The period 1800 to 1830 in the political history of the United States roughly corresponds to what is commonly known as the "first party system." While this period was largely marked by the dominance of the Democratic-Republican Party, several historical shifts occurring during this era set the stage for the future evolution of American political life into an early form of the party system that operates in the contemporary United States. That is, a system in which two roughly co-equal, institutional political parties compete for power.
The year 1800 was a significant one in American domestic politics. It marked the first, competitive presidential election, and also the first in which the principal candidates stood with the backing of major political parties. The preceding two presidential elections—the first since the adoption of the Constitution—were largely uncontested with George Washington running as an independent, the consensus choice for president on both occasions.
The 1800 election saw the country divided into two political world-views that reflected themselves in the two competing parties of that year's contest: the Democratic-Republican Party (officially known as the Republican Party but not directly related to the current party by the same name) and the Federalist Party. The former group expressed skepticism and apprehension at political centralization, preferring instead a loose federation for the nascent American republic. The latter group believed the United States would be best served by a strong, central government.
The victory of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans in the 1800 election put the Federalists on a defensive footing for the next generation and it is the dominance of Jefferson's anti-Federalist thought that became the hallmark of the first party system. During this period, the key issues of the day related to the creation of a national bank for the United States, and the management of relations between the US and the two major European powers, France and Britain. Party business was largely occupied by these concerns to varying degrees of success. Two successive national banks failed and relations between the US and the European powers were often fractious, as evidenced by the War of 1812.
However, the enduring accomplishment of this period in the development of political parties is in the way it set the stage for the future evolution of American politics. By 1820, with the continuing dominance of Jeffersonian thought, the Federalist Party passed into abeyance. The Democratic-Republicans, meanwhile, split into several factions as a result of disagreements on policy issues, as well as personal and geographic disputes between powerful party bosses. By 1825 two factions had emerged as independent parties, and these parties became central to US political life: the Democratic Party and the Whig Party.
Though the Whig Party would later collapse and be replaced by the Lincoln-led Republican Party, the system of two institutional parties that first emerged during the period 1800 to 1830—each tracing a lineage from Jefferson's original Democratic-Republican Party—would endure. The organic development of this two party system was the principal accomplishment and enduring legacy of the period 1800 to 1830 in American domestic politics.