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The development of political parties between 1790-1810

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George Washington himself thought it would be in America’s best interest to avoid forming political parties. But even having said this Washington was already involved in the formation of one of the first political parties in America. In the beginning, before the Washington Administration, there were no parties; you were either for or against Congress and or independence. When the Constitutional Convention was called we see the first major political party split. The two parties were known as the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The Federalists were led by George Washington. Though he is never considered a formal member of this political party, he shared most of their views. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were two of the first well known Federalists. The Anti-Federalists never really had an organized party, and ended up dying out as the Anti-Federalists, but almost all of its members joined up with Thomas Jefferson and became the Democratic Republican Party.

The differences in opinions that made the people split into two separate groups were, primarily the social backgrounds of the groups. The Federalist Party consisted of mostly wealthy men, many of whom were lawyers, businessmen, bankers, and merchants. These men had a lot of influence in the northern part of the United States because businesses were popular and growing in this region. The Federalists also tended to favor Britain, and British customs. When it came to the Constitution the Federalists believed in a loose interpretation of it, believing that just because something might not be physically written into the Constitution, it could still be implied. The Federalists also believed in a strong federal government. They supported having one central leader to run the whole country.

The Democratic Republicans were like the opposite side of the coin compared to the Federalists, starting with their social backgrounds. The men that made up the Democratic Republicans were mostly farmers, small businessmen, and laborers. The Republicans didn’t have as much money or influence as the Federalists for the most part. The Democratic Republicans geographic make-up was mostly the southern and western parts of the United States. This was because these were the areas in which most farming was done. Another difference was that the Democratic Republicans were more anti-British, especially in their customs. Also, their view in the way the Constitution was to be interpreted was different. The Democratic Republicans had a much stricter view of interpretation, intending that for things to hold true, they had to be physically written in the document for the federal government to have the right to become involved. The Democratic Republicans were in favor of a strong legislature that would create democratic laws to govern the people.

Both political parties had important impacts on national politics. The Federalists were responsible for devising a plan to get America out of bankruptcy. Alexander Hamilton, who was the Secretary of the Treasury, and a Federalist, was the driving force behind this. He proposed plans for import duties, excise taxes, and a plan for the First Bank of the United States. Unfortunately, the federal tax placed on liquor led to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania. On August 7th several thousand armed and disgruntled settlers banded together in what was almost a rebellion. Washington quickly organized 13,000 men led by himself, Henry Lee, and Hamilton to suppress the revolt. This marked the first time strong military force had been used to exert authority over the nation’s citizens. The whiskey tax ended up being repealed in 1802.

The Democratic Republicans had a major impact on national politics with the Louisiana Purchase. Before America purchased the Louisiana Territory, it belonged to France. Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic Republican, was president during this time and was very interested in westward exploration and expansion. The Louisiana Territory also consisted of the Mississippi River and New Orleans, which, if owned by the Americans, would make things easier for American merchants and sailors.

Jefferson sent two ambassadors to France to purchase what they could for 10 million dollars. The ambassadors met with Napoleon Bonaparte, who, for political reasons of his own, offered to sell the entire Louisiana Territory for 15 million dollars. The ambassadors jumped on this and accepted for fear that someone else would take advantage of it if they wasted any time negotiating. This alarmed Jefferson when he found out because the Constitution did not give the country powers to acquire new land. After much thought, Jefferson decided to use the elastic clause to acquire the territory. Jefferson going against the strict interpretation of the Constitution proved to be beneficial in many ways. One reason the purchase was such a success was a lot of the land out there was some of the best farming land in the world. Second, it increased patriotism, because Americans felt they were growing and expanding at a fast pace, which meant they were succeeding as an independent nation. One last benefit of the Louisiana Purchase to the Democratic Republicans was that it actually reduced Federalists power, due to their opposition to the deal.

You can see there were many differences between the Federalists and Democratic Republicans Parties. They each had their own social backgrounds, different stances with Britian, their own geographic locations, and their own ways of interpreting the Constitution. This kind of split still exists today between political parties. As long as people have different opinions on politics and government, opposing political parties will exist.

Works Cited and Resources Used:

1. American Passages: A History of the United States , 2nd edition

Edward L. Ayers, Lewis L. Gould, David H. Oshinsky, Jean R. Soderlund

Published by Wadsworth Publishing, a division of Thomson International

2. http://history.wadsworth.com/passages2e : Book Companion Website

3. “Political Parties in the United States,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia

2006 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights


4. “First Party System,” Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia

Foundation, Inc. This page was last modified 15:34, 24 June 2006.

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