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The History of the United States Parties

By Jake Ballash

Edited by Kathleen Khorn

The parties of the United States have gone through an ongoing process of change and evolution throughout the past hundreds of years of our country’s existence. The very first president of the United States, George Washington was against the two party system that we continue to live in today. In his own words, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissensions, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism”.

The two first major parties of the United States were the Federalist party, and the Democratic-Republican party (also known as the Anti-Administration party). The Federalist party supported the ratification of the constitution and a strong national government. The Democratic-Republican party opposed the powerful central government that the constitution established in the year 1789. The Federalist party dominated the U.S. government from the years 1789 and 1801. As they gradually began to lose support after the year 1801, the Federalist party came to a final collapse in the year 1816 with their last presidential candidate. The fall of the Federalists was initiated when they opposed the war of 1812. Some examples of Federalist politicians are Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Some Democratic-Republicans were Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

After the 1824 presidential election, there was a major split in the Democratic-Republican party between supporters of John Adams, and supporters of Andrew Jackson. Those who sided with Andrew Jackson created the Democratic party that we still have to this day. By the year 1834, the opponents of Andrew Jackson merged into the Whig party. The name “Whigs” originated from the anti monarchist party of England. It was given this name as an attempt to label Andrew Jackson as a monarch, or “King Andrew”.

By the 1850’s, the Whig party came to a collapse, due to sectional tensions regarding slavery. The democratic party remained in existence. The majority of former Whigs, as well as some anti-slavery democrats, joined to form the Republican Party in opposition of the Democrats. Back in the 1860’s, the Democratic party was the party defending plantation owners, slavery, and conservative values. They relied highly on the votes of White Southerners in support of the continuation of Slavery. While the Republican party was the most popular in Northern states opposing slavery.

Although these two parties went by the same labels as the ones we have today, these two parties have completely evolved in their stances over the years. Over several decades of evolution, the Democratic party has become the party of liberalism. The definition of Liberalism is “A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.” liberalism generally advocates for social progression and social programs as an attempt to work in favor of the working class within a capitalist free market system. While the modern day Republican party is now the party of conservatism. The definition of conservatism is “A political philosophy or attitude that emphasizes respect for traditional institutions and opposes the attempt to achieve social change through legislation or publicly funded programs.” Conservative values generally reflect on opposing social change, and reducing the government investment in public social programs.

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