Rise of Political Parties

III. Foreign Relations

A. French Revolution

B. War in Europe

C. Election of 1796

- John Adams v. Thomas Jefferson
- problems with the electoral college
- Alien and Sedition Acts (see Berkin)

IV. Summary of the Political Parties

- Characteristics of each party


The National Bank was also a semiofficial institution. Although it is used to store federal money and bolster the nation's economy - you can also invest in the Bank by purchasing stock in the Bank - so you have speculators (generally wealthy individuals) who have invested in the national bank. Republicans saw this as groundwork for corruption.

Republican response

Jefferson and the Republicans opposed the bank because they thought the government shouldn't be tied to business practices for the country. Also thought the government had no authority to establish a national bank because this hadn't been a provision of the Constitution. Republicans wanted a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Jefferson is one of the main proponents of strict interpretation (a fact which will cause some embarrassment with his upcoming purchase of the Louisiana Territory…)

Hamilton & the Federalists replied that the bank was constitutional because the federal govt. had the power to regulate trade and control taxes. Federalists promoted a loose interpretation of the Constitution so the federal government had the power to set economic policy.

The upshot - the bank was quite successful; it encouraged foreign investment in the Bank and boosted the country's cash reserves. It will also come in handy for Jefferson when he needs to finance the Louisiana Purchase.

The Election of 1796

The election of 1796 points out one of the flaws in the electoral college system (as envisioned in the constitution). Remember how I emphasized the point that there were no political parties at the time the college was created? Well, just ten years later there were parties (Federalists and Republicans).

According to the Electoral system, electors selected two candidates and their votes were tallied to determine who won the presidency and who would become vice-president. Thus, in the election of 1796 John Adams won the presidency and his political rival, Thomas Jefferson, became Vice- resident (see your Berkin text for a more detailed explanation of the political maneuvering here, p. 147).

The upcoming Election of 1800 will provide further impetus to address this problem with the Electoral College - we'll discuss this in the next lecture…

French Revolution -

Just as Americans were trying to sort out and define their political system, the nations of Britain and France were resuming hostilities in Europe. Since the United States had ties to both countries, American had a difficult time trying to maintain neutrality.

Americans had initially supported the French Revolution and its laudable goals which mirrored the American Revolution. However, as the French Revolution degenerated into the Reign of Terror, many Americans wanted to distance themselves from the horrors of the revolution which ran contrary to Americans' notions of social order, human rights, and property rights. Although Americans supported a more democratic form of government in France, they didn't support the chaos which ensued in the Reign of Terror (1792-3). To completely short-circuit a needless lecture on the French Revolution just keep this in mind - Napoleon will emerge as the de facto leader of France in 1799!

The French Revolution is important to Americans because the United States will find itself caught in the middle of the two main contestants - by 1792 Britain and France were again at war. The French wanted to extend the revolution and Britain wanted to contain it.

Effects in America

 John Adams (1797-1800)

Adams considered himself the "heir apparent" to President Washington, having languished in the vice presidency (which he described as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived") for eight years, awaiting his turn to be President. Adams had served his country well - you should recall that he was a key player in the years preceding the American Revolution and that he advanced the careers of both Washington and Jefferson at the Second Continental Congress in 1775. He also served as an ambassador to Britain after the war and, like many Federalists, Adams supported a continued economic partnership with Great Britain.

Still, Adams was a "reluctant Federalist." Although he believed in the need for a strong central government, he didn't feel compelled to protect the interests of the wealthy as Hamilton did. He was also ticked because Hamilton had so much power and influence, even after he was no longer Secretary of the Treasury. The rivalry between Adams and Hamilton helped to mitigate the influence of the Federalist party.

 Alien and Sedition Acts - (1798) See Berkin for more information!

Passed by Congress (Jefferson and his fellow Republicans tend to pin this legislation solely upon Adams - remember it has to be passed by a majority in Congress, though the Federalists do control Congress at this point) and promoted/approved by Adams. The Alien act wasn't used much but was designed to arrest and deport "aliens" (immigrants) suspected of treason. Also passed a Naturalization Act which increased the # of years of residency required to become a naturalized citizen (from 5 to 14).

The Sedition act was much more problematic. Established fines and imprisonment for those accused of writing, speaking, or publishing anything considered treasonous to the government. Critics will argue that this contradicts the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. The Federalists were trying to curb free speech but specifically they wanted to reduce the influence of Republicans who were railing against the Federalist government!

The Alien & Sedition Acts backfired for Adams because they angered most Americans. The Sedition Act also prompted Jefferson (authored Kentucky) and Madison (Va.) to compose the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions which reasserted the states had a right to intercede in governmental affairs if they felt the federal government had exceeded its authority.

These resolutions are important because southerners will later draw upon them, claiming that they establish the principles of nullification.

The Alien and Sedition Acts expired about the time that Adams was leaving office in 1800.

By now you should be able to trace the evolution of the Federalists and Republicans and understand their stances on major issues associated with the first political party system.

For a "refresher" keep the following points in mind:



Republicans (a.k.a. Democrat Republicans or Jeffersonian Republicans)


Remember, political parties are good things! Keep the following points in mind….

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