Explain why political parties developed in the United States.
Political parties are not mentioned, nor is their influence taken into account, in the U.S. Constitution. At the national level, the origins of political parties are usually traced to the major political debates that occurred during the presidency of George Washington. Events, especially the French Revolution and the wars that followed, and policies, especially the efforts to finance the national debt by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, were especially divisive. When Alexander Hamilton proposed to have the federal government assume the debts of the states, for example, Thomas Jefferson led a group of politicians that opposed him. He also opposed Hamilton's proposed excise tax, the chartering of a national bank, the existence of a "national militia" and other measures favored by Hamilton that seemed to increase the powers of the federal government. When the French Revolution led to war with Great Britain, many Americans favored the revolutionaries, and argued that the United States should give them its support. Others tended to favor the British, fearing the emerging radicalism of the Revolution and recognizing the importance of British trade to the American economy.
By the election of 1796, these groups had crystallized into hardened factions. The supporters of Thomas Jefferson began to call themselves Republicans, or Democratic-Republicans. The supporters of Alexander Hamilton's policies called themselves Federalists. By 1800, these parties had become sufficiently organized to influence the course of the presidential election. The two-party system was born, even though it bore little resemblance to today's modern mass politics. Over time, the party alignments have shifted, but the United States has retained a two-party political system.