History Repeating Itself – Federalists vs Republicans



History Repeats Itself – Federalists vs Republicans

It’s ironic that on this day in 1798 the country was so divided politically that a Senate-backed bill, signed by an unpopular President John Adams made it a crime for anyone deemed a threat or publishing “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government of the United States. It was called The Sedition Act of 1798 and was signed into law on July 10, 1798 and lasted until it expired on March 3, 1801.

Were such a law in effect today the prisons would be vastly overcrowded and many of us would in fact be using pen and paper (if we could get it) to pen our memoirs which we would not be allowed to send anywhere or to anyone from our cells.

I thought with all the political hype pitting man against man today it would be good to take a look back at how it all began, then relook at where we are today. You’re welcome to come along or you can go directly to the study.com website link below and maybe enroll yourself in an online course of American History.

Hamilton vs. Jefferson

This lesson really shows us the origins of the two-party political system. It all begins with Alexander Hamilton at the lead of the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson leading the Democratic-Republicans – from here out, we’ll say ‘Republicans’ for short.

The Federalists

Hamilton’s group was made up of merchants, bankers and manufacturers, with some wealthy farmers and Southern plantation owners. They were mostly well-educated and owned property. Most of them were in New England and along the coast.

The Republicans

Jefferson’s cohorts were mostly artisans, shopkeepers, frontier settlers, backcountry farmers and poor farmers. They were mostly ill-educated and illiterate. The majority of them were settled in the interior regions. Obviously, Jefferson himself was a plantation owner who was well-educated, but in time you will learn that Jefferson was sort of a paradox.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for President Washington at cabinet meetings? With his Secretary of State, Jefferson, and Hamilton, his Secretary of the Treasury – talk about getting polar advice! Let’s look at the basics of these groups’ beliefs on a few topics: The central government, the direction of the U.S. economy, the French Revolution, the national bank and paying the war debt from the revolution.

Positions on the Issues

Central Government

Hamilton favored a strong central government – a large republic that would control factions. He considered ‘common people’ to be ignorant and incapable of self-government. He believed that the elite should rule, so there should be high voting qualifications.

Jefferson favored states’ rights. He believed democratic principles were right. He believed the ‘common man’ is capable of self-government, and he believed in lowering voting qualifications.

Direction of the U.S. Economy

Hamilton and the Federalists stressed manufacturing, commerce, finance and overseas trade. They wanted tariffs and business protections.

Jefferson and the Republicans wanted a simple agrarian economy (that basically means a farming economy). They favored the yeoman farmer – that means the small farmers of the South, not the big plantation owners. They wanted the government to support the interests of the ‘common man.’

Hamilton favored a strong central government, while Jefferson favored the rights of the states.

Although President Washington warned against the nation falling into political factions, the different views of the Constitution held by Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans set the path for the two-party system that the U.S. has today.


As you can see from the brief history lesson, not much has changed politically since then as we still have those who think that the government is the answer and seek to ensure total dependency of the people by a Democratic Party government. It is up to the government to provide free stuff (health insurance, medical treatment, education, food stamps, housing, cell phones and more). Democrats are modern day Federalists.

We still have those who think the common man, the working man is able to think and provide for themselves and their families. They are the backbone of the country and feel that the government should not become involved in the business of everyday life and nothing is ever free and must be earned by men and women of the republic. Thus the modern day Republican Party is the party of a representative government for the working man where everyone should become involved in helping each other achieve the American Dream. Republicans are for the most part Constitutionalists and see themselves as standing up to defend the Constitution and Liberty.

Let us take a closer look at that one piece of legislation from 1798:

The Sedition Act of 1798

July 10, 1798

In one of the first tests of freedom of speech, the House passed the Sedition Act, permitting the deportation, fine, or imprisonment of anyone deemed a threat or publishing “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government of the United States. The 5th Congress (1797–1799), narrowly divided between the majority Federalists and minority Jeffersonian Republicans, voted 44 to 41 in favor of the Senate-passed bill. Federalists championed the legislation fearing impending war with France and out of the desire to hold the majority in Congress and to retain the White House, then occupied by Federalist John Adams. In an era when newspapers served as political parties’ chief organs, the Republican press was particularly vicious in its attacks on Federalists and the Adams administration. “Liberty of the press and of opinion is calculated to destroy all confidence between man and man,” noted one of the bill’s supporters, John Allen of Connecticut. “It leads to the dissolution of every bond of union.” Republicans defended the First Amendment protecting free speech and press. “What will be the situation of the people?” James Madison of Virginia demanded. “Not free: because they will be compelled to make their election between competitors whose pretensions they are not permitted by act equally to examine, to discuss and to ascertain.” Signed into law by Adams on July 14, the law proved immensely unpopular with the public and the President lost re-election to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Under the incoming Republican administration, the Sedition Act eventually expired on March 3, 1801; however, arguments made for and against it shaped subsequent debate about constitutional protections of free speech.

An unpopular President, John Adams faced increased scrutiny over the signing of the Sedition Act.

The 115th Congress of today seems greatly divided over the issue of freedom of speech as are the American people. With the information age, internet technology, mass media and things like Facebook and Twitter our freedom to speak seems unlimited.

As our mind thinks so we speak (write or tweet). The old Will Rogers saying comes to mind when he said not to argue with an idiot because he will beat you with experience and those watching will soon be unable to tell the difference of who is the idiot (very loosely paraphrased).

So whether you call yourself a Democrat or a Republican or any of the other political off shoots we all should measure our decisions and our responses against what is written in scripture as God alone will judge each person by the very words they have spoken.

So make your choice wisely? – I am the Real Truckmaster!


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