How Did We End Up With Republicans and Democrats?

How Did We End Up With Republicans and Democrats?

( – Like many issues that cause chaos in the US, the two-party system essentially developed based on concerns over who held the most power. On one side was the party that believed in a strong federal government (Federalists). The other side wanted to follow the Constitution to the letter and for the states to make their own decisions (Anti-federalists, or Democrat-Republican).


In 1791, the Federalist party formed. Among its founders were George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and John Quincy Adams. The federalist party believed in a strong federal government with a centralized banking system. Hamilton’s fiscal planning and push for centralization in banking drove a wedge in the party.

By 1792, the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who wanted to limit the powers of the federal government and avoid centralized banking, formed the Democrat-Republican party. By the end of 1812, the Federalist party had dissolved completely. It wasn’t until 1824 that another party formed.


The election of 1824 caused an enormous split in the Democrat-Republican party. Chaos ensued when four members from the same party all ran against each other in a bid for the presidential seat. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but gained less than 100 electoral votes. This left the election decision to the House of Representatives. They sided with one of Jackson’s opponents, John Quincy Adams.

In preparation for the next election, the Democrat party was born under the leadership of Martin Van Buren. His goal was to back Andrew Jackson in the next election. Jackson easily won the election of 1828, rewarding Van Buren’s efforts.


Central banking was still a key issue, which became clear after Jackson’s decision concerning the Bank of the United States. When he vetoed the bill that would have renewed the charter of the Bank of the United States, Henry Clay made a key decision. In response, the then-senator of Kentucky formed the Whig party in 1832.


Whigs, Democrats, and other smaller parties combined not to combat slavery, but to prevent its spread. In the south, pro-slavery Democrats thought slavery should be expanded to a national level. In the north, Democrats thought it best to leave that decision up to each state.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed in 1854, allowed people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, which comprised most of the western US, to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery within their borders. It effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36 degrees 30 minutes. The split in ideologies created the Republican party.

Post Civil War

Though slavery was a hot topic of the Civil War, economics was really at its core. Economically, slavery was a primary tool used to drive the economy of the South. After the Civil War, Republicans went on to champion the rights of former slaves and limit the influence the Federal government had over finances. Democrats opposed the rights of former slaves and pushed for more federal influence in the economy of the country. Fiscally, much of the same holds true for both parties today.

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