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American Political Parties

There have been many different political parties since the beginning of the American political system. A political party is made up of a group of people that share common goals and ideals, and these people work together to help elect people to offices that share these goals to represent them. Political parties work to try to control the government and their ultimate goal is to win as many elections and to gain as many offices as possible. During the time when the Constitution was being debated over the first two political parties surfaced in the United States, the Federalists, and the Anti-Federalists.

After the Constitution was ratified the Anti-Federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson, became the Democratic Republicans. The war of 1812 ended the Federalist Party. The Democratic Republicans began to split over issues and some supported Andrew Jacksons policies and became known as Democrats. Those who opposed Andrew Jacksons policies became known as the Whigs. The Whig Party ended over the slavery controversy. The anti-slavery issue led to the creation of the Republican Party, while the Democrats were pro-slavery.

Which left us with the two political parties we still have today: the Democrats and the Republicans. The first two parties that I am going to discuss are the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans. The Federalists became a political party in 1787 during the debate for ratification of the Constitution. They worked to try to get states to ratify the Constitution. Federalists were those who supported a strong national government, unlike the government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. They encouraged the industries, and they establishment of a well ordered society.

The Federalists were a powerful and wealthy party consisting of businessmen, lawyers, bankers and highly educated men and gained a lot of their support from the North, where business was strong. They believed that the most important branch of the government was the executive branch, and a strong president was needed in order to make the country strong. Some important Federalist party supporters were: George Washington, John Adams, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. The Federalists, during John Adams presidency, established the nations economy and enjoyed successes with their domestic policies.

They also supported a loose interpretation of the Constitution, which gave more power to the central government. The death of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton left the Federalists without a strong leader. The Federalist Party disappeared by the election of 1820, mainly because of its opposition to the War of 1812, which created a great sense of patriotism, and made the Federalists look like traitors. The Democratic Republicans were those who did not support a strong national government, and fought for states rights.

Since the Democratic Republicans were in favor of states rights, they supported a strict interpretation of the Constitution. They wanted to limit the government so the people could be more self-governing and independent. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison became the leaders of the Democratic Republicans. The Democratic Republicans were mostly small businessmen, farmers, and laborers and were much poorer than the Federalist Party. The Democratic Republicans had strong support in the South since that is where a majority of the farming population was.

The Democratic Republicans tried to get the states to vote against the Constitution, mainly because there was not a Bill of Rights. The Democratic Republicans were also Pro-French, unlike the Pro-British Federalists. They supported many of the ideals of the French Revolution and opposed close relations with Great Britain (www. encyclopedia. com). The fall of the Federalist Party left the country with only one major party, but only for a short time. During the 1820s Democratic Republicans began to split into two parts.

The conservatives wanted a strong national government, a protective tariff, and a national bank. They called themselves National Republicans. The others stood for states’ rights, tariffs that were for revenue only, and an independent treasury. They took the name Democrats and elected Andrew Jackson to the Presidency in 1828 and 1832. Those who opposed Jackson questioned his dissolution of the Bank of the United States, his internal improvement policies, his stand against South Carolina during the nullification crisis, and his policies on rotation in office and the spoils system.

By the election of 1836 the National Republicans and others opposed to Jacksons policies had come together to form a new party, the Whigs. Since Jackson believed in a strong executive branch, those who opposed him referred to him as King Andrew, and the party got their name since Whigs were usually associated with opposing the King. The Democrats argued that the policies of the Whigs only benefited the upper class of people and imposed on states rights (www. encyclopedia. com).

The Whigs lost to the Democrats that year, but in 1840 they succeeded in getting William Henry Harrison elected President. In 1844 the Whig candidate, Henry Clay, lost to James Polk, but in the next election Zachary Taylor won for the Whigs. The Whigs usually nominated a military hero as their candidate in order to gain support. The Whigs supported a protective tariff, the creation of a new Bank of the United States, using the money from land sales to help states with internal improvements, and were opposed to the Mexican War.

Daniel Webster and Henry Clay were the leaders of the Whig party. Henry Clays American system ideas were the foundation of the Whig Party. The Whigs also believed in creating good citizens by setting up governmental programs like jails, religious institutions, reformatories, and schools (www. encyclopedia. com). This party also debated the issue of wage labor, mainly as a defense of slavery. But the opposing view was that wage labor was not a violation of freedom, since workers were not forced to work in factories as slaves were forced to work for their masters.

Abolitionists agreed and argued that wage laborers could someday escape their factory lives and have much more freedom than the slaves, who could not escape (www. encyclopedia. com). The slavery issue, which was causing the nation to split into the North and South, caused the end of the Whig Party. Due to the split in opinion over slavery the Whigs began to split in the 1850s and became supporters in different political parties. During the next few years most Southern Whigs joined the Democrats in support of slavery.

Northern Whigs joined northern antislavery Democrats. In 1854 the men against slavery pushed for the creation of a new political party opposed to continuing slavery. This party became the Republican Party. The Democrats viewed the Republicans antislavery policy as an abuse in national power, and as a direct threat to their way of life. The Democrats were determined to maintain slavery and insisted that the balance of free and slave states not be upset when new states were admitted to the Union.

The South also used the two-thirds rule to veto certain presidential nominees that were strongly against slavery. As a result, the were hoping that since the Congress was more southern the slavery issue could not be resolved (www. encyclopedia. com). The Republicans proposed to stop the westward expansion of slavery, which angered the southerners. The Republicans were those who opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which let the settlers north of the Missouri border decide the slavery issue for themselves.

They also opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory that was north of the southern border of Missouri, and the Supreme Courts decision in the Dred Scott Case, which ruled that slaves couldnt sue for their freedom and that Congress couldnt prohibit slavery in the territories, and supported the admission of Kansas as a free state. The Republicans stood for abolishing slavery, returning power to the states, womens suffrage, free speech, and individual rights.

Besides the slavery issue, the nation was dividing into separate political parties for other reasons as well. The North and Souths economies were developing very differently. The South focused mainly on agriculture, while the North was more industrial and urban. The population and wealth was growing much quicker in the North as well. These differences also contributed to the political differences concerning national policy. During 1854 to1860, the slavery issue became such a hot topic that even Democrats were becoming divided among themselves Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican president in 1860.

The party platform included a high protective tariff, free homesteads, and a transcontinental railroad, all of which gained support from the westerners, farmers, and eastern manufacturing interests. The Republicans emerged from the Civil War with great political strength. They defeated the Confederate armies, the slaves were liberated and the union of the states was preserved. After the war, the republicans supported high tariffs and promoted economic development.

The Democrats were seen as the party of slavery, but they did have some northerners support, mainly because of their support of free trade policies (www. encyclopedia. com). Though the Democrat and Republican Parties are still around to this day, the issues they support are very different than they used to be. There have been many different political parties come and go in American history and there will likely be more in the future. As long as people continue to have different ideas on the best way to run the nation and the best way to govern the people we will have a multi-party political system.

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