The Federalist Party


The Federalist Party Essay, Research Paper

“Seldom in the nation’s

history has there been a period so extraordinary in accomplishment as the first

decade under the Constitution….”

This paper is going to be a step by

step evaluation of arguably the most important decade in American History.

The time period covered in this paper is 1789-1801. These are the years in

which the Federalists had the most influence in the new government. They accomplished

an amazing amount in these 12 years.

The Federalist Party was one of

the first political organizations in the United States. The members of this

party supported a strong central government, a large peacetime army and navy,

and a stable financial system.

Although the first president, George Washington,

was not a Federalist, his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was

the developer and leader of the Federalist party. Hamilton believed in a loose

interpretation of the Constitution so that the central government could become

more powerful. Also Hamilton, along with the other party members, believed

that commerce and manufacturing were more important than agriculture.



During the first two years of the new federal government the biggest

problem was that of raising money. At first the Congress adopted a small tariff

on imports. This was a start but not nearly enough. The government needed

this money to maintain its own existence and to be able to pay of the debt.

The existence of the government was a necessity, but there was a lot of discussion

as to whether the debt should be payed off.

The mare magnitude of the debt

seemed to compel some measure of avoidance. In 1789, the national debt totaled

more than $50 million, $11,700,000 of which was owed to France and Spain and

the private bankers of Netherlands, while $40 million was in the form of securities

held by citizens of the United States. The interests owed to the bankers were

being payed off by loans from the bankers themselves. The government didn’t

even have enough money to pay the Barbary corsairs for release of captive sailors!


Congress couldn’t come up with a solution that was satisfactory, they turned

to Alexander Hamilton with the dilemma. He soon proceeded to draw up a full

report entitled “Report on Public Credit.” In this paper Hamilton proceeded

to show that the only way for a new government to establish credit was to deal

honestly with its creditors -for in many cases they would be the people to

whom the government must look to for future loans.

This policy received

strong opposition from Madison and other soon to become Republicans (second

political party in America). The federalists held strongly, but only with

the passing of the Assumption Bill (movement of capital more toward the South)

where they able to pass the bill.

This achievement was significant, but lacked

two things which would be necessary to carry it out. For one it lacked a circulating

medium, and two it lacked a central bank. Hamilton then proposed a remedy.

He wanted to establish a corporation that was to be called the Bank of the

United States. This bank was to serve as the principle depository for government

funds. It was also to serve as the issuer of bank notes.

This was a loose

interpretation of the constitution. Again Madison led the opposition to no

avail. But Hamilton held strongly to his belief that even the most uncompromising

opponent of the bank “would, in one month’s experience as head of that department

of the treasury, be compelled to acknowledge that it is an absolutely indispensable

engine in the management of the finances, and would quickly become a convert

to its perfect constitutionality.”

This plan favored the central government.

The bank made little banks, who couldn’t compete, go out of business. The

rich ended up being able to buy a part in the bank and so got richer, and the

poor and middle class didn’t get the benefits. The central government was

becoming self sufficient, and less dependent on the states.

What Hamilton

did is make the nation stronger in the eyes of other nations. This is a great

accomplishment. If the Federalists (they didn’t call themselves that until

1792) weren’t in power the nation would have been weaker and more decentralized.



There were three views on the French Revolution and the French-British

war in 1793. Jefferson’s followers favored France. They wanted to abide by

the treaty America signed with France in 1788. They thought it was the right

thing to do.

Hamilton’s followers favored Great Britain. They wanted to

develop better relations with great Britain for economic reasons. They sought

to break all the relations with the new French government and to ally America

with England.

The third view was the one taken by George Washington. He

realized that a war with England on the side of the French would be suicidal,

but at the same time he didn’t want America to be known as the nation that

breaks treaties. George Washington proclaimed that America will be neutral.

He forbade any American citizen from helping any warring nation.


the Federalists there to oppose a war with England America might have been

wiped out. The Federalists were looking out for the best interest of the country

at the expense of another nation. George Washington who didn’t belong to any

party decided not to follow either view.

Downfall of the Federalists


John Adams’ tenure as president the Federalists passed several laws which made

them unpopular in the eyes of the American public. These laws made the people

upset enough not to reelect most of the Federalists that were in Congress.

This was the last term in which the federalists were influential. It is important

to state these laws and why they passed them.

The Federalists had become

more favorable toward France and the Republicans started despising France,

especially after the insulting X Y Z affair. Adams was favoring France as

he tried to keep the nation out of war with France. He secured peace once

Napoleon came into power in 1799.

The resentment of the population toward

France jeopardized this treaty. The Federalist majority in Congress decided

to pass the Alien and sedition acts in order to weaken the supporters of war

with France (mainly the Republicans). Adams himself was against these laws.

These measures were hated. Some of the extreme measures taken to combat them

were the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions. These measures tried to say that

the laws were unconstitutional.

When the time of the next election came

the people of the nation had a choice of either maintaining the ways of the

Federalists or vote for Jefferson and the republicans. The people, who were

mostly farmers at the time, saw the threat to the common man’s rights and so

they voted Jefferson and other Republicans into office.

This was probably

the only thing that the federalist ever really messed up. They made the country

strong but then went too far and people took them out of the national picture.

The federalist party would never see such strong days again. Its power dwindled

down slowly until the party vanished from the national picture in 1816.


after 1801

Although no longer influential in Congress the federalist remained

in control in several states. Some states had federalists in office as far

down as 1820. This wasn’t though what kept the federalist ideals in America.


Marshall, chief justice of supreme court, began his tenure in 1801. Justice

Marshall was a steadfast Federalist. He maintained the Federalist ways long

after the party seized to exist. Decision after decision chief Marshall declared

the central government supreme to the state. He stretched the constitution

far in seeing that the states yield rights to the federal government. He maintained

this for 34 years, shaping the loose collection of states into a solid National


Another way that the Federalist ideals were maintained comes from

their opponents. Upon gaining control of the Congress and Presidency the Democratic-Republicans

maintained most of the programs set up by the Federalists. The alien and sedition

laws were repealed and everyone arrested under them was let go, but other than

that the central government maintained the control gained under the federalists,

relinquishing little. The Republicans even strengthened the federal government

on occasion. By buying Louisiana Jefferson extended the abilities of the central



The years under George Washington and John

Adams constitute a record of accomplishments not met since. The Federalists

followed Hamilton’s counsel to think continentally.” A federal judiciary

was established, the taxing power was used, the national debt was handled,

American credit was fixed, and territory was cleared of the British and Spanish


In foreign affairs America gained respect. Neutrality was maintained,

at the price of the French alliance and concessions with Britain. The objective

of the foreign policy was survival. The objective was met.

The Federalist

did a great job starting up the country. After all, many of the leaders including

John Adams and George Washington thought that the Union would not last past

their lifetimes. The “experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people”,

as said President Washington, turned out very well. Just look at the power

America has today.

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