American Parties from the Civil War


Parties from the Civil War

This essay conains American party systems
from the end of George Washington’s first term as president through the

Civil War. Included are the creations, the building up of, and sometimes
the break down of the various parties. As well as the belief in which the
parties stood for.

The Origins of the Democratic Party

In colonial politics tended to organize
and electioneer in opposition to the policies of royal, mercantile, banking,
manufacturing, and shipping interests. Agrarian interests later become
a principal source of support for the Democratic Party. Many of the colonies
had so-called Country parties opposing the Court parties in the 18th century.

Before the end of the first administration
of George Washington in 1793, party alignments of national consequence
began to form. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was the master
politician of the Federalist Party. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson,
with help from his fellow Virginian, Representative James Madison, began
the first respectable opposition in national affairs. They were called
the Democratic-Republican Party, also known as the Jeffersonians. Jefferson
spoke about the interests of farmers, veterans, and urban immigrants and
was in favor of minimum government, maximum liberty, alliance with France,
and easy credit for debtors. In 1792 he and Madison allied with New York\'s

Governor George Clinton, creating the first political coalition between

Northern and Southern politicians.

After Jefferson’s reelection of

1804, Federalist strength tended to decline everywhere except in New England.

The majority of practicing politicians, mostly those in the new states
of the West, called themselves Jeffersonians. New issues associated with
the economic development of the West and the growing number of urban workers
in the East demanded attention. The administrations (1817-25) of James

Monroe were referred to as the Era of Good Feelings, meaning that there
were no real party divisions; in fact, the Jeffersonians dominated the

This situation ended with a split
among the Democratic- Republicans in 1824.

Democratic Party

This American political party was founded
around Thomas Jefferson and opposed to Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists.

The party emphasized personal liberty and the limitation of federal government.

Originally called Democratic Republicans, they were called Democrats by

1828. Backed by a coalition of Southern agrarians and Northern city dwellers.

Jefferson was elected president in 1800, and the Democrats held the presidency
until 1825. A radical group of Democrats led by Andrew Jackson won the
elections of 1828 and 1832, but arguments over slavery created and deepened
splits within the party, and the Civil War destroyed it. The party revived
after the disputed election of 1876. With the nomination in 1896 of W.

J. Bryan on a Free Silver platform, the radicals again gained control,
but Bryan\'s defeat pointed out the difficulty of reconciling the party\'s
diverse elements.

Federalist Party

The Federalist Party is a name that was
originally applied to the advocates of ratification of the Constitution
of the United States of 1787. Later, however, it came to designate supporters
of the presidential administrations of George Washington and John Adams
and especially supporters of the financial policies of Treasury Secretary

Alexander Hamilton.

Until 1795, the Federalists were not a
political organization in any modern sense. Federalism was a frame of mind,
a set of attitudes that included belief in a strong and activist central
government, public credit, the promotion of commerce and industry, and
strict neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars. Opposition arose on
all these points and became largely organized around James Madison and

Thomas Jefferson. Federalists began to adopt the tactics of the opposition

Democratic-Republicans in response to attacks
on Jay\'s Treaty with Britain (1794). Although parties were widely regarded
as inimical to free government, and although Washington, Hamilton, and

Adams deplored their rise (together with the tendency toward a North versus

South and pro-British versus pro-French polarization of political opinion),
parties were an established fact by the presidential election of 1796.

While Adams was president, the Federalists
attempted to stifle dissent by the Alien and Sedition Act (1798). These,
however, had the effect of stiffening the opposition at the time when the

Federalists themselves were splitting into "High" and "Low" wings over
the issue of the XYZ Affair and the ensuing Quasi-War with France. By the
election of 1800, therefore, the Democratic-Republicans gained control
of the federal government. The death of Washington in 1799 and of Hamilton
in 1804 left the Federalists without a powerful leader, and they seemed
unfit at the highly organized and popular politics of the Democratic-Republicans.

Although the party continued to have strength in New England, expressing
the opposition of commercial interests to the Embargo Act of 1807 and the

War of 1812 , it never made a comeback on the national level. After the

Hartford Convention of