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Old February 6th, 2016, 01:46 PM   #1

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First Party System: left-wing and right-wing?


(Sorry, second thread started today but was curious to see what you all thought!)

Between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, which was politically left which was politically right? My gut says Democratic-Republicans were to the left of the Federalists, but the electoral maps say differently. Kind of like revolutionary France, I imagine both parties were left-wing parties, but surely in retrospect we can find fitting left/right labels for them, right?

Just curious what you all think!
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Old February 6th, 2016, 02:10 PM   #2
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The Federalists, as the name implies, wanted a stronger federal government. The Federalist favored business interests. The Democratic Republicans were supported more by farmers and poorer people. The south was mostly Democratic Republican and New England and cities mostly Federalists. The basic division continued until at least the mid 20th century.

Left and right are terms that originated in the French Revolution. It is hard to apply them here. You could say the Federalists were to the right. However, in the 19th century in Europe and Latin America, land owners were considered right and business interests left. That would make the Federalists the left wing party.
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Old February 6th, 2016, 03:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by betgo View Post
The Federalists, as the name implies, wanted a stronger federal government.
I think that's a bit anachronistic; trying to explain history by modern standards.

At the Constitutional conventions, there was little if any substantive difference on the role of government. The difference was on whether a piece of paper (ie the Constitution) would actually constrain this new-fangled central government. Not everything fits the Hegelian Dialectic.

A more obvious and concrete difference is that one party favored alliance with Britain and the other favored alliance with France. By 1804, was the Federalist Party really anything of consequence?

Last edited by Code Blue; February 6th, 2016 at 03:23 PM.
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Old February 6th, 2016, 05:32 PM   #4
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The Federalist Party really lost seats in Congress from the 1816 election on. It had 37% of the seats in the House of Representatives elected in 1812.

Cities, coastal areas, and New England mostly voted Federalist.

Hamilton's program did involve a stronger federal government. It would be active in promoting commerce. Poorer people and southern slave owners generally did not support that.
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Old February 8th, 2016, 03:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by betgo View Post
The Federalist Party really lost seats in Congress from the 1816 election on. It had 37% of the seats in the House of Representatives elected in 1812.

Cities, coastal areas, and New England mostly voted Federalist.

Hamilton's program did involve a stronger federal government. It would be active in promoting commerce. Poorer people and southern slave owners generally did not support that.
37% in the House is not evidence of a viable force.

The last (only?) Federalist Pres win was 1796, the same year Hamilton leaves government. In 1800, Hamilton backed Jefferson, not Adams. By 1804, the same year Hamilton dies, Jefferson had removed the Federalists from patronage jobs.

And this idea of two theories (left-right) of government, I'd have to see this proved - rather than just nakedly opined a second time. Exactly what "commerce" and what "support?" If you mean tariffs to protect iron and textiles, that was more out of fear of running out of guns and clothes, as had in the Revolutionary War, not an attempt to support commerce.
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Old February 9th, 2016, 10:04 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by Code Blue View Post
. . .
And this idea of two theories (left-right) of government, I'd have to see this proved - rather than just nakedly opined a second time. Exactly what "commerce" and what "support?" If you mean tariffs to protect iron and textiles, that was more out of fear of running out of guns and clothes, as had in the Revolutionary War, not an attempt to support commerce.
Code Blue--concur on the applicability of the "Left/Right" dichotomy to the early 19th C. political parties if we try to cram them into the roles of Democrats and Republicans today. However, I've always thought of the Federalists as a party of the Right (for England, against France during the French Revolution and thereafter).

I think there was more to the tariff issue than you think, however. I'm currently reading a biography of John Randolph (Kirk, John Randolph of Roanoke), who thought that federal tariffs for revenue raising were fine but were unconstitutional when applied to protect certain industries, as was the purpose and effect of the tariffs in the 1820s. In one of the lengthy threads on this forum, there is a debate over the cause of the US Civil War-slavery or something else. While I thought and still think the cause was slavery, I now believe that tariffs also had a large hand, as the burden was largely borne by the South for the benefit of the North and West.
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Old February 9th, 2016, 01:44 PM   #7
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David,
I don't mean to downplay the importance of tariffs in general. I just would not equate protectionism for industries related to national defense with what we might call today, a "federal bailout" or a "stimulus package." Nothing like that happened, for example, in the panic of 1792. IMO, there is no substantial federal cronyism until the railroads come.

I think you probably would agree, it would be tough to split the hair of intent that Randolph is trying to split. Tariffs are constitutional. Intent???

To me, tariff as a "cause," is a huge stretch. The 1846 Tariff Act passed with very large majority. The delegation of one southern state (GA, I think) voted for it unanimously. There are some good threads on the tariff on Civil War Talk. FWIW, I have a Lost Causer friend who tries to argue the "cause" goes all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.

Last edited by Code Blue; February 9th, 2016 at 01:54 PM.
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Old February 10th, 2016, 05:21 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Code Blue View Post
David,
I don't mean to downplay the importance of tariffs in general. I just would not equate protectionism for industries related to national defense with what we might call today, a "federal bailout" or a "stimulus package." Nothing like that happened, for example, in the panic of 1792. IMO, there is no substantial federal cronyism until the railroads come.

I think you probably would agree, it would be tough to split the hair of intent that Randolph is trying to split. Tariffs are constitutional. Intent???

To me, tariff as a "cause," is a huge stretch. The 1846 Tariff Act passed with very large majority. The delegation of one southern state (GA, I think) voted for it unanimously. There are some good threads on the tariff on Civil War Talk. FWIW, I have a Lost Causer friend who tries to argue the "cause" goes all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.
Henry Clay put forward the tariffs as part of his "American Plan" and explicitly called for tariffs to protect industry rather than to raise revenue; when rates get so high that they stop imports (the purpose and effect of the 1820s era tariffs), they are not revenue raisers. I'm thinking more of the "Tariff of Abominations" The Tariff of Abominations: The Effects | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives

Randolph believed that the federal government had no power to impede (rather than "regulate") commerce.

Note in the link above that Calhoun's doctrine of "Nullification" had its genesis in the controversy over these tariffs.
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Old February 10th, 2016, 06:46 AM   #9
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They were both republican parties and, thus, both far-left, revolutionary parties. They just seem conservative in comparison to some of the French political parties; but a the end of the day, I don't think the American revolutionary parties were any further right, they just tempered their ideology with reason and pragmatism.

Last edited by constantine; February 10th, 2016 at 06:48 AM.
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Old February 11th, 2016, 05:58 AM   #10

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I think the left/right political paradigm is so subjective that you could make an argument for any political figure or party in the 18th and 19th centuries to be both left and right... It's just too hard to objectively debate. What is objectively left and what is objectively right?
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