Federalists vs. Democratic Republicans

Federalists, who emerged as supporters of the Constitution and a strong federal government, formed the first well organized political party around Alexander Hamilton while the Democratic Republicans formed in response around Thomas Jefferson. The French Revolution, which occurred from 1789-1799, helped to solidify the early formation of political parties because of differing opinions about whether to aid the French.
the Federalist view of the Constitution

Democratic Republicans

Strongest Locations
northeastern states, urban areas
south and rural areas
Major Supporters
northern businessmen, large landowners
skilled workers, plantation owners, small farmers
Interpretation of Constitution
loose interpretation
strict interpretation
Favored Type of Government
growth of federal power
less power to federal governments
John Adams, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
French Revolution Foreign Policy
Military Policy
large peacetime army and navy
small peacetime army and navy
Domestic Policy
aid business, national banks, and tariffs
favor agriculture, no national bank, no high tariffs

this political cartoon depicts the many different types of people who joined the anti-federalists

Washington's Presidency

As a hero of the Revolutionary War, George Washington easily gained nomination for the presidency, and on April 30, 1789 became the first president of the United States and ushered in the Federalist Era. The new federal government was still so young, that George Washington was able to create many changes and traditions that would shape the national government for years to come.
George Washington

The Shaping of the New Federal Government:

When he first came into office, George Washington quickly reorganized the executive branch of the government by creating the first cabinet. This cabinet had four heads of state, all of whom were prominent politicians of the time. Alexander Hamilton, one of the most classic federalists of the time, became Secretary of the Treasury, while Edmund Randolph became Attorney General, Henry Knox became Secretary of War, and Thomas Jefferson became Secretary of State. George Washington's administration also reshaped the judiciary branch with the Judiciary Act of 1789. This act, which was put into place by Congress, established a supreme court with one chief justice and five associate justices as well as a system of thirteen district courts and three circuit courts of appeals.

Hamilton's Financial Program:

Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton's financial program, which was passed in a modified form, included three steps. First, Hamilton supported the paying of national debt at face value as well as federal assumption of state debt. Second, he wanted to protect the developing industries and collect revenues at the same time by placing high tariffs on foreign goods. Third, Hamilton wanted to create a national bank for depositing government funds and for the printing of banknotes to provide a basis for a stable national currency. This financial plan was supported mostly by northern merchants who would profit directly from the high tariffs and stable currency and opposed mostly by farmers or other anti-federalists who feared that the states would lose too much power or that the plan would only help wealthy people. The ratified financial system included many compromises such as the paying of national debt at face value and the assumption of war debts in exchange for the moving the location of the nation's capital to Washington DC. The tariff rates which were passed were quite a bit lower than Hamilton originally imagined them, but he did still persuade Congress to pass a few taxes especially an excise tax on Whiskey. Through President Washington's support, a national bank that was privately owned, despite being chartered by the federal government (which was also a large shareholder) was created.

Foreign Affairs:

As the French Revolution raged across the pond with the US-French alliance (with the the monarchy not the republic) still in place, the American people were split in their feelings about whether to honor that alliance. Americans generally supported the French aspiration to create a republic, however, many people did not support the mass executions and barbaric mob actions that the Revolutionaries condoned and took part in. Jefferson and his supporters, the Democratic Republicans, sympathized more with the revolutionary cause and thought that the US should send aid to the French Revolutionaries. However, in 1793, George Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality that caused Jefferson to resign from the cabinet. After this proclamation, during the "Citizen
Citizen Genet
Genet" affair, Edmund Genet, the French minister to the US, broke the normal rules of diplomacy and appealed directly to the American people for help. Because of Genet's conduct, Washington requested that the French recall him, which they did, but Genet chose to stay in the United States and become a citizen. At the same time, the British navy was seizing and searching US ships and impressing American seamen into the navy, thus angering the American public. To resolve this problem, Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to Britain in 1794 where he created a Treaty (The Jay Treaty) in which Britain agreed to evacuate posts on the US western frontier. The Treaty did not however, say anything about the seizure of ships and was only narrowly ratified because of its unpopularity. One year later, in 1795, the Pickney Treaty, a far more popular treaty, was created thanks to Thomas Pickney--the US minister to Spain. In this treaty, Spain agreed to open the lower Mississippi River and New Orleans to American trade and allow the transfer of US goods in New Orleans without a fee, while also agreeing that the northern border of Florida was the 31st parallel.
Thomas Pickney
John Jay

Jay's Treaty's effects were on Britain

Domestic Concerns:

At home during the Federalist Era, many of the concerns of the time stemmed from conflicts with the Native Americans as the settlers moved ever westward and onto Native American lands. In 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Ohio, General Anthony Wayne defeated the Shawnee and many other tribes causing the chiefs of those tribes to agree to the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty surrendered the Native American claims to the Ohio Territory and promised to open it to development. The victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the Jay Treaty, and the Pickney Treaty gave the US government a lot more land. In order to settle these new lands quickly, Congress passed the Public Land Act in 1796 which established orderly procedures for dividing and selling federal lands at reasonable prices. With these new lands being settled, three new states were admitted to the Union--Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), and Tennessee (1796). There were also domestic conflicts over the high taxes such as the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 in which a group of farmers rebelled against the federal excise tax on whiskey by attacking the revenue collectors. In response to the rebellion, Washington federalized 15,000 state militiamen and placed them under Alexander Hamilton's command in order to collapse the rebellion without bloodshed. This show of force angered many westerners who subsequently more strongly supported Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans.
In his farewell address, Washington warned agaisnt involvement in European affairs, permanent alliances, the formation of political parties, and sectionalism, all things that later became key parts of American politics.

John Adam's Presidency

John Adams became the second President of the United States in 1797 after beating Thomas Jefferson who became the vice-president through winning the second highest number of votes. Adams' presidency was filled with more conflicts, and made the Federalists less and less popular until their "Era" ended with the election of Jefferson in 1800.
John Adams
The cartoon above depicts a five-headed monster, representing the Directory that ruled France in 1797, demanding payment of a bribe from the three American representatives

The XYZ Affair:

Because of the French seizure of American merchant ships, President Adams sent negotiators to Paris where they met with three anonymous French ministers (known as X, Y, and Z) who requested bribes as the only way to enter negotiations. The American delegates refused to give bribes and news of this conduct spread through newspapers to anger the public into wanting war for France. However, Adams refrained from going to war because he felt that the army and navy were not strong enough for the strain.

The Alien and Sedition Acts:

With a Federalist majority in Congress, several restricting acts were put into place. The first of these acts, the Naturalization Act increased the number of years needed for immigrants to qualify for US citizenship because most immigrants voted Democratic-Republican. The Alien Acts authorized the president to deport any aliens considered dangerous and detain any enemy aliens during wartime. The Sedition Act, also disliked by many as it seemed to take away freedom of press, made it illegal for newspaper editors to criticize either the president or Congress and created heavy penalties for violations.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions:

The Democratic-Republicans who were against the Alien and Sedition Acts because it violated the first amendment to the Constitution, wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that said that the states had entered a compact in forming a national government and could thus nullify any federal laws that broke that compact. Both articles were written by prominent Democratic-Republicans with the Kentucky Resolution written by Thomas Jefferson, and the Virginia VA_and_KY_resolutions.gifResolution written by James Madison. After the election of 1800 which brought Jefferson to the presidency and allowed the Democratic-Republicans to take control of Congress, thus bringing an end to the Federalist Era, the controversy over the Alien and Sedition Acts and the Resolutions faded because the acts all expired or were repealed.

The Revolution of 1800:

In 1800, the Federalists who had shaped the previous "era" all lost power due to the many unpopular policies that they had put into place. Instead, the Democratic-Republicans took over the federal government with control of the Presidency (Jefferson), the Vice-Presidency (Aaron Burr), the House of Representatives, and the Senate. Thus, 1800 brought a peaceful transfer of power and an end to the Federalist Era.