Reemergence of Political Parties 1820-1840
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Alexander Hamilton’s plan for a National Bank created controversy in our country. The argument was whether it was “constitutional”. Despite warnings from George Washington two political parties were created. Hamilton led the federalists and Jefferson led the Democratic-Republicans. After the War of 1812 our country entered an Era of Good Feelings in which there was only one political party, the Democratic-Republicans.
Only 8 years later this Era came to an end with the election on 1824. There were 4 candidates running for presidency: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William Crawford. Andrew Jackson had the most electoral votes, but it was not a majority, so the voting went to the House of Representatives. John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay made a deal that came to be known as the Corrupt Bargain. Henry Clay being the speaker of the house knew he would have an opportunity to sway the votes. He promised to help Adams if, when elected he made Clay the Secretary of State. John Quincy Adams was elected the sixth president of the United States. This Corrupt Bargain led to much tension between Adams and Jefferson. The United States once again had two political parties, The Democratic-Republicans and the National Republican. Later in 1832 the political parties will change again to the Whigs and the Democratic-Republicans.
Henry Clay was a major personality in the creation of two-political parties. He used his power as Speaker of the House to his own advantage, stealing the presidency from Jackson. Henry Clay made this deal to ensure him becoming Secretary of State because it seemed to lead to presidency. The Corrupt Bargain led to the splitting of our political party. Henry Clay also creates the American System. The American System included internal improvements, a National Bank, and a protective tariff. While the American System was instated, the democrats disagreed to help solidify the divisions between the two parties. Henry Clay also pushed through Congress to re-charter the bill for the B.U.S. that Jackson vetoed. This led to a further splitting of the two parties. Peggy Eaton also led to conflict in this time period. During Andrew Jackson’s presidency his senator John Eaton married Peggy O’Neil.
She was married to John Timberlake but after his death she married John Eaton. Peggy Eaton was disliked by the wives of Jackson’s cabinet. Floride Calhoun led the shunning of Peggy Eaton. The women of the cabinet excluded her because of her “affair”. This infuriated Jackson because he lost his wife over the stress of being accused of an affair. He told the cabinet that Peggy Eaton must not be shunned but the shunning continued. This led to such a large controversy that there was almost a Civil War, when Calhoun nullified South Carolina from the Tariff of Abominations it was tension from the Eaton incident that almost caused the war. Martin Van Buren was another major personality in this time period. He blocked Whig proposals for relief from the Panic of 1837. This made people mad at the democrats so in the next election the Whigs win for the first time with the election of W. H. Harrison in 1840.
State’s Rights were another reason for the reemergence. In 1828, while Adams was president, Congress passed the Tariff of Abominations. This tariff called for a very high protective tax. John C. Calhoun was outraged by this tariff. He resigned from vice presidency and became the Senator of South Carolina. Calhoun nullified the tariff in South Carolina. Adams threatened to send the military to solve the issue but Henry Clay was able to come up with the Compromise Tariff of 1834 to relieve tensions. The compromise gradually lowered the rate of the tariff. This prevented the Civil War. There was also the panic of 1837. This was caused by Jackson killing the B.U.S. This was during Jackson’s presidency but was harmful immediately after Van Buren was elected president. The Whigs proposed solutions to the panic but Van Buren shut them down. People got mad at the democrats creating more tension between the political parties.
Economic issues were also very relevant. The Bank War was a huge issue in this time period. Jackson hated the B.U.S. Jackson thought the bank chartered monopoly. It was an essentially private corporation that performed public services exchange for exclusive economic rights. The bank renewal wasn’t due until 1836 but supporters of Jackson wanted a recharter in 1832. Jackson started emptying federal funds from the bank and put them in “Pet Banks” when congress was not in session. People saw this as Jackson using his power for personal revenge. The recharter was passed by congress but vetoed by Jackson. From his actions Jackson lost many of his supporters. Even people who wanted to get rid of the bank turned against him. A new National party was formed known as the Whigs. Jackson also called for Specie Circular in which people had to pay for land in gold and silver only. This will lead to an economic decline that will hit largely during Van Buren’s term earning him the nickname “Van Ruin”.
During the period 1820-1840 our country experienced a lot of change and a lot of conflict. This conflict led to the end of an Era of Good Feelings and the splitting of political parties. Conflicts within our congress led to the changing of political parties. Economic issues and State’s rights also assisted in the reemergence of political parties. After the conflict of Hamilton’s financial plan the small eight year period known as the Era of Good Feelings was the only time our country experienced one political party again. If we had listened to our Founding Father George Washington and never created political parties in the first place, the United States of America would be much more unified.