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The Formation of Political Parties:
Early Animosities

"You and I have formerly seen warm debates and high political passions. But gentlemen of different politics would then speak to each other and separate the business of the Senate from that of society. It is not so now."

Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, June 30, 1797

The Constitution made no provision for political parties. But by the early 1790s, two recognizable political groups with acknowledged leaders and philosophies had emerged. The first, the Federalists, was identified with President George Washington and included Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Vice President John Adams, Chief Justice John Jay, and members of Congress such as Senator Rufus King of New York, and Representative Fisher Ames of Massachusetts. Federalists generally supported policies that would strengthen federal power. The second, the Democratic-Republicans, was associated with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Representatives James Madison of Virginia and Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania, and Senators James Monroe of Virginia and Aaron Burr of New York. Democratic-Republicans defended states’ rights and distrusted centralized government.

By 1793 these two political groups were frequently clashing over a variety of issues. Two controversies during the 1790s-a dispute over a treaty with Great Britain negotiated by Chief Justice John Jay and a bitter quarrel over the election of Albert Gallatin to the Senate-illustrate the political battles that were appearing in Congress.

To Democratic-Republicans, Jay became one of the most hated men in the United States. He was quoted as saying that he could find his way across the country by the light of his effigies burning. Jay’s Treaty would eventually be approved by the Senate.

 

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