Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

By Robert J. Dinkin | Go to book overview

2
The Early National Period

1790-1820

Having expanded during the revolutionary era, electioneering accelerated even further in the early national period. The gradual formation of the first regular political parties--the Federalists and the Republicans--stimulated greater competition for office and resulted in a major rise in campaigning over the next quarter century. Many of the methods and practices used in earlier times were enhanced considerably because of the emerging party struggle. Instead of local groups working individually to get out the vote, statewide organizations began setting up machinery for that purpose. More interstate operations were initiated, as prominent politicians sometimes traveled outside their section to make arrangements. Of course, some statewide and even interstate activity had occurred before this juncture, most notably in the process of ratifying the federal Constitution. As David Hackett Fischer has noted, however, "there is a point at which a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind."1 And the new parties of the Federalist--Jeffersonian years soon reached that stage.

The new federal experiment in government did not begin with organized parties. Indeed, most of America's founders saw political parties as factious and divisive, the bane of republican government. Nevertheless, when in the early 1790s Alexander Hamilton, the secretary of the treasury under President Washington, introduced his controversial finance program--to fund the debt, place an excise tax on whiskey, and establish the Bank of the United States--it led to growing partisanship in Congress and in the public at large. Thomas Jefferson, the secretary of state, and James Madison, a key figure in the House of Representatives, both believed that these and other steps rapidly were bringing into being an all-powerful central government and destroying the balance of forces that the Constitution had envisioned. They

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Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles In Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1- The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods - 1607-1789 1
  • 2- The Early National Period - 1790-1820 11
  • 3- The Jacksonian Period - 1824-52 31
  • 4- The Golden Age of Parties 1854-88 59
  • 5- The Merchandised Style of Campaigning - 1892-1920 95
  • 6- The Merchandised Style--Continued 1920-48 127
  • 7- The Mass Media Age 1952-88 159
  • Notes 199
  • Bibliographical Essay 221
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 233
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