Jeffersonian Republicans

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The Jeffersonian Republicans was a U.S. political party led by Thomas Jefferson.[1]

In 1790, a congressional faction coalesced around Virginia congressman James Madison to oppose the policies of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson, then secretary of state, joined Madison to contest the elections of 1792. The party dissolved in 1825.

In 1793-1794, French Ambassador Edmond-Charles Genêt recruited privateers based in U.S. ports to attack British shipping, citing a provision in the 1778 Franco-American treaty of alliance. President George Washington denounced Genêt's actions as a violation of U.S. neutrality. Genêt took his case to the American people and various pro-French groups, referred to collectively as the Democratic-Republican Societies, were formed. After Genêt was recalled, many of the people involved in these societies continued to be politically active as members of Jefferson's Republican party.

Federalist John Adams narrowly defeated Jefferson in the 1796 presidential election. In the "Revolution of 1800," the Republicans gained control of the federal government. Jefferson was president from 1801 until 1809. Jefferson argued for a minimal federal government. He opposed a standing army and even a central bank. The navy Adams had built was allowed to deteriorate. The charter of the Bank of the United States expired in 1811.

The War of 1812 demonstrated the need for a stronger government, and a Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816. Under President James Monroe (1817-1825), the party adopted much of the Federalist agenda that it had previously scorned. Those who supported Monroe's approach were called "Nationalists," while those who were skeptical were called "Democrats." The word "democrat" had been popularized in the 1790s by the French Revolution and reminded the public of the party's values at that time.

When Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1824, the party split into Jacksonian and Anti-Jacksonian factions. The Jacksonians are the direct ancestor of the modern Democratic Party. In 1830, the Anti-Jacksonians established the National Republican Party. This group evolved into the Whig Party.

In Jefferson's time, his party was known as the Republicans. The creation of the modern Republican Party in 1854 made this terminology confusing. The term "Democratic-Republican Party," which originated in reference to the pro-Jackson wing, is sometimes erroneously applied to the party as a whole.



  1. "Republicans, Jeffersonian", Dictionary of American History, 2003.
    Wood, Gordon, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (2009), See Chapter 4 ("The Emergence of the Jeffersonian Republican Party").

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