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Prologue to Democracy

Prologue to Democracy: The Federalists in the South 1789--1800

Lisle A. Rose
Copyright Date: 1968
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Prologue to Democracy
    Book Description:

    This study of the Southern Federalists examines their contribution to the formation of the party system at the end of the eighteenth century and to the liberalization of politics in America.

    Despite their belief in rule by the elite and their reluctance to develop an organized party system, the Southern Federalists are shown by Lisle A. Rose to have elicited political participation along broad geographic and social lines through local party efforts, newspaper campaigns, and mass meetings.

    Forced into distinct ideological and organizational identities, the Southern Federalists as much as their Republican opponents had a significant share in shaping American political life in the last years of the eighteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6427-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    In the past fifty years historians have recognized increasingly that the formation of the first American party system at the close of the eighteenth century represented a major landmark in the expansion of political democracy in the United States.¹ Growing conflict between Federalists and Republicans for control of the national government precipitated intense partisan efforts to gain the active support and enduring loyalty of the electorate. From these early struggles modern party organizations and effective techniques of mass appeal slowly evolved. Such developments stimulated popular interest in government affairs and led to the political awakening of an appreciable portion of...

  5. I. The Founding of a Political Interest, 1789-1793
    (pp. 1-47)

    Those who ascended to national power in 1789 had no thought of creating a national party system. A few of them, however, had definite ideas about the value, place, and purpose of certain kinds of partisan interest groups within a republic. The “long shaping of the Federalist formation”¹ may be traced to the musings of Alexander Hamilton nearly a decade before the inception of national government. In 1782 the young New Yorker already was arguing the necessity of surrounding any future central government worthy of the name with rings of loyal factions in the countryside. “The reason of allowing Congress...

  6. II. The Friends of Government, 1789-1794
    (pp. 48-84)

    Southern supporters of the national administration during the early 1790’s shared one trait: they had spent their adult lives in positions of public trust and authority. Planters, lawyers, merchants, and, in South Carolina, financiers formed the comparatively small cliques that year after year dominated public life in southern states. In an agricultural society overwhelmingly oriented toward subsistence farming, where transportation was wretched and communication slow and fitful,¹ political activity inevitably was centered in the few towns, and cities—and in the adjacent plantation regions of eastern Virginia and coastal South Carolina—where trade and social life were concentrated. Beyond these...

  7. III. Crises and Collapse, 1795-1796
    (pp. 85-138)

    In the years 1795 and 1796 southern Federalists faced their first set of profound challenges, and they failed to resolve or to overcome any of them. The attempted purchase of the Yazoo lands in Georgia permanently linked the Federalist interest in that state with wholesale political corruption. The mass reaction against Jay’s Treaty, which swept the South, carried with it Federalists as well as Republicans, especially in South Carolina, and divided the friends of government from their northern colleagues and from each other, gravely weakening their influence and effectiveness for many months. Soon after that crisis came the election of...

  8. IV. Reconstruction, 1797
    (pp. 139-166)

    In the years after the election of 1796, Federalist leaders in the South began to rally their forces and move toward true party organization while making active efforts to enlist popular support. Their partisan politicking proved so successful that by the midterm Congressional elections of 1798 they had achieved nearly a parity of power and influence with their Republican opponents in many sections of the South. This sudden burst of political energy cannot be attributed to any discernible change in the temperament or the values of leading Federalist spokesmen in the South, but to two profoundly important developments during the...

  9. V. At the Flood, 1798
    (pp. 167-204)

    In 1798 Federalism reached the apex of its influence in the southern states. State organizations were somewhat expanded in size, a large influx of more or less active followers entering Federalist ranks on county and local levels as a result of popular agitation over the XYZ crisis. Moreover, relations with the electorate were maintained on a broader, more direct and intense basis. And southern Federalists at Philadelphia participated fully and effectively in the party’s struggle for national supremacy over the Jeffersonian Republicans. Of greatest importance and significance, however, was the emergence of a distinct and unmistakably favorable Federalist image in...

  10. VI. Defense and Diversion, 1799
    (pp. 205-231)

    From the close of 1798 until the end of 1799 a perceptible decline in Federalist activity was discernible at the state and local levels throughout much of the South. In Virginia, Federalists did register some gains both in popular strength and in modest expansion of organization and activity during the period. Federalists throughout the South now were willing to bow to the demands of party regularity as they energetically, if not always brilliantly, defended the controversial legislative programs passed by their congressmen the previous summer. There are strong indications, moreover, that the friends of government in the South did not...

  11. VII. ‘The Violent Spirit of Party’: The Election of 1800
    (pp. 232-282)

    The election year opened with a series of somber developments for the Federalist party. First was the reemergence of sectional conflict within Federalist ranks in December, 1799, over the election of a Speaker of the House of Representatives, which the party then controlled by a fairly comfortable margin. The open rivalry between Theodore Sedgewick and John Rutledge, Jr., was also in part an implicit indication of the emerging struggle between the high Federalists and the President for dominance within the party. Sedgewick was wholly subservient to Hamilton; Rutledge had proven skillful in evading classification. While he clearly had been unhappy...

  12. VIII. Southern Federalists and the Party System, 1789-1800
    (pp. 283-292)

    The establishment of the first American party system was accomplished substantially by the close of the elections of 1800. The development of this novel system, which in terms of practical politics represented the United States’ greatest contribution to the eighteenth-century western world, was the work of many men of both political parties in every section of the country. Between 1789 and 1800 no single interest or party, no individual or group of individuals could hold a monopoly upon political innovation. The changes which led to the emergence of a national party system, a more open political climate and electoral process,...

  13. Appendix. Federalist Voting Strength in Three Southern States, 1795–1800
    (pp. 293-303)
  14. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 304-308)
  15. Index
    (pp. 309-326)