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How did the founding fathers feel about political parties?

The Founding Fathers were generally uneasy about political parties. For the most part, they believed that parties had the potential to tear the new nation apart. To these men, political parties meant factionalism, which they believed could be fatal to the development of the United States as a unified country. It is no surprise, then, that political parties are entirely omitted from the US Constitution.

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The delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were keen to avoid anything that smacked of division. Needing to secure the maximum degree of consensus on the proposed changes to the American political system, the assembled delegates could not afford to stir up more controversy than was absolutely necessary. The proposals before the Convention were by no means universally accepted, and so it was essential to tread carefully to make sure that as many people were on board as possible.

To that end, the vexed question of political parties was not seriously addressed. To many of the assembled delegates, the very notion of political parties was anathema; it conjured up the frightening specter of division, hatred, even civil war. It was factionalism that had led to the outbreak of the English Civil War and the last thing anyone wanted was a repeat performance on American soil.

The generally hostile attitude toward political parties among the Founding Fathers was articulated most forcefully by James Madison in Federalist 10. There, he argued that one of the most important functions of a “well-constructed Union” was to break and control the “violence of faction.” Madison clearly understood the enormous dangers that could attach to the founding of political parties in America. And it is because of attitudes like Madison's, widely shared as they were among many of the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention, that political parties were excluded from the US Constitution.

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