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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Wednesday, June 19, 2002 at 2:38PM :

In Reply to: Re: taken from the web posted by panch from ? ( on Tuesday, June 18, 2002 at 7:01PM :

this is from Grolier's Encyclopedia Americana:

Federalist Party, one of the first two POLITICAL PARTIES in the United States. It emerged, as did the opposition Democratic-Republican party, within the congressional and executive branches of the government during George WASHINGTON's first administration, and it dominated the government until its defeat in the election of 1800. Thereafter it unsuccessfully contested the presidency until 1816. In some states—especially in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware—it remained a force into the mid-1820's. After its demise its members passed into both the DEMOCRATIC PARTY of Andrew JACKSON and the WHIG PARTY.

The Federalist party claimed the adherence of influential men—such as John ADAMS, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, George Cabot, Rufus King, Timothy Pickering, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney—who had agitated for a new and effective Constitution in 1787. Yet it was not the lineal descendant of the pro-Constitutionalist, or “federalist,” groupings of the 1780's. Rather, it arose under new circumstances and around new issues. It drew its early support from among those who wished, for ideological as well as self-interested reasons, to strengthen national as against state power.

Until its defeat in 1800 the party's style was aristocratic, and its members scorned democracy. Its backing was centered in the commercial Northeast, where the failings of the confederation government before 1788 had occasioned economic distress, commercial stagnation, and a fear of civil disorder. And although the party also had considerable influence in Virginia, North Carolina, and the area around Charleston, S.C., it never appealed to the plantation and yeoman farmers of the old South and old West.

Birth of the Party

A well-defined Federalist party did not exist before 1794. After Washington's inauguration in 1789, debate arose in CONGRESS and the CABINET over the proposals of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, subsequently enacted into law, that the national government assume state debts, fund the national debt at par value, and charter a national bank. The opposition to Hamilton rallied around Secretary of State Thomas JEFFERSON and Congressman James MADISON. But not until the congressional debates over Jay's Treaty of 1794 did two parties emerge clearly: the Federalist party led by Hamilton and the Democratic-Republican party of Madison and Jefferson. From then on, the Federalists championed commercial and diplomatic harmony with Britain, domestic stability and order, and strong national government under powerful executive and judicial branches.

Federalists in Power

By the end of his second term Washington had become closely identified with the Federalists. Washington's Farewell Address of 1796, prepared in association with Hamilton, may be read as a basic text of Federalism. Washington's vice president, John Adams, was elected president as a Federalist in 1796. Adams retained Washington's cabinet officers and sought to continue his predecessor's policies. He prosecuted an undeclared naval war with France, and after the Federalists had gained control of Congress, he supported the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. But Adams met increasing opposition within his own party from the Hamilton faction, especially over his military priorities. When, as much to undercut mounting Democratic-Republican opposition as to end the war, Adams opened negotiations with France in 1799 and reorganized the cabinet under his own control, the Hamiltonians broke with him. His actions probably enhanced the Federalist party's position in the presidential election of 1800 but not enough to defeat Jefferson.

The party was irreparably split. In the waning days of his presidency Adams was able to conclude a peace with France and to appoint moderate Federalist John Marshall as chief justice. Long after the party was dead, Marshall preserved its principles from the bench.

Opposition Party

Finding themselves in the opposition, the Federalists at last created a well-disciplined system of state party organizations and adopted the trappings of democracy in order to lure the voters. Concentrated primarily in the Northeast, they also assumed more of the aspect of a sectional minority. Neglecting ideological consistency and turning against their previous commitment to strong national power, they opposed Jefferson's popular Louisiana Purchase of 1803 as too costly and destructive of Northern influence. As a result, they continued to lose power at the national level, carrying only Connecticut, Delaware, and part of Maryland against Jefferson in 1804.

That defeat, plus Hamilton's untimely death the same year, might have injured the party fatally. But Jefferson's ill-conceived Embargo of 1807 as high-handed a use of executive prerogative as Federalists ever envisaged—brought it back to life. The Federalists carried all of New England (except Vermont), Delaware, and parts of North Carolina and Maryland in the 1808 election against Madison. Their national prospects were kept alive by the declaration of war in 1812, which brought New York, New Jersey, and more of Maryland into the fold. However, Federalist obstruction of the war effort killed the party's popularity elsewhere, and the Hartford Convention of 1814 unjustly won for it the stigma of secession and treason. After its respectable showings in 1808 and 1812, the party carried only Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware in 1816.


The Federalist party lingered on in these three states but never regained its national following, and by 1828 it had disappeared. Yet, its contribution was evident. Its principles had given form to the new government. Its leaders had laid the basis of a national economy, created a national judicial system, and enunciated enduring principles of foreign policy. But the party failed to accommodate the rising democratic spirit, and its emphasis on trade, while economically justifiable, was unpopular among the majority of Americans, who were men of the soil. As Federalists would have wished, however, in ignoring immediate advantage, they gained the esteem of posterity.

James M. Banner, Jr.
Princeton University

For Further Reading

Banner, James M., Jr., To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789-1815 (Knopf 1970)
Engeman, Thomas, and Erler, Edward J., eds., The Federalist Concordance (Univ. of Chicago Press 1988)
Fairfield, Roy P., ed., The Federalist Papers, 2d ed. (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press 1981)
Hamilton, Alexander, and others, Federalist or the New Constitution (1911; reprint, Biblio. Dist. 1971)
Livermore, Shaw, Jr., The Twilight of Federalism (1962; reprint, Gordian Press 1972)
Renzulli, L. Marx, Maryland: The Federalist Years (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press 1972)

-- Lilly
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