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58 Political Parties

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58. POLITICAL PARTIES. A political party has been defined by Edmund Burke as as body of men united, for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest, upon some par ticular principle upon which they are all agreed." But this definition is not adequate for the political party of to-day. The latter is more than a group ofpeisons temporarily united for promoting' a single principle. It is a more or less durable organization of voters, having for its immediate purpose the election of public officials and the control of the gov ernment. The members .of the party may be agreed on -certain fundamental principles of governmental policy; but the application of these principles will vary from time to time, and they are likely to become little more than a general tendency. Particular parties are apt to be largely controlled by .certain classes or sections; and their policies are likely to be affected by the interests of their membership rather than those of the country as a whole.

In America, as in Great Britain, there have usually been only two leading political parties at one time; and this has led to the opinion that men naturally tend to divide themselves into two main groups: the conservative and the progressive, or those who favor the mainte nance of order and efficient government and those who support individual liberty and freedom. But these tendencies are at best vague and indefinite, and the development of political parties can only be understood by recognizing that there are many varying and interwoven types of opinion, and a continual process of change from one to another.

Parties Before 1789.— During the colonial period there was no formal party organization in America; but there were political divisions corresponding roughly to the Whigs and Tories in Great Britain,— the Tories supporting the royal governors and the Whigs usually con trolling the elective assemblies. Most of the Americans had been Whigs, standing for per sonal liberty and opposing centralized authority.

In the Revolution the Whigs became known as Patriots; while many of the business and propertied classes were Tories or Loyalists, supporting the British government. But after the establishment of independence the Loyalists disappeared.

A new division appeared in the Constitu tional Convention of 1787, between the dele gates from the large States who favored a strong national government, and those from the small States who preferred to continue a loose confederation. The result of this division was a series of compromises in the Constitution. In the campaign for the ratification of the Constitution, the supporters were known as Federalists, and the opponents as Anti Federalists.

Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans. — The new Constitution of the United States contained no recognition of political parties; and after it was adopted and put in operation there were for a time no clearly marked political divisions. Washington, and other leaders, were indeed strongly opposed to parties, and the new government included both Hamilton and Jef ferson at the head of the two principal depart ments. But differences of opinion on ques tions of governmental policy soon developed the two opposing parties of Federalists and Republicans. The Fedetalists, under the leader ship of Hamilton, and supported by Washing ton at first controlled the central government, and favored strengthening the national au thority, a strong executive and a liberal inter pretation of the Constitution. More specifically they supported Hamilton's financial and com mercial policy, and distrusting the excesses of the French Revolution favored neutrality in the war between France and Great Britain. The Republicans, under the lead of Jefferson and Madison, favored a strict construction of the Constitution, a limited scope of national authority and Congressional control of the government. The Federalists included most of the business and propertied classes; but the Re publicans, organizing the small farmers and city workers, before long gained control of the national government. In power the Republi cans became more national in spirit. When opportuntiy was offered, the Louisiana Pur chase was made, in spite of its violation of the rule of strict construction. Later, under the aggressive leadership of Henry Clay, it entered on the War of 1812, which the surviving Federalists opposed.

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