Federalists and Democratic Republicans

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Compare and contrast Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Party with Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic Republican Party. What were their philosophies on government? What were their ideas on the economy? What were their biggest fears? Why did the arguments that dominated politics in the 1790s come to an end in the 1810s?

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Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party differed greatly from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Party. Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party thought that the nation would be best off siding with Republican France in terms of foreign policy. They also believed that the nation's economy should be based on agricultural. Jefferson thought of himself as a farmer...

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Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party differed greatly from Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Party. Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party thought that the nation would be best off siding with Republican France in terms of foreign policy. They also believed that the nation's economy should be based on agricultural. Jefferson thought of himself as a farmer even though he was a plantation owner, and most of his manual labor was completed by slaves. The Democratic-Republicans believed in a weak central government in which the states had most of the power. This contrasts with Jefferson's actual presidency in which Jefferson passed the Embargo Act of 1807 over the protests of New England, and he completed the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson's party's biggest fears were too much national debt, a strong military presence, and high national taxes, which would fund the national debt. Under Jefferson and Madison, the national defense budget was cut in favor of state militias, and this would prove disastrous in the War of 1812. The Democratic-Republicans also did not like the idea of a national bank, which they thought would put too much power in the hands of Eastern money interests.

The Federalists under Hamilton were nearly the polar opposites of the Democratic-Republicans. They thought that foreign policy should be favorable to Britain because Britain did not endorse France's Reign of Terror and because Britain was also the United States's best trading partner. The Federalists believed in increasing American industrial output, as this would allow more people to have jobs without having to purchase land. It would also make the United States more self-sufficient in terms of goods. The Federalists believed in a strong central government and a strong US military. They feared what would happen if the states gained too much power. They also believed in a national debt and a national bank because it would tie the states closer to the national government economically.

The foreign policy arguments came to a head during the 1790s and early 1800s because the United States was caught in the middle between the warring powers of Britain and France. Under the Federalist Adams administration, the United States fought an unofficial naval war with France during the Quasi-Wars. After Napoleon signed an agreement to stop harassing American shipping, American animosities turned against Britain and its policies of impressment, which impeded American shipping to the Continent. The Federalists were located in New England, and they feared growing Democratic-Republican popularity in the South and West while these regions grew thanks to cheap land policies and emigration. The Federalists protested the War of 1812, and there was even a push for New England to secede during the Hartford Convention. After word leaked that New England Federalists were contemplating secession, the party soon fell out of favor as American patriotism soared after the successful War of 1812. This would lead to the Era of Good Feelings. There were still political debates, but they were not as turbulent as the fights between the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists.

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The Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans were two political parties that had opposing views on many topics. Alexander Hamilton believed the federal government should be active and involved in many activities. Thomas Jefferson believed the role of the federal government should be limited. He believed that the state governments should have more power. Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists believed the federal government should be actively involved in the economy. Hamilton wanted to combine the state and national debts together and repay them. Hamilton also wanted to create a national banking system. Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans opposed the debt and banking plans. They believed the federal government could only do what the Constitution specifically said it could do. Since these ideas weren’t mentioned in the Constitution, the Democratic-Republicans opposed them. They wanted the federal government to have a limited role in the economy.

The Democratic-Republicans were very worried about the federal government having too much power. Many people who eventually became members of the Democratic-Republican Party supported the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution because they feared the federal government would be too strong and abuse its powers. The Federalists were concerned that there would be chaos if the federal government didn’t have enough power. They saw how ineffective the federal government was under the plan of government created by the Articles of Confederation. They were afraid the new government would be less effective and disorder could occur if the federal government didn’t have enough power.

Many of these disagreements came to an end between 1810–1815. The Federalists had become a regional political party and were losing support. When people heard that the Federalists wanted to reduce the power of the federal government, they were viewed as selfish, inconsistent, and unpatriotic. The Federalists also opposed American involvement in the War of 1812. They eventually disappeared as a political party by 1815.

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