A two-party system is a political system in which the electorate gives its majority of votes to only two major parties and in which one or the other party can win a majority in the legislature. An example of a two-party system is the United States of America, which has the Republicans and the Democrats. For the candidacy to be president, the person must have a majority of the party supporting him or her. An advantage to having a two-party system is that it provides stability in the government so that not only one party wins the vote to govern the nation all the time. Two-party systems controls campaigning against each other so that one party can gain support of a certain group or minority. Between the two parties of a two-party system there is some agreement. With having a government with a two-party system with two major parties of similar views and of equal strength fighting for control of a government, when the governmental control alternates between the two parties, the policies that shift wont be so radical that the citizens will oppose and revolt against the government.
In 1789, the two men who were the leaders of the two parties that were to emerge were Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had a major influence during this time. Hamilton was an active delegate for New York at the Constitutional Convention, the main author of the Federalist papers and the first Secretary of the Treasury for the United States. He was the leader of the Federalist Party. Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, United States’ first Secretary of the State, and state delegate responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. He was the leader of the Democratic Republicans. Many things led to the emergence of these two parties, but the most influential were the economic concerns and foreign affairs.
After American Revolution and Constitutional Convention, the national debt was still high. Hamilton wanted to take the debt head on and find ways to get rid of it. Hamilton plan was composed of three elements to help out with the country’s economic concerns. His first element was that the federal government would absorb all of the states debts. He thought that doing this would give people confidence in the federal government and trust in them. The amount of the total of all the states debts was around 21.5 million dollars. Some southern states had already paid off their debts so they settled for nation’s capital to be moved toward the south. The second element of Hamilton’s plan was to absorb the Confederation’s debt “at par”. Doing this would mean that the government would pay interest while they were paying off the national debt. The amount came to around 54 millions dollars. A reason why he wanted to do this was that it would give the citizens a sense of unity and respect with the federal government.
The third element of Hamilton’s plan was his idea to establish a national bank. He wanted to base the bank on the bank of England. The bank would have its own form of currency that would be used throughout the whole country. He also believed in the need to create a national bank so that the federal government can collect taxes, pay debts, and control trade. This whole plan of Hamilton’s supported his idea of a strong centralized government. Jefferson criticized and opposed this plan because he felt that the state governments should have a more power over the people because they are closer to them. Congress and the president were more toward the federalists’ side when it came to economics staring with the taxation of whiskey, more tariffs, and the creation of the national bank. “Fortunately, men like Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton were able to step into the breach and lead the new nation through its most critical time.”
There were a lot of concerns about foreign affairs. These concerns and arguments about how the country should handle these affairs further led to the emergence of a two-party system. With the treaty the United States made with France after the American Revolution, it stated that they must help each other in any conflicts. The British and the French began to fight a few years after the American Revolution. The argument was that if the United States should help France or not. Hamilton and the Federalists fought for the idea not to help the French so that the trading relations with England would not be damaged because the trades were helping the economy. Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans wanted to help the French because they wanted to remain loyal to France because they helped the Americans gain their independence. George Washington decided to issue the Proclamation of Neutrality. This proclamation made the United States neutral during this conflict. While the federalists were pleased with this, the Democratic Republicans were mad at the proclamation and the president not discussing his intentions in congress.
After this proclamation, Citizen Edmond Genêt, a French representative to the United States, after talking to the Democratic Republicans, began to form armies to overtake Spanish Florida, Louisiana, and British Canada, in support of the Franco-American Alliance. Genêt was then withdrawn from the country from the demand of George Washington. The two parties were angry at each other while the British fought the French. Britain ignored the Proclamation of Neutrality and thought that America was allied with France. In response to this, the British American sailors in the West Indies. Both parties were angry but had different view on how they should deal with the situation. The Federalists were worried with the economy and wanted to avoid war at all costs.
The Democratic-Republicans thought America might fight Britain again for its liberty. Washington sent John Jay, who was a Federalist, to London in 1794 to negotiate a treaty with Britain to maintain trade relations and avoid war. Democratic Republicans were not happy because they thought that John Jay might betray the United States. Jay’s Treaty made British leave western forts in the United States, but was allowed to continue fur trade with the Indians. The treaty made America repay debts to England from during the Revolutionary War. The Senate passed the treaty in 1795. The Democratic Republicans were furious because of the senate passing Jay’s Treaty. Spain in response to Jay’s treaty went after an alliance of their own with the United Sates. In Pinckney’s Treaty of 1795, the Spanish gave the United States’ requests, including ownership of the previously disputed territory north of Florida. This treaty also gave American western farmers and traders the right of deposit at New Orleans.
From the beginning of the American Revolution, America has had sort of a two-party system starting with the Patriots and the Loyalists. It wasn’t until after the Constitutional Convention when two separate parties started to form. The two parties that started to emerge were the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the Democratic Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. Many economic concerns like the national debt, Hamilton’s plan, the creation of a national bank, tariffs like the one on whiskey, and others led to the emergence of these to parties. But besides economic concerns, there were foreign affairs like the Proclamation of Neutrality, Jay’s Treaty, Pinckney’s Treaty, and several others. These two main topics of economic concerns and foreign affairs led to the emergence of the two-party system which is still part of our government today.
Kaplan, Edward. The Bank of the United States and the American Economy: (Contributions in Economics and Economic History). Praeger, 1999. 1. Print.
“Development of the Two-party System.”
Hamiltonians vs. Jeffersonians, Federalists and Democratic-Republicans . StudyNotes.org, 2008. Web. 8 Oct 2012. <http://www.apstudynotes.org/us- history/topics/development-of-the-two-party-system/>. “two-party system.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 08 Oct. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/611292/two-party-system>.