifederalist Debate Revisited

July 29-31, 2015

This seminar examines the important historical debate between the Federalists and Antifederalists that divided the country during the period of the ratification of the Constitution. Federalists and Antifederalists both embraced the creedal principles set out in the Declaration of Independence: equality, natural rights, and government by consent of the governed. They differed profoundly, however, on the kind of government that needed to be established in order to secure individual rights and freedoms, along with the "safety and happiness of the people." This seminar will examine the contrasting views on this fundamental question articulated by some of the major figures among the Federalists and Antifederalists. The arguments employed by the two sides in this debate shed important light on the aspirations of the American people at the time of the Founding. They also illuminate many contemporary political issues that - properly understood - reflect the essential concerns of the Federalists and Antifederalists. The seminar will conclude with an examination of recent Supreme Court cases that illustrate the continued relevance of the arguments from the long ago debate over ratification.

Seminar Scholars


Roger M. Barrus is the Elliot Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at Hampden-Sydney College, where he has taught since 1982. He received his bachelor's degree in International Relations from Michigan State University and his master's and doctoral degrees in Government from Harvard University. He is the author of articles and reviews and has delivered lectures on political philosophy, international relations, and American government and politics.  


David E. Marion, Ph.D., is the Elliot Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at Hampden-Sydney College, where he specializes in Constitutional Law, American Public Administration, Public Policy, Jurisprudence, American National Government, and Constitutional and Historical Dimensions of Public Service in America. Marion is also the Director for the Wilson Center for Leadership and Public Interest. He received his Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University.