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The Reemergence of the Two Party System

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Reemergence of the Two Party System

        Between 1820 and 1840, there were a few factors that contributed to the reemergence of the two party system.  At the end of 1815, the Hartford Convention met in secret and because of the people viewing this convention as unpatriotic, the Federalist Party was finished.  Before the New Englanders had met, the Federalist Party had already been in decline and the Hartford Convention finally brought the party to its end.  Economic issues, political personalities, and states’ rights debates all helped to create the Democrats and the Whigs.

        The division that allowed two parties to emerge was largely influenced by certain economic arguments that arose between people.  One of the largest issues was the Bank of the United States.  President Andrew Jackson hated the bank and the Democratic followers of Jackson believed the same.  On the other hand, the Whigs favored the National Bank and wanted to establish a way for the Federal Government to store and control currency.  In 1832, Henry Clay tried to recharter the National Bank, but Jackson refused, believing it to be beneficial to a select aristocracy.  Also, the Panic of 1837 brought further division between the Whigs and the Democrats.  The “wildcat” banks that Jackson had established caused land speculation in the West and this caused the government to lose millions once the effect of the speculation hit.  The Whigs had been against the policies that allowed for the land speculation and people began to join the Whigs since they were seen as the party that could fix the economy.  This allowed the Whigs to win the election of 1840.  One other economic issue that arose was the issue of tariffs.  The Whigs thought that higher tariffs would benefit the entire country since they would protect industry and raise revenue, while the Democrats believed that high tariffs would only benefit the aristocracy and not the common man.  Due tariffs such as the Tariff of Abominations, there was a greater division between the Whigs, who were manufacturers and the wealthy, and the Democrats, who were westerners and southern planters.  The difference of opinion of the economy is only one factor that divided people into two parties.

        Political personalities during the 1820s to the 1840s furthered the divide that reestablished the two party system.  During the election of 1824, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and John Quincy Adams were all presidential candidates from the same party.  Once Adams’ presidency comes to a close, the election of 1828 sees the beginnings of two parties with Adams and Clay part of the Nationalist-Republican Party and Jackson as a Democrat.  Clay believed in the American System where the country would face internal improvements that would benefit the country as a whole.  Both Adams and Clay were strong believers in nationalism as well as high tariffs and a strong national bank.  On the other side of the spectrum, Jackson believed that the improvements of the nation cannot just be for one state, but for America as a whole.  Another player was John C. Calhoun.  John C. Calhoun was a Whig who, for a time, was the Vice President to Jackson and he ended up hating Jackson.  Calhoun was a firm southerner from South Carolina and had the opposite political ideology than that of the Whigs and this affected his actions.  For instance, when the Tariff of 1828 was proposed, Calhoun headed a campaign in Congress that would make the tariff so unfavorable that it would not pass; this plan failed.  The southerners freak out and Calhoun calls for nullification and it takes the Compromise Tariff of 1833 for the southern legislators to repeal their nullification.  There is another factor to consider when speaking of the development of the two party system in the 19th century.  

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