What were the Federalist and Democratic-Republican visions for the new nation, and how did they shape our current government?

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Following the Independence of the United States, two major political parties emerged in the new country. Federalists, led by individuals like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, hoped to establish a more powerful federal government. They had noted the failure of the nation's first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and hoped that the new Constitution would address those issues. The Articles of Confederation left the United States federal government without a president, national court system, ability to settle disputes between states or regulate interstate commerce, and largely without an army. The Federalist vision of the United States hoped to see a federal government that addressed those issues.

Federalists also typically believed in a loose interpretation of the Constitution that allowed the federal government to do more than what was specifically stated in the Constitution. An example of this would be the creation of the National Bank. The "Necessary and Proper Clause" of the Constitution was cited by Federalists as giving the federal government the power to do more than what was specifically stated, such as the creation of a national bank. Federalists also tended to view the future of the United States as being focused around manufacturing (as opposed to agriculture), shipping, and closer relations with Great Britain. Federalists also favored the idea of the wealthy as the nation's ruling class.

The Democratic-Republicans were led by individuals like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Democratic-Republicans favored the idea of state governments having more power than the federal government. They feared the idea of a strong federal government, largely because of their experience under the strong federal government of the British prior to the Revolution. They held a stricter interpretation of the Constitution in which the federal government was limited to the powers expressed in the Constitution.

Democratic-Republicans had greater support amongst farmers and saw more of a future based around agriculture. Democratic-Republicans also believed in free trade that provided greater access to cheaper imported manufactured goods. While Federalists felt that the wealthy should constitute much of the ruling class, Democratic-Republicans felt the common people should have more influence on the nation's government. Democratic-Republicans also felt that the United States should have closer ties to France than to Great Britain.

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Describe the visions of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party for the future of the new nations after the birth of the Unites States. How did this contribute in the shape of our current government?

The Democratic-Republican and Federalist Parties had very different visions for the future of the United States. It is often said that the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, envisioned a government and a society not unlike that of Great Britain in the late eighteenth century. Hamilton argued for and implemented policies to establish a powerful central government led by a strong executive and a legislature that was not constrained by the relatively vague language of the Constitution. Essentially, he saw the nation's future in commerce and manufacturing, which he believed should be underwritten by the establishment of a strong fiscal and monetary apparatus at the federal level. Central to this was a national bank that would tie the wealthiest people in the nation to the federal government, and a program that would pay off existing federal debt by taking out new debt in the form of bonds. In this way, Hamilton hoped to encourage the United States to turn to manufacturing for its future and as a means of attaining economic independence.

If Hamilton and the Federalists saw the future of the nation in the manufacturing and financial hubs of the Northeast, the Democratic-Republicans saw it in the West and the South. They envisioned a nation not of factory workers and financiers, but of small, independent yeoman farmers. They argued that many of Hamilton's policies benefited the wealthy over small farmers, and advocated for a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Generally, they favored the French Revolutionaries in the war that broke out between that nation and Britain, who was supported by the Federalists. Overall, these contrasting visions were really simplistic and symbolic in nature. Federalists understood the importance of farming, and Democratic-Republicans did not reject manufacturing as such. Thomas Jefferson did not, for example, dismantle Hamilton's Federalist state when he took over as President in 1801. Rhetorically, however, their arguments would continue to resonate in American politics throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. Democratic-Republicans who opposed a strong national government (when it did not suit their interests) were echoed by conservatives throughout American political history, as were Federalists who argued for strong and robust federal action on issues confronting the nation.

The debates between these two parties reflected some of the differences at the Philadelphia Convention, though the issues of large and small states had mostly become obsolete. They were arguing, in many ways, about the nature of representation itself. To whom would the government of the United States belong? The Democratic-Republicans generally argued that the states should continue to be the source of political power, while the Federalists saw the national government as more suited to handle the challenges the nation faced. These issues still remain today.

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