After the Constitution of the United States passed, America needed to identify and establish a national identity. Until Jefferson’s presidency, this lack of identity fostered a battle between those who wanted centralized versus weak federal governments, or the Federalists versus the Republicans.
Three important names in politics before 1877 are Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Washington was America’s first president and set important precedents such as a two-term maximum. Alexander Hamilton is regarded as a the brains behind Washington’s policy and probably would have been president if he were American.
Hamilton was a Federalist who argued for a strong federal government to build infrastructure and protect patents. He viewed America as a mercantilist, manufacturing player on the international stage.¹ His Federalist Party is noted to have only been for the American elites.
Alexander Hamilton’s 5 point plan¹:
1) Establish the nation’s creditworthiness
2) Federal assumption of states' debts
3) Create a bank of the United States
4) A whiskey tax
5) Encourage domestic industrial manufacturing by imposing tariffs
The opposing view to this is anti-federalism; associated with Thomas Jefferson. He wanted small-scale, local governments with no concentrated power or international trade. These Republicans pursued an agrarian pseudo-paradise where every man could own his own property and live a free, self-reliant life.¹
Thomas Jefferson is one of America’s most famous and complicated Republicans. He advocated for small government but somehow expanded federal power more than either of his presidential predecessor.² Like other anti-federalists, he idealized the independent farmer and demonized manufacturing.
Jefferson had four main goals²:
1) Reduce size of government
2) Lower taxes
3) Shrink the military
4) Enable agrarian utopia
Jefferson ran against John Adams the Federalist in 1800. Jefferson’s victory illustrated that Americans wanted a more democratic government. Federalists were never a threat in presidential politics again.²