4.2 The Rise of Political Parties and the Era of Jefferson

7 min readdecember 21, 2022


Sally Kim

Milo Chang

Milo Chang

AP US History 🇺🇸

454 resources
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First Party System



  • Alexander Hamilton & John Adams
  • Middle states, New England
  • Loose interpretation of Constitution
  • National bank, protective tariffs
  • Favored Britain
  • Order and stability
  • Thomas Jefferson & James Madison
  • Virginia, South, West
  • Strict interpretation of Constitution
  • Low taxes, aid yeoman farmers
  • Favored France
  • Liberty 
*Not the same as Anti-Federalists
The First Party System was a political system in the United States that emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was characterized by the development of two political parties, the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party, which emerged as the dominant political forces in the country.
The Federalist Party, which was led by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, favored a strong federal government and a strong central bank. They supported a strong military and a pro-business economic policy.
The Democratic-Republican Party, which was led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, favored a more decentralized government with greater powers for the states. They supported a strong agrarian economy and a more limited federal government.
The First Party System was marked by a series of political conflicts and debates between the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party, including the debate over the Constitution, the formation of the national bank, and the issue of foreign policy.

Presidency of Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson’s victory over John Adams in the election of 1800 was celebrated through everyday Americans’ material culture, including this victory banner. Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of American History.

The Election of 1800 involved personal attacks by both parties and Thomas Jefferson became the president.
Federalists lost power in what is called the Revolution of 1800, because they made too many unpopular decisions while in power. Some examples include the Jay Treaty and Alien and Sedition Acts.
  • The Jay Treaty was a treaty signed between the United States and Great Britain in 1794, which aimed to settle outstanding issues from the American Revolution and to establish a framework for peaceful trade and relations between the two countries. The treaty was controversial, as it was seen by some as too favorable to Great Britain and not protective enough of American interests.
  • The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress in 1798, which aimed to crack down on anti-government sentiment and to limit the influence of immigrants in the United States. The Acts included measures to increase the residency requirement for citizenship, to give the president greater power to deport immigrants, and to make it a crime to criticize the government or its officials.
This was called the Revolution of 1800 because it was a peaceful transition of power from one party to another, something that was rare throughout the world at the time.
The fall of the Federalists led to a period of time called the Era of Good Feelings, because there was only one political party, the Democratic-Republicans, and little debate. Yet, this phrase is debatable as sectionalism increased during this period due to economic, social, and political differences between the North and South and eventually led to the Second Party System, which would divide the country further. These differences would fuel the development of an abolitionist movement in the industrial North that sought to limit the expansion of slavery, which the South relied on for its agricultural economy.
🎥 Watch: AP US History - The Era of Good Feelings
The presidency of Jefferson brought new territories through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Since Napoleon had failed to take back Haiti, Louisiana became useless. Thus, Napoleon offered 828,000 square miles for about $15 million, or about 3 cents per acre.
Jefferson quickly purchased this region of land, which ranged from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, although he was worried about the constitutionality of his decision. Jefferson saw the acquisition as a way to fulfill his vision of an agrarian republic based on small farmers. He believed that the expansion of agriculture was essential for the growth and prosperity of the country, and he saw the Louisiana Purchase as an opportunity to create new land for farmers to cultivate.
The Louisiana Purchase more than doubled the size of the United States and opened up new opportunities for expansion and development. The Louisiana Purchase was an important event in the history of the United States, as it marked the country's first major expansion beyond the original 13 colonies and established the U.S. as a major player on the world stage. It also had significant economic and cultural impacts, as it opened up new opportunities for trade, commerce, and settlement, and it helped to shape the cultural and political landscape of the United States.
Other key events of Jefferson's presidency include:
  1. The creation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: In 1802, Jefferson established the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect intellectual property and to encourage innovation and technological advancement.
  2. The Lewis and Clark expedition: In 1803, Jefferson commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition, which explored the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and established a route to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition helped to map and document the country's western territories and laid the foundation for further westward expansion.
  3. The abolition of the international slave trade: In 1808, Jefferson signed a law that banned the international slave trade, making it illegal to import or export slaves to or from the United States. The law was a significant step towards the eventual abolition of slavery in the United States.
  4. The Embargo Act: In 1807, Jefferson signed the Embargo Act, which prohibited American ships from sailing to foreign ports in an effort to protect American interests and to avoid getting drawn into the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France. The Act was unpopular and had negative economic consequences, and it was eventually replaced by the Non-Intercourse Act in 1809.
  5. The abolition of the Federalist-controlled national bank: In 1811, Jefferson vetoed a bill to renew the charter of the national bank, which was controlled by the Federalist Party. The veto helped to weaken the power of the Federalist Party and contributed to the decline of the First Party System.

Marshall Supreme Court Cases

John Marshall led the Supreme Court for 34 years. His leadership increased the power of the federal government while decreasing the power of state governments.
One well-known case, Marbury v. Madison, started due to Adams, the president before Jefferson, appointing midnight judges right before the end of his term. The next day, President Jefferson repealed and refused to give some commissions that haven’t been sent yet. One appointee (William Marbury) sued to get his, but the Supreme Court declared that while it was illegal not to deliver the commission, it would not be handed over through force.
This case established the practice of judicial review, where the Supreme Court could judge actions of other branches of the government and deem them constitutional or unconstitutional. This had been the first time an act of the president was ruled unconstitutional.
Here are a few notable cases from the Marshall Court:
  1. Marbury v. Madison (1803): In this landmark case, the Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review, which gives the Court the power to declare a law or government action unconstitutional.
  1. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): In this case, the Court upheld the power of Congress to create a national bank, rejecting the argument that it exceeded the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution. The decision established the principle of implied powers, which allows Congress to pass laws that are necessary and proper to carry out its constitutional powers.
  2. Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819): In this case, the Court ruled that a state could not alter the terms of a private contract without violating the Constitution's protection of private property rights. The decision established the principle of contract law and the protection of private property rights under the Constitution.
  3. Cohens v. Virginia (1821): In this case, the Court ruled that the Supreme Court had the authority to review and overturn state court decisions that were in conflict with federal law. The decision established the principle of federal supremacy and the power of the federal courts to interpret and enforce the Constitution.
  4. Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): In this case, the Court ruled that the federal government had the exclusive power to regulate interstate commerce, rejecting the claim that states had the power to regulate commerce within their borders. The decision established the principle of federal supremacy and the power of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.
  5. Worcester v. Georgia (1832): In this case, the Court ruled that Georgia's laws regulating the presence of Native Americans within the state were unconstitutional and violated the rights of the Cherokee Nation. The decision established the principle of tribal sovereignty and the right of Native American tribes to be treated as sovereign nations with the right to self-governance.
These cases and others helped to establish the Supreme Court as an independent and influential branch of government, and they continue to be important and widely cited in legal decisions today.
🎥 Watch: AP US History - Rise of Political Parties
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