Federalist Party (United States)

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The Federalist party was an American political party in the period 1792 to 1816, the era of the First Party System, with remnants lasting into the 1820s. The Federalists controlled the federal government until 1801. The party was formed by Alexander Hamilton, who, during George Washington's first term, built a network of supporters, largely urban bankers and businessmen, to support his fiscal policies. These supporters grew into the Federalist Party committed to a fiscally sound and nationalistic government. The United States' only Federalist president was John Adams; although George Washington was broadly sympathetic to the Federalist program, he remained an independent his entire presidency.[1] The Federalist policies called for a national bank, tariffs, and good relations with Britain as expressed in the Jay Treaty negotiated in 1794. Their political opponents, the Democratic-Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, denounced most of the Federalist policies, especially the bank, and vehemently attacked the Jay Treaty as a sell-out of republican values to the British monarchy. The Jay Treaty passed, and indeed the Federalists won most of the major legislative battles in the 1790s. They held a strong base in the nation's cities and in New England. The Republicans, with their base in the rural South, won the hard-fought election of 1800; the Federalists never returned to power. The Federalists, too wedded to an upper-class style to win the support of ordinary voters, grew weaker every year. They recovered some strength by intense opposition to the War of 1812; they practically vanished during the Era of Good Feelings that followed the end of the war in 1815.[2]

The Federalists left a lasting imprint as they fashioned a strong new government with a sound financial base, and (in the person of Chief Justice John Marshall) decisively shaped Supreme Court policies for another three decades.[3]


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