A good read from Alan Caruba:
The men who waged the American Revolution and then met in secret to write the U.S. Constitution all shared a distrust of government. They understood government was necessary, but they wanted to keep a federal government small and ensure that most powers resided in the individual states and in “the people.”
For most of American history, the federal government was small. Its main function was to maintain armies and navies to protect its sovereignty and its commercial interests. Early presidents encouraged the exploration of the continent and its populating by the many discontents who arrived seeking a better life than the Old World could or would provide.