The United States has a long history of political division, with the country battling with political fissures. Starting in the 1790s, a conflict emerged between America’s first political parties. These included the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton and the Republicans under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. The two parties were the first political parties in the Western world, in contrast to loose political groupings in the House of Commons in Britain or in the American colonies before the Revolution. The political divide that is relevant today includes the Republicans and Democrats, with the increasing dividing line.
Before the American Revolution, both Britain and America had relatively consistent and principled platforms, relatively rigid popular followings, and continuing organizations. Overall, the Federalists represented the interests of the populations involved in trade and manufacturing, which were considered the drivers of progress in the world. It was believed that these could be advanced only with the help of a strong central government that could establish sound public credit and a stable currency. Distrustful of populations’ latent radicalism, the Federalists had the capacity to appeal to artisans and workers, with the political stronghold being in the New England states. This political power aimed to emulate the example of the British, favoring good connections with the former mother country.
The Republicans were predominantly involved in speaking for the agricultural values and interests. They did not trust bankers much, did not care much for manufacturing and commerce, and believed that both democracy and freedom could be achieved best in a rural society of farmers who are self-sufficient and can build the economy. The Republicans felt an increased need for having a stable central government as they perceived it to be a possible source of oppression. Therefore, they were in favor of states’ rights and were the strongest in the South.
In 2022, the Federalists are no longer relevant, with the Democratic party replacing it. It overall represents left-leaning, liberal, and progressive ideological values, advocating for a strong government for regulating business and supporting US citizens. Therefore, the Democratic party has the inner core of the Federalist ideology inherent to the 1790s. The 2022 Republican party is overall linked to social conservative policies, even though it has dissenting libertarian and centrist divisions. Republicans continue appealing to the need for economic growth, stability, and protecting the constitutional freedoms of the population.
An early clash between the Federalists and Republicans took place soon after Jefferson’s taking office as secretary of state, leaning to an innovated interpretation of the US Constitution. Specifically, when Hamilton initially introduced his bill for establishing a national bank (Waldroff, 2021). Jefferson spoke for those believing in states’ rights, arguing that the Constitution already expressed all the powers belonging to the federal government and reserving all other powers to states. Nowhere was the federal government empowered to set up a bank. Today’s political opposition between Republicans and Democrats goes more profound than the initial political divide between the two. The ideological division has led to an “us versus them” mentality due to the political polarization into science-backed interventions for reducing conflict. Personally, in the 1790s, I would have been a part of the Federalist party due to its dedication to change and the focus on building a strong government system that would support businesses and help the country develop.
Waldroff, K. (2021). Healing the political divide. Web.