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

By Harry Marlin Tinkcom | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
ELECTIONS, ISSUES AND LABELS

GROUP IDENTIFICATIONS IN THE ELECTION OF 1797

ALTHOUGH a majority of the legislators sent to the Pennsylvania Assembly during the elections of 1797-1798 were Federalists, there were increasing signs of growth in Republican strength and party consciousness. For instance, in assessing the assembly election of 1797, Benjamin Bache for the first time referred specifically to successful Republican or Democratic-Republican candidates. There is doubt, of course, as to whether the men so identified thought of themselves as candidates of the Republican party, but a significant step was taken toward party recognition when Bache felt confident enough of the existence of party cohesiveness to identify men whom he considered to be within its web. This editorial attempt at party classification strongly indicates that in Bache's mind at least the word "republican" was no longer solely an ideological descriptive, but was applicable to one who was ready to take open and avowed group action under a Republican banner. It had become more than a distinguishing title; it indicated that one who held definite Republican opinions in common with his associates would give open and concrete expression to them. In short, if a man were elected as a Republican -- at least one so identified by Bache -- he was expected to vote as a Republican in the legislature. As a case in point, Bache requested all the successful candidates for the House of Representatives to be present at the first sessions when a Speaker was chosen. That office was an important and powerful one, and the Republicans, he urged, should nominate a man for the position "when they can do it with every prospect of success."1

When the election returns came in during the months of October and November, 1797, Bache's mood was definitely jubilant as he pointed out the successful Republicans. Montgomery County had returned three of four, including Peter Muhlenberg, who was "a firm republican." Bache was not certain but he had "good reason to believe that" the two others "were worthy to be his colleagues."2 In Northampton County there was a "great change." Three of four new members were "staunch republicans."3Samuel Maclay and Jacob Snyder, of Northumberland County, were "both democratic republicans."4 There was

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