The Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania, 1790-1801: A Study in National Stimulus and Local Response

By Harry Marlin Tinkcom | Go to book overview

PREVIEW, 1793-1795

Insofar as definite party organization and alignments are concerned, political divisions had not crystallized in Pennsylvania by 1793. However, certain group characteristics were becoming more and more evident. Generally speaking, Pennsylvania inclined toward those individuals who proudly affiliated themselves with the "Federal interest." They supported the Hamiltonian program and the Washington administration, and approved additional Federal acquisitions of power. Many of them feared a possible resurgence of democracy that might oust the rich, well born and educated from the halls of government. Others regretted the enthusiasms of the French Revolution and later sympathized with the British in their war with France. Their ranks were principally composed of the old Anti-Constitutionalists who had risen to control in Pennsylvania at the expense of the waning democrats. Although republican in principle they were, by and large, representative of the State's more conservative element.

Their opponents, on the other hand, the men to be later designated as Republicans, were generally opposed to the above tenets of Federalism. They were to favor the French over the British and deplore the ever-increasing centralizing tendencies of the Federal government. In those tendencies and assumptions of power they saw manifestations of aristocracy that were considered incompatible with free government. They had a real and sincere dread of monarchy and feared its rise in the United States. Made up principally of the former Constitutionalist group and continually strengthened by disaffected Federalists and incoming immigrants, they were eventually to succeed in overthrowing the conservatives before the beginning of the nineteenth century. They were not wild-eyed propertyless radicals who sought to gain power through bloody revolution. They were businessmen, farmers, lawyers and physicians who were not any more averse to seizing the main economic or social chance than their more conservatively inclined brethren. They were, in fact, liberals who were to develop steadily under a gifted leadership that far exceeded that of the conservatives in winning votes. And their victory, when it came, was more negative than positive in that they rose primarily on the mistakes of the Federalists, not on any well integrated and formulated program of their own.

The State was to remain in the hands of the Federalists until 1799. They controlled both houses of legislature, received a majority of

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