||The First American Political Party System: 1787-1814
||Master's Program, Graduate Institute of the Americas
American Political Parties
First Party System
||Political parties are necessary instruments for political affairs in the modern democratic countries. Such parties would have the particular characters through different environments and political cultures and compete for powers. The combinations of the American political parties are influenced by the specific political institutions and social circumstances, but they have not been approved in the very beginning; although they understood that it was inevitable, Founding Fathers did not appreciate the existence of political parties. However, the political developments created collisions between the leading political figures of 1790s.
In addition to the disagreement on the economical development, the principle argument within George Washington administration was the scale of the federal government; Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton promoted the mercantile programs and a consolidated government, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson supported the ideas of agricultural interests and self-government. With the efforts to alter the composition of Congress, the establishment of the national political newspapers, the sectional interests, the different political ideologies, the challenge to the traditional hierarchy and the European issues, adherents of Hamilton and Jefferson eventually assembled as the two first political parties: the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party.
Each of them believed that they were trying to save the Union and conjectured that their adversaries conspired to ruin their nation. By the advantages responding to the French crisis, the ardent Federalist congressional members initiated the policies enhancing the federal government, and they also enacted “The Alien and Sedition Acts” to preserve the traditional elite leadership. The Democratic-Republicans considered such policies were unconstitutional; Jefferson delivered the original draft of “The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions,” which proposed that the state had the right to null and void unconstitutional federal laws. The two parties became radicalized during the general election of 1800. The Federalists believed their opponents were disunionists, the Democratic-Republicans considered the election as the final opportunity to defend the republican institution, and both of them had the willing to sacrifice the continuance of the Union to resolve the gridlock of determining the President-elect.
After the Federalists lost the elections of 1800, the political conflicts were occurred between the federal judicial branch, whose members leading by Chief Justice John Marshall remained strong Federalist thinking, and the other two branches occupying by President Jefferson and Democratic-Republicans. In the meantime, the contemporary Americans continued to experience the social transformation; the people advocating egalitarian and democratic ideas became the leading force in the new society. The Federalists were unable to respond adequately or re-organize as a solid political force confronting the popular Jefferson government; they retreated as a sectional party of New England, and the pessimistic radicals began to urge secession.
While the Democratic-Republicans gradually acknowledged and accepted the importance of the powerful federal government during the War of 1812, the New England Federalists held a confidential convention at Hartford, Connecticut in the end of 1814. The messages of the Hartford Convention were publicly announced after the war was over. Although the Federalists were disgraced, suspected treason and their party collapsed in the final years of 1810s, some controversies between the two first political parties were inherited by the next generation.
The thesis would put emphasize on the developments of the political parties on the period from 1787 to 1814; by analyzing the historical books, papers and other materials, the thesis would introduce the first parties in different phases, including the beginning, the radicalizing and the decline, to present the main theme: the influence of the first parties in the early republic of America.
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