Federalists and Democratic Republicans

Start Free Trial

Why did the Federalist Party fail?

The Federalist Party failed because its ideals were comparatively less democratic and because of the War of 1812. The Federalists did not support the war, because it would harm their economy and because they admired the British form of government. When the United States emerged victorious, they appeared unpatriotic.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The northeast had long been a Federalist stronghold. As the center of international commerce, the northeast also suffered terrible economic hardships during the War of 1812. This conflict brought virtually all overseas commerce to a halt. To make matters worse, the war started off terribly for the United States. As...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The northeast had long been a Federalist stronghold. As the center of international commerce, the northeast also suffered terrible economic hardships during the War of 1812. This conflict brought virtually all overseas commerce to a halt. To make matters worse, the war started off terribly for the United States. As the situation worsened, Federalist leaders gathered in Hartford in December 1814 to enumerate their complaints against the way the Democratic-Republican controlled federal government was waging the war. They even petitioned the federal government for financial compensation for those suffering from the loss in trade. There was also talk of seceding in order to remove the region from the war.

The Federalists desperately wanted to bring the war to an end so that their constituents could resume normal commercial activity. Federalist Massachusetts even sent secret envoys to England to see about negotiating a separate peace. The Hartford Convention also sent delegates to Washington to argue for an end to hostilities.

Fortunately for the United States, but unfortunately for the Federalists, the war turned in America's favor at around this time. Peace had been brokered with England, and the stunning American victory at the Battle of New Orleans ushered in a wave of patriotic zeal. In the face of this, the Federalists were viewed as unpatriotic defeatists more concerned with local matters than with the greater good of the country.

With all the wind sucked out of their sails, the Federalists were unable to recover. Some Federalists remained in state governments through the 1820s, and the Federalist national caucus met for the last time in 1825. Popular opinion had turned irrevocably against the party. The end of the Federalists ushered in the so-called Era of Good Feelings in which, for a brief time, there was only one political party in the country and there were no serious political squabbles.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Federalist Party was one of the first political parties in the United States.  It did not survive very long, dying off after the War of 1812.  It died for two main reasons.  First, it died because it was opposed to the democratic spirit of the time.  Second, it died because of the War of 1812.

The Federalist Party did not support the idea of a strong democracy.  That is not to say that it wanted a monarchy or other sort of autocracy, but it is true that the Federalists were more comfortable with the idea of power being in the hands of an elite group.  The Federalists supported the Constitution because the Constitution did not allow the people to vote directly for the Senate, the President, or the Supreme Court.  They felt that this would keep some distance between the people and the government and prevent the government from acting on the whims of the mass populace.  The trouble with this idea is that it went against the spirit of the time.  The common people of America did not believe that they were incapable of ruling themselves.  Instead, they wanted more democracy.  This made the Federalists less popular and helped lead to their demise.

The end of the Federalist Party also came about because of the War of 1812.  In this war, the US fought Great Britain.  The Federalists opposed this war for two main reasons.  First, they approved of the British form of government because it was set up to reduce the power wielded by ordinary people.  They admired this system and supported Britain in its wars against France.  Second, the Federalists were mainly centered in New England, an area with an economy that was dominated by trade with England.  They did not want a war that disrupted their economic system, particularly since they admired the system of the country against whom the war was being fought.  The Federalists met in the Hartford Convention to express their opposition to the war.  They even discussed the idea of secession.  When the war ended in something of a victory for the US, the Federalists appeared to be unpatriotic and defeatist.  This helped bring about the end of their party.

Thus, this party died off because of its lack of enthusiasm for democracy and because of its opposition to the War of 1812.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team