Hamilton distrusted Vice President Adams—who felt the same way about Hamilton—but was unable to block his claims to the succession. The "election of 1796 was the first partisan affair in the nation's history, and one of the more scurrilous in terms of newspaper attacks. Adams swept New England and Jefferson the South, with the middle states leaning to Adams. Thus Adams was the winner by a margin of three "electoral votes, and Jefferson, as the runner-up, became Vice President under the system set out in the Constitution prior to the ratification of the "12th Amendment.
The Federalists were strongest in New England, but also had strengths in the middle states. They elected Adams as president in 1796, when they controlled both houses of Congress, the Presidency, eight state legislatures and ten governorships.
Foreign affairs continued to be the central concern of American politics, for the war raging in Europe threatened to drag in the United States. The new President was a loner, who made decisions without consulting Hamilton or other High Federalists. Benjamin Franklin once quipped that Adams was a man always honest, often brilliant, and sometimes mad. Adams was popular among the Federalist rank and file, but had neglected to build state or local political bases of his own, and neglected to take control of his own cabinet. As a result, his cabinet answered more to Hamilton than to himself. Hamilton was especially popular because he rebuilt the Army—and had commissions to give out.
Alien and Sedition Acts
After an American delegation was insulted in Paris in the "XYZ affair (1797), public opinion ran strongly against the French. An undeclared ""Quasi-War" with France from 1798 to 1800, saw each side attacking and capturing the other's shipping. It was called "quasi" because there was no declaration of war, but escalation was a serious threat. The Federalists, at the peak of their popularity, took advantage by preparing for an invasion by the French Army. To silence Administration critics, the Federalists passed the "Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. The Alien Act empowered the President to deport such aliens as he declared to be dangerous. The Sedition Act made it a crime to print false, scandalous, and malicious criticisms of the federal government, but it conspicuously failed to criminalize criticism of Vice President Thomas Jefferson.
Several Republican newspaper editors were convicted under the Act and fined or jailed, and three Democratic-Republican newspapers were shut down. In response Jefferson and Madison secretly wrote the "Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions passed by the two states' legislatures, that declared the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional, and insisted the states had the power to "nullify federal laws.
Undaunted, the Federalists created a "navy, with new "frigates, and a large new army, with Washington in nominal command and Hamilton in actual command. To pay for it all they raised taxes on land, houses and slaves, leading to serious unrest. In one part of Pennsylvania the "Fries' Rebellion broke out, with people refusing to pay the new taxes. John Fries was sentenced to death for treason, but received a pardon from Adams. In the elections of 1798 the Federalists did very well, but this issue started hurting the Federalists in 1799.
Early in 1799, Adams decided to free himself from Hamilton's overbearing influence, stunning the country and throwing his party into disarray by announcing a new peace mission to France. The mission eventually succeeded, the "Quasi-War" ended, and the new army was largely disbanded. Hamiltonians called Adams a failure, while Adams fired Hamilton's supporters still in the cabinet.
Hamilton and Adams intensely disliked one another, and the Federalists split between supporters of Hamilton ("High Federalists") and supporters of Adams. Hamilton became embittered over his loss of political influence and wrote a scathing criticism of Adams' performance as President of the United States in an effort to throw Federalist support to "Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; inadvertently this split the Federalists and helped give the victory to Jefferson.
Election of 1800
Adams' peace moves proved popular with the Federalist rank and file, and he seemed to stand a good chance of re-election in 1800. If the "Three-Fifths Compromise had not been enacted, he most likely would have won reelection since many Federalist legislatures removed the right to select electors from their constituents in fear of a Democratic victory. Jefferson was again the opponent and Federalists pulled out all stops in warning that he was a dangerous revolutionary, hostile to religion, who would weaken the government, damage the economy, and get into war with Britain. Many believed that if Jefferson won the election it would be the end of the newly formed United States. The Republicans crusaded against the Alien and Sedition laws, and the new taxes, and proved highly effective in mobilizing popular discontent.
The election hinged on New York: its "electors were selected by the "legislature, and given the balance of north and south, they would decide the presidential election. "Aaron Burr brilliantly organized his forces in New York City in the spring elections for the state legislature. By a few hundred votes he carried the city—and thus the state legislature—and guaranteed the election of a Republican President. As a reward he was selected by the Republican "caucus in Congress as their vice presidential candidate. Alexander Hamilton, knowing the election was lost anyway, went public with a sharp attack on Adams that further divided and weakened the Federalists.
Members of the Republican party planned to vote evenly for Jefferson and Burr because they did not want for it to seem as if their party was divided. The party took the meaning literally and Jefferson and Burr tied in the election with 73 electoral votes. This sent the election to the House of Representatives to break the tie. The Federalists had enough weight in the House to swing the election in either direction. Many would rather have seen Burr in the office over Jefferson, but Hamilton, who had a strong dislike of Burr, threw his political weight behind Jefferson. During the election neither Jefferson nor Burr attempted to swing the election in the House of Representatives. Jefferson remained at Monticello to oversee the laying of bricks to a section of his home. Jefferson allowed for his political beliefs and other ideologies to filter out through letters to his contacts. Thanks to Hamilton's support Jefferson would win the election and Burr would become his Vice President. Many Federalists held to the belief that this was the end of the United States and that the experiment they had begun had ended in failure. (This unintended complication led directly to the proposal and ratification of the "12th Amendment.) "We are all republicans—we are all federalists," proclaimed Jefferson in his "inaugural address. This election marked the first time power had been transferred between opposing political parties, an act that occurred, remarkably, without bloodshed. Though there had been strong words and disagreements, contrary to the Federalists fears, there was no war and no ending of one government system to let in a new one. His patronage policy was to let the Federalists disappear through attrition. Those Federalists such as "John Quincy Adams (John Adams' own son) and "Rufus King willing to work with him were rewarded with senior diplomatic posts, but there was no punishment of the opposition.
Jefferson in power
Jefferson had a very successful first term, typified by the "Louisiana Purchase, which was ironically supported by Hamilton but opposed by most Federalists at the time as unconstitutional. Some Federalist leaders (see "Essex Junto) began courting Jefferson's Vice-President and Hamilton's nemesis Aaron Burr in an attempt to swing New York into an independent confederation with the New England states, which along with New York were supposed to secede from the United States after Burr's election to Governor. However, Hamilton's influence cost Burr the governorship of New York, a key in the Essex Junto's plan, just as Hamilton's influence had cost Burr the Presidency nearly 4 years before. Hamilton's thwarting of Aaron Burr's ambitions for the second time was too much for Burr to bear. Hamilton had known of the Essex Junto (whom Hamilton now regarded as apostate Federalists), and Burr's plans and opposed them vehemently. This opposition by Hamilton would lead to his fatal duel with Burr in July 1804.
The thoroughly disorganized Federalists hardly offered any opposition to Jefferson's reelection in 1804. Federalists seemed doomed. Jefferson had taken away most of their patronage, including federal judgeships. The party now controlled only five state legislatures and seven governorships. after again losing the presidency in 1804, the party was now down to three legislatures and five governorships (four in New England). Their majorities in Congress were long gone, dropping in the Senate from 23 and 1796, 218 and 1800 to only six in 1804. In New England and in some districts in the middle states the Federalists clung to power, but the tendency from 1800 to 1812 was steady slippage almost everywhere, as the Republicans perfected their organization and the Federalists tried to play catch-up. Some younger leaders tried to emulate the Democratic-Republican tactics, but their overall disdain of democracy along with the upper class bias of the party leadership eroded public support. In the South, the Federalists steadily lost ground everywhere.
Federalists in opposition
"Fisher Ames (1758–1808) of Massachusetts ranks as one of the more influential figures of his era. Ames led Federalist ranks in the House of Representatives. His acceptance of the "Bill of Rights garnered support in Massachusetts for the new Constitution. His greatest fame however came as an orator who defined the principles of the Federalist Party, and the follies of the Republicans. Ames offered one of the first great speeches in American Congressional history when he spoke in favor of the "Jay Treaty. Ames was part of Hamilton's faction He cautioned against the excesses of democracy unfettered by morals and reason: "Popular reason does not always know how to act right, nor does it always act right when it knows."  He warned his countrymen of the dangers of flattering demagogues, who incite dis-union and lead their country into bondage: "Our country is too big for union, too sordid for patriotism, too democratic for liberty. What is to become of it, He who made it best knows. Its vice will govern it, by practising upon its folly. This is ordained for democracies."
The Federalists continued for several years to be a major political party in New England and the Northeast, but never regained control of the Presidency or the Congress. With the death of Washington and Hamilton, and the retirement of Adams, the Federalists were left without a strong leader. "John Marshall, as Chief Justice, stayed out of politics. A few younger leaders did appear, notably "Daniel Webster. Federalist policies favored factories, banking, and trade over agriculture, and thus became unpopular in the growing Western states. They were increasingly seen as aristocratic and unsympathetic to democracy. In the South the party had lingering support in Maryland, but elsewhere was crippled by 1800 and faded away by 1808.
Massachusetts and Connecticut remained the party strongholds. Historian Richard J. Purcell explains how well organized the party was in Connecticut:
It was only necessary to perfect the working methods of the organized body of office-holders who made up the nucleus of the party. There were the state officers, the assistants, and a large majority of the Assembly. In every county there was a sheriff with his deputies. All of the state, county, and town judges were potential and generally active workers. Every town had several justices of the peace, school directors and, in Federalist towns, all the town officers who were ready to carry on the party's work. Every parish had a "standing agent," whose anathemas were said to convince at least ten voting deacons. Militia officers, state's attorneys, lawyers, professors and schoolteachers were in the van of this "conscript army." In all, about a thousand or eleven hundred dependent officer-holders were described as the inner ring which could always be depended upon for their own and enough more votes within their control to decide an election. This was the Federalist machine.
After 1800 the major Federalist role came in the judiciary. Although Jefferson managed to repeal the "Judiciary Act of 1801 and thus dismissed many lower level Federalist federal judges, the effort to impeach Supreme Court Justice "Samuel Chase in 1804 failed. Led by the last great Federalist, "John Marshall as "Chief Justice from 1801 to 1835, the Supreme Court carved out a unique and powerful role as the protector of the Constitution and promoter of nationalism.
As the wars in Europe intensified, the United States became increasingly involved. The Federalists restored some of their strength by leading the anti-war opposition to Jefferson and Madison, 1807–1814. President Jefferson imposed an embargo on Britain in 1807; the "Embargo Act of 1807 prevented all American ships from sailing to a foreign port. The idea was that the British were so dependent on American supplies that they would come to terms. For 15 months the Embargo wrecked American export businesses, largely based in the Boston-New York region, causing a sharp depression in the Northeast. Evasion was common and Jefferson and Treasury Secretary Gallatin responded with tightened police controls more severe than anything the Federalists had ever proposed. Public opinion was highly negative, and a surge of support breathed fresh life into the Federalist party.
The Republicans nominated Madison for the presidency in "1808. Federalists, meeting in the first-ever national convention, considered the option of nominating Jefferson's Vice President "George Clinton as their own candidate, but balked at working with him and again chose "Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, their 1804 candidate. Madison lost New England excluding Vermont but swept the rest of the country and carried a Republican Congress. Madison dropped the Embargo, opened up trade again, and offered a carrot and stick approach. If either France or Britain agreed to stop their violations of American neutrality, the U.S. would cut off trade with the other country. Tricked by Napoleon into believing France had acceded to his demands, Madison turned his wrath on Britain, and the "War of 1812 began. Young Daniel Webster, running for Congress from New Hampshire in 1812, first gained overnight fame with his anti-war speeches.
Thus the nation was at war during the "1812 presidential election, and war was the burning issue. Opposition to the war was strong in traditional Federalist strongholds in New England and New York, where the party made a comeback in the elections of 1812 and 1814. In their second national convention, in 1812, the Federalists, now the peace party, nominated "DeWitt Clinton, the dissident Republican "mayor of New York City, and an articulate opponent of the war. Madison ran for reelection promising a relentless war against Britain and an honorable peace. Clinton, denouncing Madison's weak leadership and incompetent preparations for war, could count on New England and New York. To win he needed the middle states and there the campaign was fought out. Those states were competitive and had the best-developed local parties and most elaborate campaign techniques, including nominating conventions and formal "party platforms. The "Tammany Society in New York City highly favored Madison; the Federalists finally adopted the club idea in 1808. Their "Washington Benevolent Societies were semi-secret membership organizations which played a critical role in every northern state; they held meetings and rallies and mobilized Federalist votes. New Jersey went for Clinton, but Madison carried Pennsylvania and thus was reelected with 59% of the Electoral votes. However the Federalists gained 14 seats in Congress.
Opposition to the War of 1812
The "War of 1812 went poorly for the Americans for two years. Even though Britain was concentrating its military efforts on its "war with "Napoleon, the United States still failed to make any headway on land, and was effectively blockaded at sea by the "Royal Navy. The British raided and burned "Washington, D.C. in 1814 and sent a force to capture New Orleans.
The war was especially unpopular in New England: the New England economy was highly dependent on trade, and the British blockade threatened to destroy it entirely. In 1814, the British Navy finally managed to enforce their blockade on the New England coast, so the Federalists of New England sent delegates to the "Hartford Convention in December 1814.
During the proceedings of the Hartford Convention, secession from the Union was discussed, though the resulting report listed a set of grievances against the Democratic-Republican federal government and proposed "a set of Constitutional amendments to address these grievances. They demanded financial assistance from Washington to compensate for lost trade and proposed constitutional amendments requiring a two-thirds vote in Congress before an embargo could be imposed, new states admitted, or war declared. It also indicated that if these proposals were ignored, then another convention should be called and given "such powers and instructions as the exigency of a crisis may require". The Federalist Massachusetts Governor had already secretly sent word to England to broker a separate peace accord. Three Massachusetts "ambassadors" were sent to Washington to negotiate on the basis of this report.
By the time the Federalist "ambassadors" got to Washington, the war was over and news of "Andrew Jackson's stunning victory in the "Battle of New Orleans had raised American morale immensely. The "ambassadors" hastened back to Massachusetts, but not before they had done fatal damage to the Federalist Party. The Federalists were thereafter associated with the disloyalty and parochialism of the Hartford Convention, and destroyed as a political force. Across the nation, Republicans used the great victory at New Orleans to ridicule the Federalists as cowards, defeatists, and secessionists. Pamphlets, songs, newspaper editorials, speeches and entire plays on the Battle of New Orleans drove home the point.
They fielded their last presidential candidate ("Rufus King) in "1816. With its passing partisan hatreds and newspaper feuds declined and the nation entered the ""Era of Good Feelings". After the dissolution of the "final Federalist congressional caucus in 1825, the last traces of Federalist activity came in Delaware and Massachusetts local politics in the late 1820s, where in 1829 "Harrison Gray Otis was elected "Mayor of Boston, and became the last major Federalist office holder. As late as 1828 the party won control of the "Delaware state legislature, and as late as 1830 the Federalists controlled the "Massachusetts Senate.
Intellectually, Federalists were profoundly devoted to "liberty. As "Samuel Eliot Morison explained, they believed that liberty is inseparable from union, that men are essentially unequal, that vox populi [voice of the people] is seldom if ever vox Dei [the voice of God], and that sinister outside influences are busy undermining American integrity. Oxford-trained British historian "Patrick Allitt concludes that Federalists promoted many positions that would form the baseline for later American conservatism, including the rule of law under the Constitution, republican government, peaceful change through elections, judicial supremacy, stable national finances, credible and active diplomacy, and protection of wealth.
In terms of "classical conservatism", the Federalists had no truck with European-style aristocracy, monarchy, or established religion. Historian "John P. Diggins says that:
- Thanks to the framers, American conservatism began on a genuinely lofty plane. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, John Jay, James Wilson,, and, above all, John Adams aspired to create a republic in which the values so precious to conservatives might flourish: harmony, stability, virtue, reverence, veneration, loyalty, self-discipline, and moderation. This was classical conservatism in its most authentic expression.
The Federalists were dominated by businessmen and merchants in the major cities who supported a strong national government. The party was closely linked to the modernizing, urbanizing, financial policies of Alexander Hamilton. These policies included the funding of the national debt and also assumption of state debts incurred during the Revolutionary War, the incorporation of a national "Bank of the United States, the support of manufactures and industrial development, and the use of a tariff to fund the Treasury. In foreign affairs, the Federalists opposed the French Revolution, engaged in the ""Quasi War" (an undeclared naval war) with France in 1798–99, sought good relations with Britain and sought a strong army and navy. Ideologically the controversy between Republicans and Federalists stemmed from a difference of principle and style. In terms of style the Federalists feared mob rule, thought an educated elite should represent the general populace in national governance, and favored national power over state power. Republicans distrusted Britain, bankers, merchants and did not want a powerful national government. The Federalists, notably Hamilton, were distrustful of "the people," the French, and the Republicans. In the end, the nation synthesized the two positions, adopting representative democracy and a strong nation state. Just as importantly, American politics by the 1820s accepted the two-party system whereby rival parties stake their claims before the electorate, and the winner takes control of majorities in state legislatures and the Congress, and gains governorships and the presidency.
As time went on, the Federalists lost appeal with the average voter and were generally not equal to the tasks of party organization; hence, they grew steadily weaker as the political triumphs of the Republican Party grew. For economic and philosophical reasons, the Federalists tended to be pro-British – the United States engaged in more trade with "Great Britain than with any other country – and vociferously opposed Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 and the seemingly deliberate provocation of war with Britain by the Madison Administration. During "Mr. Madison's War", as they called it, the Federalists made a temporary comeback. However they lost all their gains and more during the patriotic euphoria that followed the war. The membership was aging rapidly, but a few young men from New England did join the cause, most notably "Daniel Webster.
After 1816 the Federalists had no national power base apart from "John Marshall's Supreme Court. They had some local support in New England, New York, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. After the collapse of the Federalist Party in the course of the "1824 presidential election, most surviving Federalists (including "Daniel Webster) joined former Republicans like "Henry Clay to form the "National Republican Party, which was soon combined with other anti-Jackson groups to form the "Whig Party in 1833. By then, nearly all remaining Federalists joined the Whigs. However, some former Federalists like "James Buchanan, "Louis McLane and "Roger B. Taney became Jacksonian Democrats.
The "Old Republicans," led by "John Randolph of Roanoke, refused to form a coalition with the Federalists and instead set up a separate opposition since Jefferson, Madison, Gallatin, Monroe, "John C. Calhoun and Clay had in effect adopted Federalist principles of "implied powers to purchase the Louisiana Territory, and after the failures and lessons of the War of 1812, raised tariffs to protect factories, chartered the Second national bank, promoted a strong army and navy and promoted "internal improvements. All these measures were opposed to the "strict construction of the constitution, which was the formal basis of the republicans; but the drift of the party to support them could not be checked. It was aided by the supreme court, whose influence as a nationalizing factor now first became apparent. The whole change reconciled the federalists to their absorption into the republican party. Indeed, they claimed, with considerable show of justice, that the absorption was in the other direction: that the republicans had recanted; and that the "Washington-Monroe policy," as they termed it after 1820, was all that federalists had ever desired.
The name "Federalist" came increasingly to be used in political rhetoric as a term of abuse, and was denied by the Whigs, who pointed out that their leader Henry Clay was the Republican party leader in Congress during the 1810s.
|"1796||Split||"John Adams||"Thomas Pinckney|
|"1804||Lost||"Charles Pinckney||"Rufus King|
|"1812||Lost||"DeWitt Clinton||"Jared Ingersoll|
|"1816||Lost||"Rufus King||"John Eager Howard|
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- "First Party System
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- Hartog, Jonathan J. Den. Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation (University of Virginia Press; 2015) 280 pages;
- Hickey, Donald R. "Federalist Party Unity and the War of 1812." Journal of American Studies (1978) 12#1 pp: 23–39
- vol 4 of Richard Hildreth, History of the United States (1851) covering 1790s
- Humphrey, Carol Sue (1996). The Press of the Young Republic, 1783–1833.
- Jensen, Richard. "Federalist Party," in Encyclopedia of Third Parties (M E Sharpe, 2000)
- Knudson, Jerry W. Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty (2006) how 4 Republican and 4 Federalist newspapers covered election of 1800; Thomas Paine; Louisiana Purchase; Hamilton-Burr duel; impeachment of Chase; and the embargo
- Lampi, Philip J. "The Federalist Party Resurgence, 1808–1816: Evidence from the New Nation Votes Database." Journal of the Early Republic 33#2 (2013): 255–281. online
- McCormick, Richard P. (1966). The Second Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era. details the collapse state by state
- McCullough, David (2002). John Adams. Simon and Schuster. "ISBN "0-7432-2313-6.
- McDonald, Forrest (1974). The Presidency of George Washington. University Press of Kansas. "ISBN "0-7006-0110-4.
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- Miller, John C. (1960). The Federalist Era: 1789–1801. Harper. "ISBN "1-57766-031-5. general survey
- Mitchell, Broadus (1962). Alexander Hamilton: The National Adventure, 1788–1804. McMillan.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harrison Gray Otis, 1765–1848: The Urbane Federalist (1969)
- Jeffrey L. Pasley, et al. eds., ed. (2004). Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic.
- Norman Risjord, ed., ed. (1969). The Early American Party System. Harper & Row.
- Risjord, Norman K. "The Virginia Federalists," Journal of Southern History Vol. 33, No. 4 (November 1967), pp. 486–517 in JSTOR
- Sharp, James Rogers (1993). American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. Yale University Press., detailed political history of 1790s
- Sheehan, Colleen. "Madison v. Hamilton: The Battle Over Republicanism and the Role of Public Opinion" American Political Science Review 2004 98(3): 405–24. in JSTOR
- Siemers, David J. ''Ratifying the Republic: Antifederalists and Federalists in Constitutional Time(2002)
- Smelser, Marshall (1968). The Democratic Republic 1801–1815. general survey
- Theriault, Sean M. "Party Politics during the Louisiana Purchase," Social Science History 2006 30(2):293–324; "doi:10.1215/01455532-30-2-293
- Tinkcom, Harry M. (1950). The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, 1790–1801.
- Viereck, Peter (1956, 2006) Conservative Thinkers from John Adams to Winston Churchill. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
- Waldstreicher, David. "The Nationalization and Racialization of American Politics: 1790–1840," in Boyd Shafer and Anthony Badger, eds. Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775–2000, (2001) pp. 37–83.
- Wood, Gordon S. Empire of Liberty: A history of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)
- "" Media related to Federalist Party (United States) at Wikimedia Commons
- A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787–1825