“There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other. This… is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. “1 This view, expressed by John Adams, was not shared by all, namely Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. As the early American government began to form, so did the two major political parties.
Alexander Hamilton was the founder of the Federalist Party, while Thomas Jefferson led the Anti-Federalists in response. 2 Both men used their prominence in each party to their advantage to influence the public and their disputes created controversy and discordance between the parties and the American people. Hamilton and Jefferson had many disagreements throughout their careers and had radically different opinions on what their new country should be like. After the American Revolutionary war, the budding country was deeply in debt.
People had different ideas on how to pay off this debt, later leading to the formation of political parties. The Federalist Party was formed and they believed that it was in the new country’s best interest to have a strong centralized government. Members envisioned policies to build a flourishing union, such as a mixed economy of manufacturing and agriculture, opposition to suffrage, and creating a central bank. 3 The Anti-Federalists emerged to protest the strengthening centralized government caused by the Constitution.
When the Federalists initiated the Constitutional Convention for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation from May 25 to September 17, 1787, the Anti-Federalists adamantly disapproved of any changes because the articles supported their ideal weak central government. 4 Their party was less defined than their opponents, though can be characterized by their fear that a Federalist system would quickly become corrupt with the loss of state independence. 5 The Anti-Federalists pushed for strong state governments and tended to support small landowners and farmers.
They also expressed concerns that the constitution did not divide power evenly among the three branches of government. 6 The Federalist Party was founded and led by Alexander Hamilton, who supported urban mercantile interests and seaport business. 7 Hamilton wrote The Federalist Papers in 1788 along with James Madison and John Jay, a collection of 85 articles promoting the ratification of the Constitution. He believed that a strong central government should serve industry and commerce, and that it should have complete support of the people.
Public life would be efficient, orderly, and organized. 8 Hamilton saw that the country required credit for commercial activity, industrial development, and the operations of the government. With America deeply in debt after the war, many thought to pay only part of it. Hamilton created a plan to give the federal government the responsibility of aiding individual states with paying off debt. 9 He wished for Congress to fund national debt using war bonds and securities at face value. He proposed that a national bank would control funds and issue currency.
Hamilton also suggested protective tariffs for funding schemes and to aid domestic manufacturing. 10 The Anti-Federalists thought that the three branches of the government threatened their belief of restraining power and that since fiscal authority was increasing, especially by raising taxes, Congress would soon become oppressive. 11 They also feared that the electoral systems set out in the Constitution would always favor the election of elite leaders who would be out of touch with the needs of the common people.
Jefferson was the main advocate for a decentralized republic. He saw the benefits of a centralized government only in foreign relations, but opposed it in any other area. He supported farmers and southern interests, mainly large plantation owners such as himself. 12 Jefferson formed the Anti-Federalist party, some known as the Democratic-Republicans. 13 Being appointed as the first secretary of the treasury from September 11, 1789 to January 1795 meant that Hamilton could actively use his position to combat the country’s financial issues with his Federalist approaches.
While in office, he proposed to create a central banking system, make a uniform currency, to fund the national debt, and to use a high protective tariff to promote manufacturing. 15 Jefferson served as the first secretary of state and objected, believing that the economy should be dominated by farmers rather that manufacturers to preserve his republican ideals. 16 Members of the congress debated Alexander Hamilton’s proposal that the government assume state debt, repay the national debt, and charter a bank.
It wasn’t until Congress held the debate for the ratification and implementation of Jay’s Treaty with Great Britain did the two parties form, with Hamilton at its head. 17 Hamilton convinced Congress to assume all remaining debt from the war, where if interest was paid regularly, the country’s reputation would improve. 18 Thomas Jefferson was against this, wanting stricter limits to how long and how much the government could borrow. He won in this dispute. 19 Hamilton issued federal bonds to cover national debt, which allowed the federal government to make payments on time and thus build credit. 0
This was successful in moving the country away from Jefferson’s agrarian ideals and towards Hamilton’s preferred commercial republic. 21 Hamilton did establish a national bank, which was part of the expansion of federal monetary and fiscal power, also with excise taxes and a federal mint. 22 In Hamilton’s Second Report on the Public Credit, which was submitted to Congress in 1790, he expressed that it was in the nation’s best interest to model the bank after the Bank of England, and he also recommended that its only function was to be depository, not lending.
The difference would come from private investors that were willing to lend, and money would come from the public funds. 23 Thomas Jefferson led the opposition by arguing that taking power from local banks would damage the current monetary system and was unfairly benefitting northern businesses, all at the expense of southern agriculture developments. 24 Perhaps the loudest complaint was that the creation of a central bank violated the Constitution, which states that it was the duty of the congress to regulate and issue coined money, rather than bills of credit, and to prohibit chartering of corporations. 5
Jefferson used his position as the first secretary of state to carry out his Anti-Federalist agenda. There was friction in George Washington’s cabinet at the time because of disputes on whether the United States should aid France in their own revolution. Jefferson supported the French, both for personal reasons and because they had been key to America’s success in the war. Washington favored Hamilton’s approach for neutrality, and so Jefferson resigned. 26 He later used his presidency to displace and dislodge Federalist holds on the government. 7
Jefferson argued state rights by writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, along with James Madison, which challenged the constitutionality of the Federalist-supported Alien and Sedition Acts, and Federalist power as a whole. 28 It was believed that states benefit the good of the public when they grant the national government its power. 29 Once elected president, Thomas Jefferson began the reign of the “Virginia Dynasty,” from 1801-1825, meaning the next chain of loyal Jeffersonians, James Madison and James Monroe. 0 Political power was about to shift in the South’s favor with this AntiFederalist Republican rule. Jefferson started the ongoing movement of marginalizing Federalists. 31 Jefferson’s presidency was characterized by hostility towards a strong central government and the judicial reach of the Supreme Court. 32
Anti-Federalists were against extensive national power because they believed that it could build an expensive army, that the government could tax without restraint, and that they could potentially take away rights that the people relied on the government to protect. 3 In the eyes of moderate AntiFederalists, the most problematic omission in the Constitution was a bill of rights. This meant that they were not protecting freedom of the press or process rights for the criminally accused, which caused suspicion of the motives of the Federalists. 34 They argued that the best course of actions was to write against tyranny into a constitution at the outset as opposed to relying on the nature of the people in power. 35
Most Anti-Federalists believed that it was better to rely on state representatives rather than national ones. 6 The Federalists won a great victory with the approval of the Constitution in New York and Virginia in June and July of 1788. 37 The Federalists waged a campaign of significance and great change. This began the first time that the people approved of and freely considered their form of government, and with the ongoing ratification process, began the first time where the whole nation decided on one issue. 38This built a sense of community and loyalty in each state.
The Federalists used this momentum to further their plans to expand national awareness and commitment. However, even in defeat the Anti-Federalists were able to contribute to creating the national government. 39’The main goal of theirs was to challenge the purpose of a central government which did not include specific provisions that protect individual liberties and rights. 40 Because of their movements, the Bill of Rights was adopted. 41 The fates of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Parties may be directly correlated to the fates of their founders.
When Alexander Hamilton was shot and killed in a duel against Aaron Burr in 1804, members of with party had varied reaction. He could be seen as a tragic hero due to the young age he was at his death. However, without him their was no clear leader of the party. They began to fade from power or switch to new and different parties. Thomas Jefferson lived until C ], and the AntiFederalist Democratic Republicans were able to slander his name and reputation once he was deceased. The AntiFederalists took over control.