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The history of political parties in the U.S. is an interesting one. The two party system in the U.S. began in the 1790’s. The two parties were the Democratic-Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson and the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton. This first party system began to end after the War of 1812. Most Americans perceived the end of this war as an American victory, and thus began the Era of Good Feelings, which was a time of very little partisanship in the government. The Federalist Party began its decline when James Monroe defeated the Federalist candidate in 1816. The following election in 1820 spelled the end of the Federalist Party when Monroe faced no real opposition in his reelection.
The bitter election of 1824 meant the end of the Era of Good Feelings. Four Democratic-Republicans ran for president, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford. No one received a majority of electoral votes so the election was decided by the House of Representatives. The House chose John Quincy Adams as president even though Andrew Jackson received more popular votes and electoral votes than any other candidate. Jackson and his supporters claimed that there was a “corrupt bargain” with the election of Adams by the House of Representatives. This bitter election spelled the end of the Democratic-Republican Party. Those Democratic-Republicans who supported the ideals of Jefferson, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, began the Democratic Party. Those who followed John Quincy Adams, including many former Federalists, began calling themselves National Republicans. In the election of 1828, Adams ran against Jackson as a National Republican. After Henry Clay was defeated in 1832 when he ran as a National Republican, the Whig Party emerged as a coalition of National Republicans, Anti-Masons, disaffected Jackson supporters, and old Federalists.
The Whig Party, which did consist of old Federalists, was similar to the Federalist Party. Like the Federalists, they believed in a more modern country which included internal improvements, national unity, a national bank, and domestic manufacturing. Jackson’s Democrats were more similar to Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans. Like Jefferson, Jackson opposed the national bank. He was against internal improvements, and supported a more truly equal democracy and state power.
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