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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.
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
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
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 1815, the Federalists were a dying anachronism.
The Republican Party
Many believe that the origins of this
party grew out of the conflicts about the expansion of slavery into the
new Western territories. The passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
provided the motive for political realignment. That law repealed earlier
compromises that did not allowed slavery in the territories. The passing
of this act served as the unifying factor for abolitionists and split the
Democrats and the Whig party. “Anti-Nebraska” protest meetings spread rapidly
through the country. Two such meetings were held in Ripon, Wis., on Feb.
28 and Mar. 20, 1854. These meetings were attended by a group of abolitionist
Free Soilers, Democrats, and Whigs. They decided to call themselves Republicans–because
they declared to be political descendants of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-
The new party was a success from the beginning.
In the 1854 congressional elections, 44 Republicans were elected as a part
of the anti-Nebraskan majority in the House of Representatives. Plus, several
Republicans were elected to the Senate and to various state houses. In
1856, at the first Republican national convention, Sen. John C. Fremont
was nominated for the presidency but was defeated by Democrat James Buchanan.
During the campaign the northern branch of the
NOW-NOTHING PARTY split off and endorsed
the Republican ticket, making the Republicans the chief antislavery party.
Two days after the inauguration of James
Buchanan, the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision,
which increased sectional dissension and was exposed by the Republicans.
At this time the nation was also gripped by economic chaos. Business blamed
tariff reductions, and Republican leaders called for greater tariff protection.
The split in the Democratic party over the issue of slavery continued,
and in 1858 the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives
for the first time.
National Republican Party
A short-lived U.S. political party formed
to oppose Andrew Jackson in the 1832 presidential election. Favoring high
tariffs and a national bank, the party nominated Henry Clay. Clay was badly
defeated, and by 1836 the National Republicans had joined with other anti-Jackson
forces to form the Whig party.
This party was one of the two dominant
political parties in the U.S. during the second quarter of the 19th century.
It grew out of the National Republican Party and several smaller groups.
Created primarily to oppose Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party, it was troubled
by disagreement from the beginning and was never able to be a unified,
positive party position. Daniel Webster and Henry Clay were its great leaders,
representing the Northern Whigs and the Southern Cotton Whigs. In 1840
they were able to unify behind a popular military hero, W. H. Harrison,
as a presidential candidate. He was elected but died after only a month
in office. His successor, John Tyler, quickly alienated the Whig leaders
in Congress and was read out of the party. In 1848, the Whigs elected another
military hero, Zachary Taylor. He too died in office but his successor,
Millard Fillmore, remained a loyal party man. The party was already disintegrating
chiefly over the issue of slavery. The Free-Soil Party and its inheritor,
the Republican Party, gained most of the Northern Whigs. The Cotton Whigs
went into the Democratic party. In 1852 Gen. Winfield Scott was the last
Whig presidential candidate.
The party was a U.S. political party in
the mid-19th century. The increased immigration of the 1840s had resulted
in focus of Roman Catholic immigrants in the Eastern cities. The Democrats
welcomed them, but local nativist societies were formed to attack foreign
influences and maintain the American view. The American Republican Party,
formed in 1843 in New York, spread to neighboring states as the Native
American party and became a national party in 1845. Many secret orders
sprang up, and when outsiders made interrogations of supposed members,
they were answered with a statement that the person knew nothing, which
is why members were called Know-Nothings. The Know-Nothings sought to elect
only native Americans to office and to require 25 years of residence for
citizenship. In 1855, they adopted the name American party and dropped
much of their secrecy. The issue of slavery, however, split the party,
and many antislavery members joined the new Republican Party.
This party, an American political party
expressing the agrarian protest of the late 19th century, formed when farmers
suffered from declining agricultural prices. Many believed that the federal
government’s currency policy favored Eastern banks and industrialists at
the expense of farmers and workers. Members from farm and labor groups
met at Omaha in 1892 and formed the Populist Party. Its platform called
for the free coinage of silver and plenty of paper money. The Populist
presidential candidate, James B. Weaver, won more than 1 million votes
in the 1892 election. But after the Democrats adopted free coinage of silver
and ran William J. Bryan for president in 1896, and agrarian attack had
declined, more or less as the result of rising farm prices, the Populist
party dissolved. In some states the party was known as the People’s party.
This party was a U.S. political party
born in 1847-48 to oppose the extension of slavery into territories newly
gained from Mexico. In 1848, the Free-Soil party ran Martin Van Buren and
C.F. Adams for president and vice president. After the Compromise of 1850
seemed to settle, the slavery-extension issue, the group known as the BARNBURNERS
left the Free-Soilers to return to the Democratic Party. But radicals kept
the Free-Soil party alive until 1854, when the new Republican Party absorbed
Concluded is knowledgable information about
what the several politcal parties belived in, who created them, even why
they might not have lasted. These different and sometimes similiar parties
range from the end of George Washington?s first term through the Civil
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