Although President Washington warned against the nation falling into political factions, the different views of the Constitution held by Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans set the path for the two-party system that the U.S. has today.
Hamilton vs. Jefferson
This lesson really shows us the origins of the two-party political system. It all begins with Alexander Hamilton at the lead of the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson leading the Democratic-Republicans – from here out, we’ll say ‘Republicans’ for short.
Hamilton’s group was made up of merchants, bankers and manufacturers, with some wealthy farmers and Southern plantation owners. They were mostly well-educated and owned property. Most of them were in New England and along the coast.
The Republicans were mostly ill-educated and illiterate
Jefferson’s cohorts were mostly artisans, shopkeepers, frontier settlers, backcountry farmers and poor farmers. They were mostly ill-educated and illiterate. The majority of them were settled in the interior regions. Obviously, Jefferson himself was a plantation owner who was well-educated, but in time you will learn that Jefferson was sort of a paradox.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for President Washington at cabinet meetings? With his Secretary of State, Jefferson, and Hamilton, his Secretary of the Treasury – talk about getting polar advice! Let’s look at the basics of these groups’ beliefs on a few topics: The central government, the direction of the U.S. economy, the French Revolution, the national bank and paying the war debt from the revolution.
Positions on the Issues
Hamilton favored a strong central government – a large republic that would control factions. He considered ‘common people’ to be ignorant and incapable of self-government. He believed that the elite should rule, so there should be high voting qualifications.
Jefferson favored states’ rights. He believed democratic principles were right. He believed the ‘common man’ is capable of self-government, and he believed in lowering voting qualifications.
Direction of the U.S. Economy
Hamilton and the Federalists stressed manufacturing, commerce, finance and overseas trade. They wanted tariffs and business protections.
Jefferson and the Republicans wanted a simple agrarian economy (that basically means a farming economy). They favored the yeoman farmer – that means the small farmers of the South, not the big plantation owners. They wanted the government to support the interests of the ‘common man.’
Hamilton favored a strong central government, while Jefferson favored the rights of the states
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