AP US History
Evolution: Federalists to Whigs
America's early history is marked with drastic changes in political situations and public opinions, leading to the inception and termination of various political parties. These parties came and went, but at any single moment in time, America's government was controlled by one party, with a second vying for power. One such party was born out of the controversy over the adoption of the proposed Federal Constitution - the Federalist Party. It dominated congress and, therefore, America for approximately twenty-five years until it disintegrated and its members scattered throughout various other factions. Fourteen years after the Federalists' dissolution the Whig party rose as another prominent political group. The Whig party, although historically considered absolutely independent of any other previous American parties, was a partial continuation of the Federalist Party.
The Federalist Party's initial prevalence in American politics was first noted during the adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1787 to 1788. It yearned for a nation in which the states had far less authority than the federal government. However, the party's opponents (the future leaders of the Democratic-Republicans) wished for a greater power to be granted to America's states. These clashing opinions were soothed by the Bill of Rights, a compromise that checks and limits the federal government's power.
Nevertheless, a well-defined Federalist Party did not exist before 1794. After George Washington's inauguration in 1789, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed a plan that would force the national government to assume state debts, fund the national debt, and charter a national bank. Followers of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposed this idea, stating that it gave too great a power to the national bank and government. Furthermore, the Hamiltonians' refusal to form an alliance with France fused the Democratic and Republican parties, the majority groups of the anti-Federalists.
In 1794, John Jay returned from England with a treaty that did not meet the requirements of the Democratic-Republicans, but was largely influenced by Alexander Hamilton. The treaty provided for British evacuation of all Northwestern posts, unrestricted navigation of the Mississippi river, and free trade between the North American territories of both the US and England. However, it fell short of its main purpose - indemnity for those American slaves that were taken by British armies was not allowed and American sailors were not guaranteed protection from impressment. The debate over this treaty finally created a distinct Federalist Party.
As followers of Hamilton's political and economic ideas, the Federalists championed commercial and diplomatic harmony with Britain, domestic stability and order, and a strong national government under powerful executive and judicial branches. Such ideals were brought forth through a loose/liberal view of the Constitution that was established by the Federalist Party and generally maintained throughout American history. Furthermore, a United States bank, postal system, and protective tariff that supported national manufacture and agriculture were created soon after Washington's inauguration.
Federalist dominance remained after John Adams was elected President in 1796. During his presidency, several acts that severely restricted Americans' and aliens' rights were passed. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were comprised of four acts that were direct attacks on the Democratic-Republican Party and the Bill of Rights. The acts postponed citizenship until the completion of fourteen years of residence (Naturalization Act), gave the president the power to imprison or deport aliens suspected of activities posing a threat to the national government (Alien and Alien Enemies Acts), and, most controversially, gave the judicial branch the right to try and imprison individuals that...
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