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The Federalists

The Federalists

 Table of Contents

The Federalists Terms

Republican, Republicanism

This term described a philosophy before it did a party. Republicanism held that individuals should subordinate their interests to the common good and the aim of the political process was to identify and build consensus around that common interest. As republicanism required self-sacrifice, the philosophy also emphasized the need to cultivate a virtuous and rational electorate. While persons across the political spectrum identified with this term, Jefferson's followers adopted the name Republican, or at times, Democratic-Republic for their emerging party during the 1796 election. This party should not be confused with either of the current major parties. The evolution of American political parties is much more complex. But in very simple terms, this process can be traced to the 1820s when the Democratic-Republican Party began to divide. One group would follow Andrew Jackson and call themselves Democrats. The other faction, labeled National Republicans in the 1820s, would evolve into the Whig Party. Members of the Whig Party, like Abraham Lincoln, would play an important part in the development of the Republican Party of the 1850s.

Federalist, Federalists

This term can be confusing as it was employed to describe two overlapping but different groups. It was first adopted by those supporting ratification of the Constitution. They wanted a term that distinguished this new government from the "confederation" established under the Articles and by comparison suggested the increased strength of the new government. But they also wanted to avoid the suggestion of a too strong government—the sort that might be suggested by the term "nationalists." The term "federalist" satisfied this need. When political parties started to form during Washington's administration, the term was re-employed to identify those favoring a stronger, more assertive federal government. But it also carried other connotations—most importantly, a belief that the views of the people needed to be filtered through the experience and education of the "wise and the good."

A term for someone who favors a strong federal government. The Federalist position came about during the 1787-8 debate over whether to ratify the new U.S. Constitution. Alexander Hamilton initiated The Federalist, a.k.a. The Federalist Papers, a series of 85 essays printed in newspapers and as a two-volume edition, designed to persuade voters to accept the new plan for federal government. Hamilton wrote at least 51 of the essays; James Madison wrote fourteen, and John Jay wrote five; the authorship of the remaining fifteen essays remains in dispute—either Hamilton or Madison wrote them, or some fraction of them (the essays were each published under pseudonyms). After the Constitution was ratified, the Federalist party emerged from this ideology, and it remained closely tied to Alexander Hamilton and his views; namely, a conservative perspective that favored a strong national executive, centralized government, and encouragement of merchants, landowners, and national industry. But not all supporters of the Constitution became members of the Federalist party! James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others who had strongly supported the Constitution later became founding members of the Democratic party, which generally stood for state's rights, individual liberties, a limited federal government, and emphasized agrarianism (farming) as opposed to manufactures and the cities that tended to develop along with them.

This term can be confusing as it was employed to describe two overlapping but different groups. It was first adopted by those supporting ratification of the Constitution. They wanted a term that distinguished this new government from the "confederation" established under the Articles and by comparison suggested the increased strength of the new government. But they also wanted to avoid the suggestion of a too strong government—the sort that might be suggested by the term "nationalists." The term "federalist" satisfied this need.

When political parties started to form during Washington's administration the term was re-employed to identify those favoring a stronger, more assertive federal government. But it also carried other connotations— most importantly, a belief that the views of the people needed to be filtered through the experience and education of the "wise and the good."

Full-funding

The term refers to Alexander Hamilton's plan to refinance the national debt at par; that is, exchange new government securities for old government securities at their face value despite the fact that many persons holding these securities had purchased them from their original holder for a fraction of their face value. The alternative approach, encouraged by James Madison, was to "discriminate" between original holders of these securities and those who had purchased them second hand. He would have fully refunded only those bonds still in the hands of the original purchaser, and repaid all second-hand purchasers at a reduced rate.

XYZ Affair

A 1798 political outrage rooted in the failure of an American diplomatic mission to France. The American delegates to Napoleon's court, hoping to negotiate an agreement with the French government to ensure Americans' status as neutral shippers during France's long war with Britain, were shocked to find that three French negotiators—pseudonymously labeled X, Y, and Z—demanded cash bribes merely for the privilege of meeting with the French foreign minister. News of the attempted extortion outraged Americans, many of whom began clamoring for war against France.

Alien And Sedition Acts, Alien & Sedition Acts

Passed at the height of a nationwide war hysteria set off by the XYZ Affair, the Alien and Sedition Acts sharply curtailed civil liberties and the rights of immigrants in the name of national security. The acts authorized the president to arrest, jail, or deport citizens of enemy nations during a time of war, and also made it a crime to say or print anything "false, scandalous, and malicious" against the government. The Alien and Sedition Acts, passed by a Federalist congress and signed into law by Federalist President John Adams, were bitterly resented by Republicans; Thomas Jefferson made repeal of the acts a central plank of his successful campaign platform in 1800.

Jay Treaty, Jay's Treaty

A commercial treaty between Great Britain and the United States, negotiated in 1794 and ratified in 1795. The Jay Treaty granted new rights to American shippers to trade with Britain and British colonies in the West Indies, and also won British agreement to repay American merchants for cargoes previously seized by the Royal Navy. At the same time, the US government committed itself to supporting British merchants' efforts to recover Revolutionary War-era debts owed to them by Americans. The treaty divided the country, helping to solidify the first partisan split in American politics. Commercial interests in the Northeast, increasingly organized as Federalists, backed the treaty, while planters in the South, increasingly supportive of Republicans, hated it.
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