Why did political parties spring up in the United States in the 1790s? Why did political parties spring up in the United States in the 1790s? On the 30th April 1789 America’s first President, George Washington was elected into office and was to stay in power until 1797. Within this time the political scope of the United States of America expanded hugely, giving birth to the politics in which we see in America even to this present day.
This essay will tackle the many aspects of the development of political parties; from the economic plans adopted by Alexander Hamilton, which forged America’s first bank in 1791, to the ways in which Americans viewed the Constitution put in place in 1789 causing the birth of Federalist and Republican attitudes throughout the United States of America. A major factor in the creation of political parties came through the influence of Alexander Hamilton. During his time as Secretary of the Treasury to George Washington, Hamilton devised five economic programs as a result of his Nation Government ideology.
Eric Foner argues that: ‘Political divisions first surfaced over the financial plan developed... in 1790 and 1791’. Hamilton’s financial models won strong support from the American financiers and manufacturers, and the models would only work if America created close links with Great Britain. This ideology sparked resistance from Jefferson and Madison, as they both believed that ‘the future lay in Westward expansion’ and thus, the foundations for political divisions were in place due to the ideological differences between Jefferson and Hamilton.
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Therefore, it can be argued that Hamilton was the main initial influence to instigate political thought in America. However, although political divisions began to emerge over Hamilton's financial plans, it was the events that occurred in Europe that acted as a catalyst for creating two coherent political parties. At first, the French Revolution didn’t stir any conflict between Jefferson and Hamilton but after the execution of King Louis XVI, war broke out between France and Great Britain and inevitably against Jefferson and Hamilton.
On the one hand, Jefferson argued that ‘Revolution marked a historic victory for the idea of popular self-government’ however Hamilton; as stated by Bruce Miroff, ‘set himself resolutely against the rising tide of democracy’ and the events of the Revolution made the links with Britain even more significant for him. Economically America was torn. Alexander Hamilton’s economic plans for the federal government to pay off the revolutionary war debts, and the creation of a national bank were vastly disputed.
Thomas Jefferson expressed massive disputes with the policies, as he thought of them as unconstitutional and would create class barriers. The historian Ryan P. Randolph argued in favour of Jefferson’s views, stating, “It was not in the best interests of the landowners they represented. ” Jefferson’s view of a development of patriarchal society is also supported by historian John P. Kaminski who argued that “The foundation of the Bank of America would ally the federal government with wealthy shareholders… the assumption of the state’s wartime debts by the federal government would also bountifully benefit this favoured class.  Hamilton however admired Britain’s reforms, which restored its financial health, and therefore modelled American financial policies in part on William Pitt’s in an attempt to restore America’s own finances. However the success of Hamilton’s program depended on cooperation with Britain, as duty on imports provided a major source of federal income and most imports came from Britain. Jefferson however is argued to have a deeply hostile towards Britain. His somewhat Anglophobia is argued to have played a huge part in his drifting from Hamilton and the formation of the traditional Jeffersonian viewpoints in which founded the Republican Party.
However there wasn’t a complete disagreement over Britain, as Jefferson admired the technological advances in Britain, but didn’t see the US industry base in a similar manner as Americans “worked for themselves and not for others. ” Hamilton and Jefferson retained explicitly different opinions on economics, showing bias towards small government power, and a large, somewhat Conservative approach, using large government power to rule the entire country, causing divisions in opinions and the development of the Federalist and Republican Parties. Social divisions can also be attributed to the formation of political parties n America as the new Federalist scheme caused class barriers throughout America. This can be seen in the case of farmers who were pushed towards Republican opinion by the 1790s. In 1792 the Militia Act organised 18-24 year olds into militia units to act against Native Indians, however these were later used against farmers as a way of enforcing the excise taxes places on items such as Whiskey (passed by congress in 1791). This caused hardship and farmers began to revolt by tarring and feathering. In 1794 the government led 1500 militia to West Pennsylvania in a similar resistance to the Stamp Act’s Boston Massacre in 1774.
This as a whole caused a division between the farming community and the government, which led to further support of Jefferson and the Republican party as farmers felt like the big government leadership was only working in favour of richer classes and causing splits in society, which in turn were represented through political parties. Henceforth, following the French Revolution, the two main ideologies were established, the parties became increasingly coherent and in the mid 1790’s they developed into the Federalist and the Republicans.
Therefore, it can be argued that without the French Revolution there would be no political parties because the war against France and Great Britain caused a split, not only ideologically but geographically in America. Therefore, Hamilton’s input definitely begun the era of politics but he was not the most influential factor in the overall development of the first political parties. The Constitution may also be argued to be a contributing factor in the development of political parties as some argue that Federalists ‘loosely’ followed the Constitution, whereas Jeffersonians ‘strictly’ followed it.
The historian John H. Aldrich argues that “Ratification of the Constitution launched America’s “great experiment,” testing the viability of democracy. This experiment began before national political parties were invented” and therefore the constitution forced Americans into a democratic society in which made it somewhat compulsory to form an opinion, which was expressed through support of political parties. However, historian Peter W. Schramm argues, “The American Founders believed that parties were antithetical to republican government.  This to some extent could be due to an American desire to not have political parties, and therefore be able to express personal opinions through a democracy rather than two distinctly polarized opinions. Nevertheless, it would be almost impossible to argue that the ratification of the Constitution did not have any effect on the development of political parties, and in fact one may argue that until the Constitution was implemented, Americans were unable to express their political opinions in a democratic manner, as there was no field for expression.
The Constitution also had an effecting glance on the “people’s” view of Thomas Jefferson, the supposed “American founding father. If Thomas Jefferson had any authority to influence the political uprising in the States when he was in charge and seated as president, it certainly wasn’t shown when Jefferson took up the position of the secretary of state as Senator William Maclay observed, “He sits in a lounging manner…His whole figure has a loose and shackling air.  Maclay demonstrates that the role of presidency has a profound effect on the subject and ultimately Jefferson. The fact that Jefferson was seated in an important political establishment, and seated in an undignified manner, questions Jefferson’s real commitment to the political affairs happening at that time or was he biding his time, waiting for the next presidential election? The political uprising showed that presidential influence could have a massive impact on national affairs.
Although Thomas Jefferson was in France at the time the Federal Constitution was introduced in 1787, he was able to influence the development of the federal government through his correspondence. Jefferson played a major role in the planning, design, and construction of a national capitol and the federal district. In the various public offices he held, Jefferson sought to establish a federal government of limited powers. In the 1800 presidential election, Jefferson and Aaron Burr deadlocked, creating a constitutional crisis.
However, once Jefferson received sufficient votes in the election, he and his long-term friend, John Adams, established the principle that power would be passed peacefully from losers to victors in presidential elections. Jefferson called his election triumph "the second American Revolution. " There were many problems and arguments however, confronting the Founding Fathers like, for example, slavery. The North versus the South divide was deepening. Jefferson himself was a wealthy plantation owner and owned many slaves.
Although he knew it was wrong as he said it was “a moral depravity” and “a hideous blot”, he couldn’t give up his wealth and his earnings. Many historians have debated whether Jefferson was an actual opposition of slavery or not as he owned such a large number of slaves himself. Jefferson also commented that slavery presented the greatest threat to the survival of the “new American nation”. This “new American nation” would see these political parties spring up and finally abolish slavery in 1865 in the 13th Amendment.
Nonetheless Jefferson had an impact on the political parties and their views on such subjects like slavery through his ability to become “a captivating talker and a natural leader”James Madison, Jefferson’s succeeded in the presidential role, fully supported the Constitution and its values as it was a huge factor in the political restoration of society of the United States. Madison was to come into power in the 1808 election after Thomas Jefferson retired due to illness and old age. The creation of these political parties due to the Constitution being erected is an underpinning factor why Jefferson remained in power for a second term.
This was due to the fact that not only did Jefferson had little opposition from Burr or Madison, but Jefferson also campaigned against the Constitution and its values as he thought that with too much power, the government would quickly become oppressive and dominant. To conclude, it would be impossible to imagine the creation of political parties in the United States without taking into account the underpinning factor that is the introduction of the Constitution in the United States of America.
Without the Constitution the economic situations such as the creation of a federal bank, the implication of social barriers including those found in farming communities which essentially led to a split in opinions, and most importantly, the political divisions - most famously seen in the case of the Jeffersonian-Hamilton case would have not arose leading to the creation of the Republican and Federalist parties in America. Without the Constitution, it may be argued that America would have remained in a consensus, and therefore the Constitution itself must be seen as a trigger for the development of political parties in America.
Bibliography Why Parties? : The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America - John H. Aldrich, University of Chicago Press, 1 Jun 1995- pg. 6 Jefferson at Monticello, Charlottesville - Bear, James, A. Jr. - University Press of Virginia, 1967. George Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow – Page 599 “Give Me Liberty! ” – Eric Foner (Seagull Third Edition) (Vol. 1), W. W. Norton ; Company, 2011 Sketches of Debate in the First Senate – William Maclay et al, Lane S. Hart, Printer, 1880, Page 212 Thomas Jefferson: Philosopher and Politician - John P.
Kaminski, UW-Madison Libraries Parallel Press, 1 Jan 2006 – pg. 54 A History of the United States: Inventing America - P. Maier et al, W. W. Norton ; Company Ltd. , 2002 Alexander Hamilton's Economic Plan: Solving Problems in America's New Economy - Ryan P. Randolph, The Rosen Publishing Group, 1 May 2003 – pg. 20. American Political Parties and Constitutional Politics - Peter W. Schramm, Bradford P. Wilson – pg. 17 -----------------------  Eric Foner: ‘Give Me Liberty’ Page 282  Eric Foner: ‘Give Me Liberty’ Page 284 3] Eric Foner: ‘Give Me Liberty’ Page 286  Bruce Miroff: ‘Hamilton: The Aristocrat as Visionary’ Page 43  Page 20 - Alexander Hamilton's Economic Plan: Solving Problems in America's New Economy - Ryan P. Randolph, The Rosen Publishing Group, 1 May 2003  Page 54 - Thomas Jefferson: Philosopher and Politician - John P. Kaminski, UW-Madison Libraries Parallel Press, 1 Jan 2006  A History of the United States: Inventing America - P. Maier et al, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd. , 2002  Page 6 - Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America - John H. Aldrich, University of Chicago Press, 1 Jun 1995  Page 17 - American Political Parties and Constitutional Politics - Peter W. Schramm, Bradford P. Wilson  Sketches of Debate in the First Senate – William Maclay, Lane S. Hart, Printer, 1880, Page 212  Bear, James, A. Jr. - Jefferson at Monticello, Charlottesville - University Press of Virginia, 1967.  George Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow – Page 599
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