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The Start of the Two Party System in the United Staes

Updated on November 29, 2016

Signing of the Constitution | Source

Organized political party's started in 1796. That was the first time people ran for a political office as members of an organized political Party.

Most of the older leaders of the Revolutionary Era were shocked by this new phenomenon. The value of political parties was seen by Madison but he believed this would only be temporary and used for specific elections that were controversial. The new conditions that were created were not understood by the older leaders. In America's new political system the voters would belong to a political party and usually vote for that party's candidate. The first elections where the modern political practice was used was held in 1796.

George Washington Founding Father

Gilbert Stuart [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Gilbert Stuart [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The new party's chose the names they felt reflected their most cherished values. One party called themselves the Federalists. They were in favor of the Constitution and were strong supporters in 1996 of the federal administration. Washington did not want political parties because he felt they would be a threat to the republic. John Adams, Washington's vice president, became the Federalists candidate for president. Most of the Federal lists supported Hamilton's policies.

The northeast with their growing commercial economy built by the merchants, creditors, and urban artisans was very dedicated supporters of the Federalists.

The second political party adopted the name Democratic-Republicans. Their name suggested that they were more committed to extending the Revolution to the common people. The Democratic-Republicans were often called Republicans. They came from many areas of American society. The Democratic-Republicans party was made up of farmers from all over the country. They were very popular with Scottish, Irish, and German ethnic groups. The Democratic-Republicans party had ordinary people in their party, but the main leaders were rich southern tobacco men like Jefferson and Madison. They were a more diverse party the Federalists. The Federalists were wealthier than the Democratic-Republicans and they carried more prestige because of being associated with George Washington.

The election of 1796 was very intense. The Federalists considered themselves as the “friends of order” and good government. They considered the Democratic-Republicans as radicals who were dangerous and would bring the anarchy of the French Revolution to America.

John Adams

John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Thomas Jefferson

Charles Willson Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Charles Willson Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The Federalists policies were hated by the Democratic-Republicans. A New York newspaperman said the Federalists were aristocrats trying to lay down a foundation for a monarchical government. The Democratic-Republicans believed they were the only supporters of independence, friends to equal rights, and advocates of a free elective government. The Federalist and Democratic-Republicans were very hostile toward each other. There was very little room for compromise.

1796 Electoral College

By AndyHogan14 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By AndyHogan14 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The presidential election showed the parties were well balanced. The southern states favored Jefferson and Adams was favored by New England. The Mid-Atlantic states had well-organized parties. Adams won the electoral college vote with 71 and Jefferson had 69. It was set up in the Constitution that the runner up would be vice-president.

After a very brutal campaign, John Adams became president in a very close race. Thomas Jefferson became vice-president.


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