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A Brief History of American Political Parties

Updated on June 20, 2015

American Political Parties

Throughout the political realm of American history there have been six main parties and over a hundred minor parties. The establishment of American parties created a fierce competition between warring parties for control of the American political scene. The first hundred years of American politics brought a turbulent time of rapid party change and strong ideas that soon transformed into the two main parties that control the dominate share of American’s political vote today.

The first of these numerous parties to emerge was the Federalist Party who dominated as the only political party from its creation in 1790 to the 1820s. The Federalist policies called for a national bank, tariffs, and good relations with Britain as expressed in the Jay Treaty negotiated in 1794. Hamilton developed the concept of implied powers, and successfully argued the adoption of that interpretation of the United States Constitution. They rallied support from urban bankers and rich businessmen to support policies that they would otherwise not have passed. The Federalists left a lasting imprint as they fashioned a strong new government with a sound financial base, and in the person of Chief Justice John Marshall, decisively shaped Supreme Court policies for another three decades.

The Democratic-Republican Party was the political party organized by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in 1791-93. It stood in opposition to the Federalist Party and controlled the Presidency and Congress, and most states, from 1801 to 1824. This party was first formed as the “Anti-Administration” in a secret meeting in the nation’s capital. The party was very strong in the south but weaker in the north and favored states’ rights over a strong national government. The party selected its presidential candidates in a caucus of members of Congress. They included Thomas Jefferson (nominated 1796; elected 1800-1, 1804), James Madison (1808, 1812), and James Monroe(1816, 1820). Later after the appointment of Monroe the caucus system basically collapsed and they soon broke into four parts without central leadership.

With the downfall of the Democratic-Republicans brought forth the whig party in 1883. Four presidents of the United States were members of the Whig Party. Considered integral to the Second Party System and operating from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s,the party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. The Whig party had good success but coincidentally both of their elected presidents died in office. he party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the re-nomination of its own incumbent President Fillmore. The northern supporters simply joined the Republican party and the few members that were still in the south dispersed among other parties. The Whigs were supportive of a more expansive government and rapid growth of the American industrial growth. To modernize the inner America, the Whigs helped create public schools, private colleges, charities, and cultural institutions.many Whigs, most whom were protestant reformers who called for public schools to teach moral values and proposed prohibition to end the liquor problem. The Whigs unfortunately slowly began to find them self unable to answer core governmental questions and by 1860 had completely dissolved.

With the ending of the Whigs the Democratic party and the Republican party emerged to become the two oldest and biggest and most supportive of the United States parties.

Following the Whigs the Republican party emerged onto the political party scene. The Republicans have a conservative ideology and have battled for smaller governmental controls and less government spending. The first party convention was in1854 in Michigan. Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan "free labor, free land, free men", which had been coined by Salmon P. Chase, a Senator from Ohio (and future Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the United States).Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. The term "Grand Old Party" is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party, and the abbreviation "GOP" is a commonly used designation. The term originated in 1875 in the Congressional Record, referring to the party associated with the successful military defense of the Union as "this gallant old party"; the following year in an article in the Cincinnati Commercial, the term was modified to "grand old party".

These parties became the basics of the American voting structure and have, for the most part, advanced our great country for the future. The past of the American party structure has been very unpredictable and the future will probably also be. Will all these unpredictable changes only one thing is for certain, political parties will be there in the future.

Where You Aware the Modern Parties Are Vastly Different Than the Earlier Ones?

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