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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 2931

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

[Sidenote: Unpopularity of the Federalists.]

[Sidenote: Judiciary Act.]

The electoral majority was small; the Federalists preserved their organization, and had the prestige of twelve years of administration; it was impossible to realize that there never again would be a Federalist president. In the election of 1804, however, they received but fourteen electoral votes altogether (§ 100). The reasons for this downfall are many, However popular the French war had been, the taxes made necessary by it had provoked great dissatisfaction; and in 1799 a little insurrection, the so-called Fries Rebellion, had broken out in Pennsylvania. The Sedition prosecutions were exceedingly unpopular, The last acts of the party left a violent resentment. In 1801, after it was known that there would be a Republican President with a large majority in both houses of Congress, the Federalists resolved to bolster up their power in the third department of government. A Judiciary Act was therefore passed, creating new courts, new judges, and new salaried officials. All the resulting appointments were made by Adams, and duly confirmed by the Senate, thus anticipating by many years any real needs of the country. A vacancy occurring in the chief-justiceship, Adams appointed John Marshall, one of the few Virginia Federalists; he had made his reputation as a politician and statesman: even Adams himself scarcely foresaw that he was to be the greatest of American jurists


[Sidenote: Internal dissensions.]

Still more fatal were the internal dissensions in the party. In 1799 Washington died, and no man in the country possessed his moderating influence, The cabinet, by adhering to Hamilton and corresponding with him upon important public matters, had weakened the dignity of the President and of the party. In the election of 1800 Hamilton, besides his open attack on Adams, had again tried to reduce his vote sufficiently to bring Pinckney in over his head. Adams himself, although a man of strong national spirit, was in some respects too moderate for his party. Yet his own vanity and vehemence made him unfit to be a party leader.

[Sidenote: Republican theories.]

While these reasons may account for the defeat of the Federalists, they do not explain their failure to rise again. They had governed well: they had built up the credit of the country; they had taken a dignified and effective stand against the aggressions both of England and of France. Yet their theory was of a government by leaders. Jefferson, on the other hand, represented the rising spirit of democracy. It was not his protest against the over-government of the Federalists that made him popular, it was his assertion that the people at large were the best depositaries of power. Jefferson had taken hold of the "great wheel going uphill." He had behind him the mighty force of the popular will.



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