Democratic–Republican Party

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Republicanism, Jeffersonian democracy, states' rights
Quid faction: Agrarianism, pro-French

The Democratic-Republican Party or Republican Party was an American political party founded in the early 1790s by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Political scientists use the former name, while historians prefer the latter one; contemporaries generally called the party the "Republicans", along with many other names.

It was formed first in Congress and then in every state to contest elections and oppose the programs of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson needed to have a nationwide party to counteract the Federalists, a nationwide party recently formed by Hamilton. Foreign affairs took a leading role in 1795 as the Republicans opposed the Jay Treaty with Britain (then at war with France) and supported good relations with revolutionary France (until Napoleon became a dictator after 1799). The party insisted on a strict construction of the Constitution, and denounced many of Hamilton's measures (especially the national bank) as unconstitutional. The party was strongest in the South and weakest in the Northeast; it favored states' rights and the primacy of the yeoman farmers and the planters over bankers, industrialists, merchants, and investors. The Jeffersonians were deeply committed to the principles of republicanism, which they feared were threatened by the supposed monarchical tendencies of the Federalists. The party came to power with the election of Jefferson in 1800. The Federalists—too elitist to appeal to most people—faded away, and the Republicans, despite internal divisions, dominated the First Party System until partisanship itself withered away after 1816.

The presidents selected by the party were: Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809), James Madison (1809–1817), and James Monroe (1817–1825). After 1800, the party dominated Congress and most state governments outside New England. It selected presidential candidates through its caucus in Congress, but in 1824, that system broke down. One faction of the party supported Andrew Jackson and it evolved into the Democratic Party. Another faction, led by John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, was known as the National Republicans; it evolved into the Whig Party.


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