Theodore Roosevelt, American Politician: An Assessment

By David H. Burton | Go to book overview

1
Parties

AT the beginning of government under the Constitution, a two-party system existed in fact, despite the failure of that historic document to take it into explicit account. Two-party rule had been essential to the English political experience at least from 1688 with the triumph of Parliament over the monarchy. In the century following, Tories and Whigs battled for control of power in the kingdom, a situation replicated in the British colonies in North America. Whatever the issue and whatever the colony, men involved in political life tended to divide into two camps and in nearly all instances a compromise was reached, or a modus vivendi settled upon. Such arrangements were possible because no issue was so divisive as to deny the fundamental proposition that government rested on the will of the voters speaking through elected representatives. Indeed, continued colonial presence in the empire from 1754 onward was just such a way of living together to the advantage of the mother country and her colonies. When the time came for independence, the movement produced Patriots and Loyalists with little room remaining for a third course of action. In the immediate post-Revolutionary War years politically minded men favored either states rights at the expense of a strong central government or, as the phrase was to have it, "a more perfect union." More formal divisions came about once the Constitution had been put into effect: Federalists (centralists) and Anti-Federalists (decentralists). If political parties as such were not referred to in the Constitution it may be assumed they were accepted as a given because responsible government could not function without them. A loyal opposition was a sine qua non of republican rule. The great fear of the Founding Fathers was the fear of faction that Washington decried and Madison attacked in Number Ten of The Federalist. Mindful of all this Theodore Roosevelt defined the American political party in

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