Who were the leaders  of the political factions develping in the United States and what were their respective political agendas?

mrjcraig421 | Student

Assuming that the question is intended for the time period after the ratification of the Constitution, the two political factions that developed were the Federalists led by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, whom both served in President George Washington’s 1st Cabinet.   The foundation of their political differences lingered from Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist debates which took place during the ratification of the Constitution, but the major dividing line developed when Hamilton presented his idea for a National Bank, which Jefferson, and his followers, vehemently opposed.

The debate over the creation of the national bank centers on the interpretation of the Constitution, in regards to the “enumerated” powers of the federal government.  The Constitution does not explicitly give the federal government the right to create a national banking institution, so is it included in the elastic “necessary and proper” clause of those listed powers?  In this debate, the Democratic-Republicans developed a “strict” interpretation of the Constitution, which simply means, if the federal government is not given a specific power, than those powers fall to others (people, state governments, local governments, etc.),  The Federalists argued a “loose” interpretation of the Constitution and because one of the powers given to the federal government was the ability to coin and borrow money, then a national bank was necessary , in order to, successfully carry out that power.  These interpretations would remain linked to these political factions as time passed and the divisions grew larger.

As the Hamilton-led Federalists grew, they typically included wealthy, East coast shippers, manufacturers, and businessmen who benefitted from Hamilton’s national bank and other fiscal policies.  The political agenda of the Federalists included: a belief in a strong, pro-business, central government, a pro-British stance, a high/protective tariff, a national bank, and a strong navy to protect their off-shore interests.  Again, the Federalist agenda was designed to benefit the wealthy businessmen of the era, who then supported a strong central government.

As the Jefferson-led Democratic-Republicans grew, they typically included middle to lower class farmers, laborers, and artisans, whom lived further inland from the coast.  The political agenda of the Democratic-Republicans included: a belief in a weaker central government, with more power going to state governments, including state banks, a pro-French stance, a lowered tariff, and an extension of democracy to an “informed” masses.  Again, the Democratic-Republican agenda was designed to strengthen state governments and benefit the more “common” man.


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