The rise of partisan politics in the Early Republic was due to a difference in opinion on how the country should be run. There were both people who supported the constitution (Federalists) and those who did not support the constitution (Anti-Federalists or Democratic-Republicans).The Federalists wanted a strong government; “They argued that the separation of powers … and the division of powers between states and nation, would preclude tyranny” (Norton 7-2). Whereas the antifederalists believed that states would help citizens have more rights and would not allow the government to take complete control. Their fear was that the government would take too much control and take away the rights that they came to America to have. Therefore the difference of opinion led to the development of the First Party System.
The First Party System included the Federalists and the Democratic – Republican Party (or the anti-federalists). The concern that drove the people of America into two seperate groups was how involved they believed the government should be. While the Federalists wanted the government to have more control, the democratic-republican party feared that it would take rights away from the citizens. This is seen in each party’s view on freedom for immigrants. The Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 gave the government the right to deport immigrants and control their voting rights. Federalists supported this whereas the democratic – republicans were in opposition of this (Norton 8-1e). The Act gave too much power to the government. The main reason for the development of the First Party System was due to the disagreement about how much power the government should have.
The Second Party System included the Whig and Democratic parties. The Democratic Party believed in a strong central government but they did not want the government to have too much power. Although they disliked government help in the economy because they viewed it as “…favoring the rich”, they still wanted “…federal intervention in westward expansion” (Norton 12-1d). Unlike the Decocratic party, the Whigs wanted the government to be actively involved. The Whigs wanted all classes to have equal rights and wanted society to be ruled by having people in higher roles who controlled those below them. While the Democrats wanted westward expansion, the Whigs wanted to focus on the existing colonies and making them stronger. Although the Democratic Party and Whigs have many differences, they also have a strong simulartity: both parties were made up of indivduals who either supported slavery, or were antislavery.
Andrew Jackson was the defining leader of the democratic party while John Quincy Adams was the leader of the Whig Party. Jackson led the democratic party with the belief that a strong central government was essential. The constituents that defined the democratic party were referred to as Jacksonians. They wanted “…federal intervention in westward expansion…” (Norton 12-1d). Adams led the Whig Party focussing on the current colonies instead of worrying about expanding to the west. “As president, Adams proposed a strong nationalist policy… [with] protective tariffs, a national bank, and internal improvements” (Norton 12-1 b). The constituents of each party chose between different people running to lead their party by choosing which leaders represented their beliefs and values best.
The Second Party System contributed to increased democratization of American politics by giving more people a voice when it came to voting, as well as increasing the number of people that were allowed to vote. The Second Party did this by removing the law that stated only white male, property owners were allowed to vote. This gave the opportunity to all white men to be able to vote (both rich and poor). Although this was a large increase in the number of people able to vote, women and African American men were still denied the right to vote.
The pro-slavery arguments of the antebllum period included both economic reasoning as well as religous reasoning. The southern economy relied on slavery to flourish. Many southerners needed their slaves in order to support their families, therefore they justified slavery as a need. Not only did people that were pro-slavery argue that slaves were a economic neccesity, they also argued that slavery “…was a hierarchical view of the social order with slavery prescribed by God” (Norton 9-1c). Abolitionisists aknowledged the economic benefit that slavery had for the south while expressing that slavery did not support free-labor idealogy because white men who worked hard could not compete with those that had slaves working for them; therefore men without slaves could not move up in society as easily as men who had slaves (WGU Abolitionists). Abolitionists also expressed that they did not believe slavery to be supported by God. The Quakers believed that everyone is created equal by God therefore slavery should not exist because no race is above another. Evangelicals believed that all humans were given the right by God to choose between good and bad and slavery prevented African Americans from having this choice. Evangelicals believed that this would then delay Jesus’ second coming because all people needed to choose good before He would return (Norton 10-9a). The drastic differences between the beliefs of abolitionists and people who were pro-slavery played a major role in the Civil War. Westward expansion increased sectional tensions by causing people to fight over whether or not the new states would be considered a free or pro-slavery state. As each new territory became a state members were added to the House of Representatives. It was important that the representation of pro-slavery states and free states was equal. This is what caused major conflict when deciding whether or not each state would be considered free or pro-slavery.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act “…left the decision of whether to allow slavery in the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska up to the people residing there (popular sovereignty)” (Norton 12-8a). This then led to abolitionists and southeners who were pro-slavery entering Kansas to claim the state as free or a slave state. Both groups sent armed individuals to claim the state. As a result violence broke out and blood was shed (Norton 12-8g). This conflict later became known as Bleeding Kansas. This violence in turn led to the outbreak of the Civil War because people had begun physical violence in an attempt to claim a state as free or a slave state.
Dred Scott was an African American slave who tried to sue for his freedom. The Supreme Court ruled on Dred Scott’s case that although he had lived in a free state it did not make him a free man. Most importly the Supreme court ruled that Congress had no way to make slavery illegal in any state. As a result, the Missouri Compromise was declared unconstitutional. This led to many African Americans fearful that they had no hope in America and should leave because it felt as if slavery was “…the supreme law of the land…” (Norton 12-9a). This decision created a lot of tension between the North and the South which then contributed to the Civil War.
John Brown was a strong supporter of anti-slavery. His goal was to start a rebellion of slaves by leading an attack on Harpers Ferry. Although the rebellion failed, white southerners feared that the abolitionists would create a slave rebellion. The rebellion caused “[w]hite southerners [to be] outraged when they learned that Brown received financial backing from prominent abolitionists…” (Norton 12-9d). This caused even more tension between the North and the South which also contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War.
- Norton, Mary Beth. A People and a Nation. 10th ed., Cengage Learning, 2015.
- WGU (2016) ‘Abolitionists.’ [Video] Retrieved from https://wgu.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=06d2cb33-0b11-450e-b50c-6ba9c67bfb1e