The formation of the Political Parties
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“Why can’t we all just get along?” Is a famous quote from the lawyer Rodney King, it may be very new in nature but in all actuality it has very deep roots. Back in the revolutionary time period between 1788 and 1800 there was a lot of arguing and verbal fighting going on in America. The loose Articles of Confederation had just been scrapped and the stricter Federal Constitution was now in place causing a big ordeal of fighting between the federalists led by Andrew Hamilton and the Anti-Federalists led by Thomas Jefferson. These two factions would soon form the two political parties which are still in effect today. These two parties did not just appear out of the blue; political, economic, foreign and democratic factors all played a role in the development of the two separate political parties.
Politically the Federalists were a powerful and wealthy party. Mostly lawyers, big businessmen, bankers, merchants, and professionals made up the Federalist Party. The Federalists had a lot of money and were mostly influential in New England and the North part of the United States because big business was very popular there. The Federalist Party consisted of people who were very much Anglophiles. They loved Britain and all things British. The Federalists felt that there should be a loose constructionist interpretation of the constitution. They believed that there were things implied by or simply understood by the wording of the Constitution. According to the Federalists, just because something was not specifically written in the Constitution doesn’t mean that it wasn’t covered or addressed as something that the federal government could handle. The Federalist Party also supported a strong governmental leadership.
They thought that the most important branch of government was the executive branch, and that a strong leader was needed in this office of president to make the country strong. Some important Federalist Party supporters included George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. There were some people who didn’t agree with everything that the Federalist Party believed. This new party was known as the Democratic Republicans. This party was made up of farmers, small businessmen, and laborers. The Democratic Republicans weren’t backed by as much money, and were considerably poorer than the Federalists. The south and west parts of the United States were most influenced by the Democratic Republicans because that is were the majority of the farming population was located. These people were not very enamored by Britain or British things and were thought of as Anglophobes. The Democratic Republicans adopted a strict constructionist view of the interpretation of the Constitution.
Their party felt that if an issue wasn’t written or referred to directly in the Constitution, that the federal government had no place regulating or handling those issues. The party of Democratic Republicans wanted a strong democratic government, and therefore very much supported a strong legislature that would create laws to govern the people. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were some very influential Democratic Republicans. As you can see, there were many differences between the Federalist and Democratic Republican Parties. One party was wealthy, the other poor. Each party had control over a particular part of the nation. They each had their own idea as to how to interpret the Constitution. This split between parties was just the beginning of the American political party system. There have been many different parties come alive since this split and will likely be more to come in the future. It is unavoidable since people have and will always have different ideas on the best way to run the nation and the best way to govern the people.
After the Revolution America was in debt, it owed a ton of money to France and even more to England. America had around $75,000,000 in debt. Alexander Hamilton wanted to get rid of this debt in order to start building up America’s credit. Hamilton suggested that in erasing debt and building credit there must be a big, national bank, and since Hamilton was a rich wealthy fat cat he admired anything British and decided to build his model of The Bank after the Bank of England. Once again strict and loose construction plays a role in this. Alexander Hamilton was a firm believer in loose construction and since the constitution said nothing about building a Bank then it was fine to build it. On the other hand Jefferson and the republicans believed that if the constitution said nothing about building the bank, then the bank could not be built. These arguments were based off of the elastic clause and the tenth amendment respectively and expressed the different interests between implied rights and enumerated rights. As it turned out the Bank was a huge success and when it opened to public sale, its stock sold out in less than two hours.
The Federalists had an advantage during this time period; the President George Washington’s regime was mostly pro federalist. One of the main economic factors that benefited federalism was Whiskeys Rebellion. Although the rebellion was very small in size it showed the strength of the new government. This Rebellion was a big morale booster for the people of America and showed that a federalist type government could work in America.
A major contributor to the dividing into two major political parties was the Foreign policy especially in the French Revolution. The federalists did not think that a comparison between the French Revolution and American Revolution was just. Federalist Alexander Hamilton once said, “Clouds and darkness would not then rest upon the issue as they now do, I own I do not like the comparison.” When Hamilton said this spark flew between the republicans and the federalists. The Republicans were more involved in the foreign policy for they hoped that it would end peacefully in France. “I still hope the French Revolution will end happily.” This was an argument on sympathy vs. non sympathy.
Although now separated into the Democrats and the Republicans, America still follows the basic two party system. First came the Federalists and the Democratic- Republicans, then the two parties merged and became just the Republicans, they later split back up into the National Republicans and The Jacksonian Democrats, until they finally became the present day Democrats and Republicans. These changes in the two party system all occurred for particular reasons, the same reasons which occurred in the formation of the two parties. There were political issues, economical issues, foreign policy issues and democratic principle issues which all played major roles in the founding and development of the two political parties.