A fifth grade worksheet in Florida declares that the Federalists were different than the anti-federalists because they “believed in a strong national government that would have power over the states.” The Federalists believed in a central government, but it was to be a “limited government.” The anti-federalists believed that there should be no central government, and pushed for full sovereignty of the states.
The Federalists, according to the worksheet, included “John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.” While it is true that the Federalists wanted a central, or a “general,” government, the worksheet does not stress how important it was to the Federalists to ensure that the government did not become too powerful.
In fact, the worksheet explains,
“The purpose of the convention was to discuss how to make the national government stronger.”
Both the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were dedicated to a system where government would not become tyrannical. This is evident to anyone who reads the words of the founding fathers. But in the worksheet, the phrases “checks and balances” and “separation of powers” are forgotten.
An attachment to the worksheet titled, “Federalist and Anti-Federalist Quotes,” quotes James Madison as saying,
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary… You must first enable the government to control the governed..” – James Madison, Federalist Papers “Number 51”
The actual quote:
“If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
The meaning is much different when the full quote is revealed.
Perhaps an even more egregious example is a quote from Benjamin Franklin. The worksheet quotes him as saying,
“I agree to this Constitution, because I think a general government is necessary for us…. . . I hope … we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this constitution . . .”
– Benjamin Franklin, Constitutional Convention, 1787
The actual quote is much different,
“In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
Although Franklin indeed went on to endorse the Constitution, it is clear that he was well aware of the potential for tyranny in the government.
The worksheet is a part of Florida’s “sunshine standards,” which were established after Common Core state standards became politically toxic.
The anti-Federalists eventually came around to the idea of a general government, and their input was pivotal in establishing the Bill of Rights. But it seems that some educators and others attempt to portray the Federalists as big government and the anti-Federalists as “anti-government,” which is grossly inaccurate, as both groups agonized about how America could prevent the inevitable tyranny that eventually occurs in all governments, everywhere.
This truth is evident to anyone who reads the Federalist papers.
As James Madison wrote,
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. –James Madison, Federalist 45, 1788