Federalist Party (United States)

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The Federalist Party (or Federal Party) was an American political party in the period 1792 to 1816, 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, to support his fiscal policies. These supporters grew into the nationalistic Federalist Party, which wanted a fiscally sound and militarily strong nation state.


The Federalists wanted a strong central government and had little interest in states' rights. The new party advocated a loose construction of the United States Constitution based on the "Necessary-and-proper clause". It believed that rule by a well-educated elite would serve all interests, and appealed to merchants, bankers, lawyers, editors, landowners, and industrialists; one of John Jay's favorite maxims was, "The people who own the country ought to govern it". Its most powerful leader was Hamilton and his hero was George Washington. The Party built a network of newspapers and had substantial support from religious leaders, especially in New England. Unlike the opposition Democratic-Republicans, it paid little attention to grass roots organizing. In the long run, one of the party's most influential members was John Marshall, who strengthened the powers of the judiciary while Chief Justice of the United States. Although Marshall never joined the party, and attempted to remain non-partisan during his term of office, he supported most of Hamilton's programs and the party used him as hero and symbol.

The elections of 1792 were the first ones to be contested on anything resembling a partisan basis. In most states the congressional elections were, as Jefferson supporter John Beckley put it, a "struggle between the Treasury department and the republican interest." In New York, the race for governor was organized along these lines. The candidates were John Jay, a Hamiltonian, and incumbent George Clinton, who was allied with Jefferson.

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