Summary of Two-Party Development between 1789 and 1876

This information is meant to reveal the patterns in the development of the two major parties. It does not include the events, the reasons for the party splits, and other information provided in the Content Pages or the readings for these periods. It does not cover the 3rd (and more) parties that develop in the period from 1789 to 1876 except for those parties that evolved into the Republican Party.

- Abbreviated Chronology of the Two Parties That Develop Between 1789 and 1840

- Abbreviated Chronology of the Rise of an Effective Third Party that Supplanted the Whigs

- Cautions about the Overview Comparisons That Follow

- Overview Comparison of Federalists and Democratic-Republicans Circa 1800

- Overview Comparison of Whigs and Democrats Circa 1840

- Evolution of Republican Issues

- Republican Issues Revealed by Post-Secession Actions

 

Abbreviated Chronology of the Two Parties That Developed Between 1789 and 1840

¾ = Indicates no political opposition (only 1 party)

   = Indicates the same parties as the prior Presidential election year

 

Date

Party 1

Party 2

1789

Federalist¾pushed though the Constitution; then, under Washington’s administration, set up many of the governmental institutions and financial polices following Alexander Hamilton’s direction. (Details: James Madison was a member of the Federalists group, but Madison will later become a Democratic-Republican.)

¾

1792

¾

1796

Federalist

Democratic-Republican (Details: this party follows the policies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.)

1800

1804

1808

1812

1816

Last Federalist Presidential candidate

Democratic-Republican (Details: some of the people officially in this party started to have positions on economic nationalism that match the positions held by Hamilton and they will eventually leave the Democratic-Republican party¾see the official split in 1828.)

1820

¾

Democratic-Republican

1824

¾

1828

National Republican (Details: this party had positions on economic nationalism that match the positions held by Hamilton.)

Democratic (Details: this party had policies similar to the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans¾and, therefore, the Democrats are considered the oldest US political party.)

1832

1836

Whig (Details: this party had positions on economic nationalism that match the positions held by Hamilton¾and it has the same leadership as the National Republicans.)

Democratic

1840

 

Abbreviated Chronology of the Rise of an Effective 3rd Party that Supplanted the Whigs

There had been other 3rd parties prior to 1840, with the most well-known of these obscure parties being the Anti-Mason (for practical purposes the anti-Jackson, anti-Van Buren) Party in 1832. In 1840, the first party dealing with slavery began to alter the political structure of the nation, in part because the major parties were not dealing with issues that had consequences for diverse groups of Americans. As the information following the word but indicates in the Party 1 and Party 2 columns, the major parties were starting to violate their own tradition or run on things (such as a war record) that let them avoid the people’s issues.

 

Two phrases are used in the column Varied Anti-Slavery Parties:

§  Spoiler to—indicates the party’s existence blocked the necessary popular votes and altered the outcome of the national election for that party (Example: Spoiler to Whigs indicates the Whigs lost the Presidential election because of the 3rd party).

§  Stolen Issue—indicates the party began to campaign on an issue previously associated with one of the major parties, usually the Whigs. Clicking on the link takes you to a table showing the issues.

 

Date

Party 1

Party 2

Varied Anti-Slavery Parties

1840

Whig

Democratic

Liberty Party

Advocated free soil

1844

Whig—but its campaign did not include the National Bank, a typical Whig issue

Democratic—but its campaign was primarily on expansion (the annexation of Texas and Oregon)

Liberty Party

9 times 1840 vote

Spoiler to Whigs

1848

Whig—but campaigned on the Presidential candidate’s war record

Democratic—but campaigned on Congress not being empowered to deal with slavery in the states

Free Soil Party

42 times 1840 vote

Spoiler to Democrats

Stolen Issue

Absorbed Liberty Party

Slogan: “Free soil, free labor, and free men.”

1852

Whig—but campaigned on the Compromise of 1850

Democratic—but campaigned on the Compromise of 1850 and the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions (from 1798 era)

Free Soil Party

22 times 1840 vote

Stolen Issue

1856

Whig—but joined with the American Party (the nativist Know-Nothings)[1]

Democratic—but campaigned on the Compromise of 1850

Republican Party

124 times 1840 vote

Stolen Issue

Absorbed Free Soil Party

1860

Whigs—disbanded to become the Constitutional Union Party.

Democratic—split:

- Southern wing

- Northern wing (Stephen Douglas); popular sovereignty and included campaign to acquire Cuba, which had slavery.

Republican Party

266 times 1840 vote

Stolen Issue

1864

Republican—became one of the two major parties

Democratic

 

1868

 

1872

 

1876

 

 

Cautions about the Overview Comparisons That Follow

Talking ancestry of a political party is inherently a matter of simplification. For example, people move between parties, and some parties (particularly the Whigs) are a patchwork of diverse interests. In general, the ancestry of the Whig Party seems to be the Federalist program of Hamilton, but with its leaders coming from the National Republican Party. The ancestry of the Democrats seems to be partly the Democratic-Republican program of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

 

There are, however, some characteristics that are not part of a party’s set of practices, but rather the actions of individuals. For example, Andrew Jackson’s version of use of executive power in his decisions about financial policy, his reliance on cronies and on his own opinion without being willing to consider the evidence of those who had direct experience, and his use of his cabinet as an extension of his opinion seem very different from:

·         not only the Democratic Republicans Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe,

·         but also the Federalists Washington, John Adams, and John Quincy Adams as well.

 

Overview Comparison of Federalists and Democratic-Republicans Circa 1800

The comparison shows the major figures, major principles, and major supporters of the two major parties side-by-side. This is a snapshot¾and inherently simplified¾comparison about 1800.

 

Federalists

Democratic-Republicans

Alexander Hamilton (NY), John Adams (MA)

Thomas Jefferson (VA), James Madison (VA), James Monroe (VA)

Loose construction of the Constitution

Strict construction of the Constitution

Pro-British (our Revolutionary War opponent)

Pro-French (our Revolutionary War ally)

Hesitant about revolutions

Supportive of revolutions against monarchy

Support for commercial and

manufacturing interests

Support for small-scale agriculture; support for commercial and manufacturing interests as a subordinate activity. Reason: owning land or a small business (artisan class) made it possible for voters to vote their conscience¾thus a necessity for democracy and republicanism to work.

Pro-protective tariff

Accepted tariffs for revenue

Favored large central government;

comfortable with national debt

Favored small central government; favored limited government spending and avoiding a national debt

Pro-internal improvements financed by the central government

Pro-internal improvements financed by the central government if national-scale projects¾but only if there was a Constitutional amendment

Pro-National Bank

Accepting of a National Bank

New England/Northeast (merchants, manufacturers)

South and the West (agrarian interests)

Perceived as more aristocratic

Perceived as less aristocratic

 

Overview Comparison of Whigs and Democrats Circa 1840

The comparison shows the major figures, major principles, and major supporters of the two major parties side-by-side. This is a snapshot¾and inherently simplified¾comparison about 1840.

 

Whigs

Democrats

Henry Clay (KY, “American System”), Daniel Webster (MA), John C. Calhoun (SC)

Andrew Jackson (TN), Martin Van Buren (NY)

Loose construction of the Constitution

Strict construction of the Constitution

Support for commercial and

manufacturing interests

Support for agriculture and for the commercial and manufacturing interests of new entrepreneurs (anti-monopoly)

Pro-protective tariff

Accepted tariffs for revenue

Favored large central government;

comfortable with national debt

Favored small central government; favored limited government spending and avoiding a national debt

Pro-internal improvements financed

by the central government

Pro-internal improvements financed by the central government if national-scale projects¾but only if there was a Constitutional amendment

Pro-National Bank

Anti-National Bank

New England/Northeast (merchants,
manufacturers; some planters)

South and the West (farmers, workingmen, smaller merchants and manufacturers; some planters)

Perceived as more aristocratic

Perceived as less aristocratic

Evangelical Protestants
(anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic)

Irish Catholics, German Catholics

(accepting immigrants and Catholics)

Ties to Anti-Mason group

Ties to Locofocos

Hesitant about expansion of territory

More likely to support expansion of territory

 

Evolution of Republican Issues

The Republican Party’s predecessor parties led it to have many of the issues previously associated with the Whigs, such as favoring internal improvements. They also countered the Whigs; for example, the Whigs were becoming nativist and the countermove was being pro-immigration. The X’s in the table are based on specific lists of platform issues in the Encyclopedia of American History. Other issues may also have been in the parties’ platforms.

 

Issues in the Campaigns of the Varied Anti-Slavery Parties

Liberty

Free Soil

Republican

1840, 1844

1848

1852

1856

1860

Free soil (including specifics such as supporting the Wilmot Proviso)

X

X

X

X

X

Pro-internal improvements in general and/or a transcontinental railroad

 

X

 

X

X

Homestead provision so people could get land

 

X

X

 

X

Pro-immigration

 

 

X

 

X

Pro (somewhat) protective tariff

 

 

 

 

X

 

Republican Issues Revealed by Post-Secession Actions

Once the 11 Confederate states left the Union, those remaining in the Senate and House of Representatives could vote for what they wanted without having to negotiate with those favoring Southern issues. The change in party balance shows the results of secession.

 

 

1857

1861

Senators, Democratic

36

10

Senators, Republican

20

31

Representatives, Democratic

118

43

Representatives, Republican

92

105

 

The issues passed by these Senators and Representatives included:

§  1862—Homestead Act—160 acres of public land to heads of families for residence for five years, a small fee (In 1866 there was an equivalent act for Southern blacks, but its implementation was blocked by landowners short of labor in the South.)

§  1862—Land grant colleges (Morrill Act)—30,000 acres to states in the Union for each Congressional office held (Senator or Representative) to establish agriculture colleges (70 established)

§  1862 +—Transcontinental railroad established—land grants for a Northern route

§  1861—Increased protective tariff with subsequent additions through 1869 raising tariffs to the rate of just under 50% (Protective tariffs became a Republican principle.)

§  1864—National banking system—uniform currency, with a tax on state bank notes driving them out of circulation (greenbacks again backed by gold in mid-1870s)

 


 

Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2007-2018

 

WCJC Department:

History – Dr. Bibus

Contact Information:

281.239.1577 or bibusc@wcjc.edu

Last Updated:

2018

WCJC Home:

http://www.wcjc.edu/

 

 



[1] The Whigs had a convention, but they nominated the same candidate as the American Party, Millard Fillmore, the Vice President for Whig Zachary Taylor in 1848.