The traditional split in two parties in the USA was established after the resignation of Thomas Jefferson from George Washington’s cabinet in 1793. Jefferson formed a republican party (also known as a Democratic-Republican). He and his followers opposed the increase in federal power and authority over that of states.
Though 1st President of the USA George Washington strongly believed there was no need in party system, he is claimed as the 1st Federalist in contrast to Jefferson as the 1st Republican. Washington’s devoted follower was John Adams, the 2nd President, who continued his policies. Under Washington’s administration most of the traditional American government institutions were established for generations to follow.
First of all, the Constitution was adopted, which suffered little change since his time. The tax system was introduced, 8% tariff on foreign imports was adopted and an excise tax on whiskey to levy money for federal treasury. The government arranged for repaying war debts with ratification of Funding Bill in 1790 and also paid off state debts according to the Assumption Act of the same year. The National Bank was established in 1791 to control and maintain order in financial operations of the state.
Washington’s cabinet introduced a Federal Court system. The Bill of Rights was also ratified under Washington’s presidency in December 1791. Under J. Adams, but against his wish, the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) were adopted, which were mainly aimed at destroying the Republican opposition (Larson & Creason, 172-176, 187-188).
Foreign policy under Washington and Adams was aimed at maintaining neutrality and peace for the nation. In the period of French Revolution (1789) the Neutrality Proclamation was issued and later, when Napoleon came to power (1800) Adams signed the Convention of 1800 to avoid war. Under Washington the Jay Treaty was signed with Britain in hopes to keep peace, but the America was initially in a disadvantage and John jay was forced to agree to limit trade with France and to pay debts which Americans owned to British. Jay was claimed as a traitor. The matters with Spain were settled more successfully in terms of Pinckney Treaty of 1795. Under it, America’s southern boundary was set at 31parallel of latitude (Larson & Creason, 177-180, 186-188; Katers).
Republican government under Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and James Madison (1809-1817) abolished the Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson was opposed to army and navy and established state militia, decreasing national debt by one-half, which allowed him to abolish the whiskey tax. He retained National bank and the previous plan to pay off war debts. He also extended presidential power (Larson & Creason, 194-195).
As for foreign politics, in 1803 Louisiana Purchase was made adding Louisiana state to the Union. In 1807 Jefferson asked the Congress to ratify the Embargo act, which stopped the export but also hindered import trade of America. In 1812 war with Britain ensued, which lasted for 3 years. Although it didn’t end with American victory, it allowed America to build its own industry and inspired patriotism. In 1815 Republicans faced a conflict, known as Tripolitan War. Though it was not a war, but it helped to establish America’s authority in the world (Larson & Creason, 196, 200-212).
Looking back on these events it is hard to say which, Federalist or republican policies were better. It is solely a credit of Federalists that they established the state institutions as we know them today and tried to maintain peace with foreign countries as best as they could. Republicans also made great improvements concerning the liberty of speech, they built army and navy, improved industry and their foreign policy won respect for the USA by other countries. Both Federalists and Republicans played equally significant roles in American history.
Katers, N. The Federalist Foreign policy for America 1789-1800. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.
Larson, C. R., & Creason, B. P. (1993). The American Republic. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.