Political Party History
Before the Democrat and Republican parties began their reign over American politics, political parties were constantly changing. The first parties resembled faction’s more than actual parties. The nation’s politicians were known to crowd together around a particular issue. These were usually a reflection of social living in America. A change in political parties meant a change in the way Americans were living their lives. Strong third parties also helped influence the Democrat and Republican parties after they gained control. Though the names of parties change over time, there have always been two groups of people taking opposite sides of a common cause.
The political party originated when the debate of ratifying the constitution arose. There was a split in the idea of how this new country should be governed. On one side was the federalist, who were mostly supported by the upper class. The wealthy property owners felt susceptible to the open government that was starting to be formed. They wanted to protect their political power. On the other hand the anti-federalists, made up of the lower classes, felt that a stronger central government would create a great deal of corruption as well as threaten the power of the people.
These two factions eventually separated into two parties. The first was pushed by Alexander Hamilton and kept the Federalist name. Hamilton believed in a strong national government having most of the authority. Hamilton wanted a strong industrialized country with close ties to the mother country of England. Thomas Jefferson fronted the second party that was named the Democratic-republicans. Jefferson believed in an unpretentious central government giving most authority to the individual states. Jefferson wanted to keep away from the possible corruption of industry and therefore promoted an agrarian based economy. The Federalist Party quickly came to an end when a split in the party occurred due to the controversial presidency of John Adams. With no opposition the Democratic Republicans gradually faded away. This time period consisting of no parties was known as the Era of Good Feelings.
With the new idea of universal white male suffrage, which gave the right to vote to all white men in the United States, there was a permanent shift in power. Prospective politicians could no longer only favor the propertied classes; instead they now had to focus on the middle and lower classes concerns. This profound shift helped invigorate a new party, the Democratic Republicans led by Andrew Jackson. The Democratic Republicans believed that the country should be governed under strict adherence to the Constitution. They were against a national banking system. They were also against federally sponsored internal improvements because they felt it would be unwarranted interference and unconstitutional. The opposing side was the National Republicans and was led by John Adams. This party believed in supporting the national bank and favored all internal improvements. The National Republicans were also advocates of a strong central government. Eventually the National Republicans joined forces with many other disparate groups to form The Whig Party.
The Democratic Republican Party shortened its name to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party still favored a limited national government as well as the ideals of agrarianism. Democrats were farmers who believed in the right to own slaves and favored territorial expansion. As transportation improvements increased commercialization and the new democratic politics drew people out of localism into larger networks, questions about national unity arose. Because the Constitution left the federal structure ambiguous all sectional disagreements automatically became constitutional issues. This brought out the great issue of nationalism vs. sectionalism. The opposing side named themselves the Whig Party. The Whigs drew their strength from the...
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Garner, Richard L. Stebbins, Phillip E. Individualism and Community. The Pennsylvania State University, 1975.
Hicks, John D. The American Nation. University of California, Berkeley1941.
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