The political alignment that was in place when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated has become known as the “second party system.” Explain: How the Federalists and anti-Federalists of 1800 became the...

The political alignment that was in place when Andrew Jackson was inaugurated has become known as the “second party system.” Explain:

  • How the Federalists and anti-Federalists of 1800 became the Democrats and Whigs of 1840 ?
  • How these parties then became the Democrats and Republicans of 1860 (“the third party system”)?
  • What role sectional issues, including the Civil War, played in this transformation ?

Assess how the beliefs of the parties did or did not change as a result.

 

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Andrew Jackson entered office in 1829, he inaugurated the Second Party System. The First Party System traces its roots to the differences between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the early Republic. As the name suggests, the Federalists favored a strong federal government, a federal bank, and the Constitution, while the Anti-Federalists were opposed to the Constitution and federal bank and supported states' rights. In the 1790s, the Anti-Federalists eventually became the Democratic-Republicans (called the "Republican Party" for short). Jefferson and Madison were members of the Democratic-Republican party. They supported states' rights and the development of agrarian, or farmers' interests, as opposed to industrialization. The Democratic-Republicans were mainly the party of farmers and those in the south and west, while northern industrialists favored the Federalists. 

During the short-lived Era of Good Feelings, partisanship, or political differences, faded after 1816. During the Second Party System, Jackson's Democratic party ushered in a period of greater political representation when more white men were able to vote. Jackson's party favored states' rights and supported a policy of westward expansion while trying to avoid battles over slavery. The Whig party developed in opposition to the Democratic party during the Second Party System. In general, Democrats were supported by farmers and by southerners and westerners, while Whigs drew their support from the Northeast.

Continued battles over expansion and the fate of slavery caused the demise of the Second Party System. Parties such as the Free Soil Party developed in the late 1840s to oppose the expansion of slavery into new western territories in the hopes that slavery would eventually die out if it were not allowed to expand. By the early 1850s, the Whig party collapsed, and Republicans developed in opposition to slavery. The first Republican President was Lincoln, who took office in 1861 and who opposed the expansion of slavery and eventually slavery itself during the Civil War. Lincoln also supported a strong federal government, and he increased the power of the federal government during the Civil War. Thus began the Third Party System with Democrats and Republicans.