Although historically represented as distinct parties, the Federalists and the Whigs in fact shared a common political ideology, represented many of the same interest groups and proposed similar programs and policies. Assess this. Although the Whig party surfaced forty years after the Federalist party had died out, the two separate parties held many of the same ideals, and catered to many of the same constituents, causing these two parties to be more similar in history than different. The Federalist party was established originally to support the creation of a strong national government, after the Articles of Confederation were created in 1781. This party was led by Alexander Hamilton, whom being a well-educated and wealthy man himself, was followed in part by men of the same standards and social class. One of the main ideas of the Federalist party was that of a “loose interpretation” of the constitution.(Garraty) This loose interpretation was used in determining the meaning of the elastic clause placed in the constitution. The federalist believed that because it would take hundreds of years to write down everything the U.S. government could do, the elastic clause was created.
This clause allowed for the creation and addition of all things “necessary and proper” as needed by the national government. The federalists used this clause in the case of the National Bank. The opposing side, the Anti-Federalists led by Thomas Jefferson, believed that the bank was unconstitutional, because it was not specified in the constitution. The Federalists on the other hand deemed the bank to be “necessary and proper” to the government in order for it to run smoothly. The Federalists won out in the end and a national bank was created. Hamilton’s financial system settled the problems caused by the revolutionary war, and the discrepancies between states and national governments rights when it came to taxation. The Federalists were largely wealthy, aristocratic men, originating from the New England area, especially New York.(Encarta) The first two presidents of the United States belonged to the Federalist party. George Washington was the epitome of a federalist. Throughout his presidency, he tried to limit the power of the executive branch of government. Washington was careful not to overuse the veto, and used it only twice in eight years.(Garraty)
Upon the beginning of the French Revolution, a statement of neutrality was issued, and this became a point in the Federalist platform. Interference in other countries problems would become prohibited. The Federalists also elected John Adams as president in 1796. He was to be the last Federalist president, and when he ended his term in 1801, so ended the reign of the Federalists in American politics. Although the Federalist were around until around the 1820’s, they disappeared soon afterwards, and never regained the strength they once had over the politics of the United States. Enter the Whig party of the 1840’s. The party was formed about 1834 by members of the National Republican Party which was steadily falling apart, and others opposed to the “tyrannical” policies of President Andrew Jackson. (Encarta) It was composed of many different factions united in their opposition to the Democratic party and the Jacksonians. Because of the anti-intellectual and antiscientific bias of Jackson’s administration, many of the well-educated people entered the Whig party(Garraty) as was similar to the intellect of the Federalist Party.
One difference between the Whigs and the Federalist however, was that the Whigs were more in support of the “common man” than their counterparts had ever been. Anyone who understood banking joined the Whigs, especially after the terrible banking problems experienced during Jackson’s administration. Those with ideas similar to Hamilton, who rejected the administration’s refusal to approach economic problems from a broadly national perspective, also joined in large numbers. (Garraty) The Whig party was led by former National-Republicans Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. They led their party in the fight against Jacksonian tyranny, claiming that Jackson overused the right of the presidential veto, and that Jackson’s administration was more like the monarchy of England than the supposed democracy of the United States. The platform of the Whigs bared remarkable similarities to that of the old Federalist party. The Whigs supported a more active national government, that would check the “excesses of unrestricted individualism.” (Garraty)
The Whigs were also very opinionated about the issue of the National Bank. They agreed with Hamilton in saying that it was “necessary and proper” in running the government and the economy smoothly. The Independent Treasury Act of 1840 was repealed by congress, but when the Whig party tried to Pass a new Bank bill, it was vetoed by Tyler.(Garraty) The Whigs also passed a tariff bill in congress, but President Tyler would sign it only after the Distribution Act was repealed, which was formed to distribute the proceeds from land sales to the states as compensation for raising the tariffs. The raising of these tariffs in the Tariff Act of 1842, was much like the Federalist’s raising of taxes in 1795. The Whig party nominated three unsuccessful candidates for president in the election of 1836.
In 1840, however, William Henry Harrison and vice president John Tyler were nominated and elected. The Whigs triumphed over this victory, but soon after Harrison died, and Tyler became president. Tyler was abandoned by the Whig party, not only for his veto of the reissued Bank bill, but also by opposing to redistribution of the proceeds from the sale of public lands. (Encarta) Another Whig president was elected in 1848, Zachary Taylor, but this was to be the last Whig president, and the beginning of the Whig downfall. The Whig and Federalist parties were separated by a forty year space in history, but the same ideas seemed to resurface during the reign of the Whigs in the 1840’s as were found in the Federalist platform of the 1790’s, causing these parties to be remarkably similar.