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The development of political parties in the United States of America

Essay By: chicago

This is short essay on the development of political parties in the United States.

Submitted:Jul 3, 2008    Reads: 6,429    Comments: 5    Likes: 0   


During 1820 -- 1840 the two party system emerged because of two major reasons which are major political personalities and each parties different view on the economy of the country. Major political personalities helped the creation of the two party system, this includes the bitter rivalry of John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. Each man appealed to certain types of voters thorough their family background, place of residence and their personal beliefs. The two party system also emerged economically because of the idea of protecting northern industries by hurting the southern farmer, the support of a strong central banking system and on debates on internal improvements. If a certain group of people within the same political party have different views, then they would separate and form two new parties. This happened after the one party Era of Good Feelings.

Political personalities' effects on parties

Political personalities were critical in the creation of the two party system. The Democrat-Republicans, more commonly known as the Democrats, formed from the Republican Party, after the presidential election of 1824 in which John Quincy Adams was proclaimed the president even though he did not a majority of the popular vote. In that election no one won the majority of the electoral vote and thus the United States House of Representatives had to intervene and declare the president thorough votes in the House. Before this in the Era of Good Feelings when Monroe was the president, there were no political parties. In the election of 1824, all candidates declared themselves as Republicans. After the election, the Republicans split into the Democratic-Republicans, who were the supporters of Andrew Jackson, and the supporters of Adams, called themselves the National-Republicans.

The personal images of the candidates determined who would be the president. Jackson had tremendous support from the west and the small poor farmers because he symbolized the common man from the back-country. They made a connection with the hard life that Jackson faced from being orphaned at a very young age, and emigrating "up West" to Tennessee. People also prized his toughness. He was portrayed as a war hero because of his victory in the Battle of the New Orleans in the War of 1812, and the defeat of the Creeks in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The people of the West and the common man (who were small dirt farmers with no or few slaves) supported Jackson's qualities because they saw him as an Indian fighter; the Indians were seen as a major threat of the security of the West.

On the other hand, Adams was seen by the common hard working folk as being too aristocratic and snobbish, thus he gained the support of business men and generally the richer populace. This exemplifies the fact that the common men were dedicated to Jackson because they could relate to him that and they saw his quality of a commoner more appealing to Adams and supported Jackson to be the president of the United States even though Jackson did not win constitutionally 1824. The support of the common people helped the create the Democratic Party of Jackson. Even though Jackson had many flaws during his presidency such as dealing with the "nullies" of South Carolina and leading the national economy to the panic of 1837, the fact that he won the presidential election twice in 1828 and 1332 through a new political party called the Democrats proved that a strong contender had formed against the National Republicans by separating from the mother party -- the Republicans and now there were two political parties instead of one.

The Whig Party

The nomination of William Henry Harrison greatly strengthened the Whig Party during the election of 1840. He was portrayed by his party as being as a commoner of log cabin background who also drank hard cider, to gain to vote of the common poor man. Martin Van Buren was shown by the Whigs as a wealthy man. Added with poor economic policies of the panic of 1837, Harrison easily won the election. This proves that both the economic condition of the country, the personal background and the achievements of the presidential candidate helped soundly create a new political party once again; now there are two major contenders for the presidency -- Democrats and the Whigs. Harrison used the same technique as Jackson by appealing to the masses to win the election.


Economic issues greatly affected the creation of the two party system that is seen in the United States to this day. The Bank of the United States was one of the foremost reasons for the creation of different political parties. Its main function was to stabilize the American currency and to serve as a repository for federal funds. The Bank of the United States was to expire in 1832 and Henry Clay proposed to have the bank's charter renewed before it was to expire, but President Jackson vetoed it on the basis that it was monopoly that benefited the rich and foreigners (they owned 25 percent of the stocks). This later led to the creation of the Whig Party in 1934 by Clay oppose Jackson's policy of slowly removing federal funds it and declaring it unconstitutional. If Jackson had not decided to not re-charter the Bank of the United States, then there would not had been any arguments, thus no political parties would have been created to oppose Jackson and create a two party system of the National Republicans and the Democrats and later the Whigs and the Democrats.

Political/legislative actions

The series of high tariffs designed to help New England industries led to downfall of the National Republicans because the southern states thought that the "Yankee tariff" discriminated against by raising the prices of cheaper goods that the south imported. Later disagreement between Adams and his vice-president John C. Calhoun on the tariff issue led to the writing of "The South Carolina Exposition" which protested that the tariffs were detrimental to the southern society and also hinted nullification of the law. This further intensified in the government of Jackson where Calhoun resigned because of tariff issues and later joined the Whigs along with Clay. Other than that later many other people joined the Whigs, namely southern states' righters offended by Jackson's stand on nullification, larger northern industrialists and merchants and later members of the Anti-Masonic Party who feared the Masons a secret society with many unusual rituals. The raising of the tariffs shows that different groups opposed (the Whigs) and some supported the it (the Democrats) and that led to the creation of the two party system.

Economic distresses

The panic of 1837 during the presidency of Martin Van Buren was another reason that fuelled the creation of another major political party. The panic was primarily caused by speculation on western lands through borrowed funds in unstable currency from "wildcat banks" and the policy of specie circular which required federals lands to be purchased only in hard currency such as gold. The government lost millions of dollars to "pet banks" that failed during the panic of 1837. The Whigs sensed panic in the air and proposed various remedies ranging from the expansion of bank credit, higher tariffs to subsidies for internal improvements. The Whigs benefited from the distress and they were seen as advocates of positive governmental steps to stimulate the economy and thorough much campaigning they won the presidential election of 1840. The Whigs would never have developed into a huge political power if there the poor economic policies of the Democrats had not aggravated the population through weak economic reforms.


With the difference in ideas, especially economic issues and also by the leadership different of political personalities led to the two party system as know today. Second parties remain to have a potent effect on democracy and to criticize the current government in order to gain more voters. Whatever the reason, the two most important reasons for their creation is a major political personality who has not been satisfied or the bad economic conditions of the current regime.

Works cited Thomas A. Bailey, David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.


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