Founding the First Parties Institutions and Social Choice

*Thomas Jefferson, then secretary of state, hosted Treasury Sec-retary Alexander Hamilton and Representative James Madison for dinner about 20 June 1790. The second of three sessions of the First Congress was nearing its end. Amid continuing and frequently acrimonious debate, two matters, location of the capital and disposi- tion of Hamilton’s fiscal plan, had reached an impasse that the dinner was intended to resolve. These three agreed on a plan to trade votes in Congress, and by 12 August 1790 the issues were decided on terms close to those forged that night.

There is no denying that these issues were crucial affairs, that the impasse on each was of long standing, or that firm decisions were needed. The symbolic importance of the capital for any new nation is evident, and the economic and political benefits to the chosen loca- tion, whether in the North or the South, would be substantial. Its loca- tion had been disputed for a decade, and it accounted for over one- third of all roll call votes cast in the House in its first session under the new constitution.’ In September the House had reached an agreement to locate the capital in Pennsylvania and moved on to other matters. The Senate could not agree, however, and the House and Senate had to reopen debate. This time the House stalled action. On 10 June its members defeated a measure to consider the location question in committee of the whole, effectively postponing further congressional action until later in the summer.

The second great dispute concerned Hamilton’s plan for the na- tion’s economy, at this time focusing on whether the national govern- ment should assume the debts states had incurred in and after the Revolution.’ Opposition was led in the House by Madison himself. Hamilton’s supporters initially defeated a series of amendments that Madison and his allies introduced to weaken or eliminate assumption,

but slowly Madison’s proposals gathered strength. On 2 June, shortly after three new representatives from North Carolina were seated, Hamilton’s opponents called the question on assumption and defeated it 31-29. The plan was sent to the Senate with assumption stricken. Like the capital location, division on the assumption question was broadly North against South; but the voting groups, and their under- lying motivations, were far more complicated than that.

Economic difficulties that led to the plan had long been important. They were, for example, an important impetus to the call for a conven- tion to amend the Articles of Confederation. Should the new govern- ment fail to solve the very issues that had undermined the old order, that new order would likely fail. Hamilton believed that quick, decisive action by the national government was needed. Substantively, his plan would affect some differently than others, and congressional disagree- ment in part reflected these local interests. Some also believed it was inappropriate for the federal government to take such far-reaching ac- tions and assume what they believed to be the prerogatives of individ- ual states.

Thus by June 1790 even the most optimistic of the framers could no longer hope that the new constitutional design would generate unity over America’s “great experiment” of democracy in an extended republic. Establishing sufficient unity to solve these most difficult problems was the motivation for the dinner of 20 June. And this un- usual step appeared to work.

In fact, of course, the trade that night did not end disagreement between Hamilton, John Adams, and others on the one hand and Jefferson, Madison, and their supporters on the other. Continuing dis- agreement took a turn that in time would culminate in the creation of a new form of organization that would forever alter democracy as these founders saw it. Instead of solving problems by vote trades among opposing leaders or by other forms of piecemeal, issue-by-issue com- promise, these leaders—first Hamilton, then Jefferson and Madison— turned to organizing their supporters. In time these organizations would strengthen and would widen their scope with respect to both members and issues, to become the first political parties of modern democratic form in this or any nation. In 1790 none of the principals either foresaw the invention of parties or had any master partisan de- sign in mind, but the path they set out on culminated in modern politi- cal parties.

I argue that these efforts were driven by the consequences of major- ity instability, that is, by the social choice problem. In one sense the

70 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

instability of temporary majority coalitions revealed itself in the difficulties encountered in resolving these and other pressing problems facing the new nation. The fundamental problem, however, was to establish in practice just how strong and active the new federal govern- ment was to be. Basic differences on this, which I call the “great prin- ciple,” rested on differing views of how to make the new republic most likely to succeed. Failure to establish a clear basis of precedent would leave this great principle unresolved and risk revealing the unworkabil- ity of an extended republic. These failures over immediate policy con- cerns and over establishing the long-run viability of the federal gov- ernment were due, I argue, to the instability of majority rule as demonstrated by Arrow’s theorem and its extension to voting theory (see chap. 2).


The two problems of location of the capital and of fiscal policy were not new to the First Congress (see Aldrich, Jillson, and Wilson 1994; Jilison and Wilson 1994). They had been repeatedly considered throughout the 1780s in the Continental Congresses. The location of the capital had been debated and left unresolved in several of the Continental Congresses, with numerous locations proposed, just as in the First Congress. Funding had, of course, been a considerable con- cern throughout the Revolution and the 1780s. In 1781 Robert Mor- ris, superintendent of finance, had proposed a “Report on the Public Credit” that was very similar to Hamilton’s plan, including calls for assumption of state debt, measures to alleviate the national debt, and formation of a national bank. Delegate Hamilton had been one of Morris’s strongest supporters in the Congress, albeit in a losing effort. Jilison and Wilson (1994) demonstrate that the structure of the con- federal government required near unanimity among the state delega- tions to adopt any motion—an effective unanimity that was impos- sible to achieve. Thus the events that led to the proposed vote trade in the First Congress essentially replayed events that had helped lead to the call for revision of the Articles.

Historians dispute the terms of the vote trade agreement discussed above. In some accounts (e.g., Bowling 197 1) Jefferson and Madison agreed to prevail upon Daniel Carroll and George Gale of Maryland and perhaps Richard Bland Lee and Alexander White of Virginia to pass assumption in the House.’ Switching four votes would be more than sufficient to reverse the 31-29 vote of 2 June. Hamilton agreed,


in this account, to prevail on the Senate for approval of Philadelphia as a temporary capital, with permanent location on the banks of the Potomac, to modify requirements for reporting state debt, and to make various other changes to his plan so that more of the southern states’ debt would quality for assumption. If Hamilton did try to change any votes, they most likely would have been those of Tristram Dalton and Caleb Strong of Massachusetts. If so, he was unsuccessful. Bowling (197 1) argued that it was more likely that Hamilton’s role on the capital question was to ensure that the Massachusetts delegation, while continuing to vote against the agreed-upon plan, would not re- peat its efforts to upset the supporting coalition in the Senate.

Jacob Cooke (1970, 1971) argued that the trade agreement was primarily (perhaps exclusively) about assumption .4 He further argued that the trade was not consummated. Hamilton, he presumed, did not try to change any votes and, had he tried, would have failed for lack of influence. Finally, Cooke believed, the trade was not needed any- way, since agreements and changes struck elsewhere determined the outcome. He did not dispute that a trade was agreed to, or that votes did change so that the outcomes sought at the dinner became law. In between, though, he argued, a complicated set of maneuvers and compacts among small numbers of individuals led to a great many shifts in votes on these two concerns, with just enough changes to pass the capital and assumption bills.

Whether the vote trade was effective or the questions were resolved through many shifts and bargains is immaterial for the argument pre- sented here. It is sufficient that the leaders of the two principal group- ings in government—and perhaps many others as well—believed such unusual steps were needed. Either version, I argue, is just what one would expect to happen in a government without stability-enhancing institutions, facing problems that many or all care deeply about and foundering on the absence of equilibrium. It was because of such events as those described so far that leaders not only sought means to circumvent the effects the social choice problem was having on these and other issues but also sought to solve them so that they could win a more lasting set of outcomes.

The costs owing to instability and associated uncertainty about winning were even greater than the costs that would have been exacted for failure to resolve these particular issues. These costs included un- certainty in the nation about the effectiveness and even the feasibility of the new constitutional order and, more directly, resolution of re- maining ambiguity over the Constitution itself. The question, the

72 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

“great principle,” was exactly how powerful and positive the new fed- eral government was to be or, even more deeply, what sort of nation America was to be. It was on this great principle, I argue, that Jefferson and Madison divided from Hamilton and Adams. On this great prin- ciple, compromise, such as vote trades, was at best a short-term pallia- tive that could not be sustained. And it was on this great principle that these leaders gradually moved toward the formation of the first political parties.

The argument, then, is that what eventually became political par- ties in the modern sense were the solutions to one of the remaining great constitutional questions. Resolution of this great principle could be achieved only by the realization of policy outcomes. How strong, effective, and positive the federal government was to be would be demonstrated only by what the new government actually did. On this principle, every political elite may be assumed to have had prefer- ences. If preferences guided action, then it would be reasonable to expect that actual outcomes revealed which position—a stronger or a more limited national government—had greater support, with the outcome being the equilibrium of the median voter theorem. Votes in Congress did not occur on the great principle alone, however. Rather, each substantive action had its own values, consequences, and inter- ests. As a result, pure majority rule did not just reflect sentiment on the great principle, but disclosed preferences over the great principle and preferences over the substance of the particular outcomes.

In such a setting, we know there should be no equilibrium of prefer- ences alone. In fact there was no equilibrium, and vote trades, poli- ticking, and the like revealed and reflected the instability of simple majority rule. The problem then was how to ensure not just passage of individual bills but achievement of the entire stream of policy—to win on the great principle. Parties, therefore, eventually formed as institutional solutions to the instability of majority rule so that policies chosen or denied would reflect, in the main, just how strong and active the new national government was to be.

By 1790, with passage of the Bill of Rights, the remaining and most pressing unsettled issue about the new order was the great principle. It was unsettled by ratification because even an amended Constitution was necessarily (and likely purposefully) ambiguous over the power to be wielded at the national level. As Anti-Federalist Luther Martin put it during ratification, the new Constitution might be “just so much federal in appearance” as to deceive the unwary but “so predomi- nantly national as to put it in the powers of its movers, whenever the


machine shall be set agoing, to strike out every appearance of being federal, and to render it wholly and entirely a national government” (in Storing 1981, p. 12).

What position the Constitution implied on the great principle di- mension was inherently ambiguous, as Martin foresaw, because it de- pended not just on the written document but on how the new govern- ment would in fact be used, and that further depended in large part on the preferences of its new representatives. A national government filled with Anti-Federalists would use the apparatus of government to do less than would one filled with nationalists. The first few Con- gresses would be critical, for actions taken—or refrained from—in its earliest years would set the clearest precedents for just what power resided in and would be acted upon by the new national government.

The great principle can be conceived as a dimension beginning at one end with the arrangements under the Articles of Confederation. Virtually all agreed that the Continental Congress possessed too little power, and many believed that relatively small adjustments to strengthen national power would be sufficient. Delegates to the Con- stitutional Convention generally agreed that a whole new structure of government was necessary but disagreed over the power it should exercise with Hamilton, at the extreme, desiring great strengthening. Thus preferences defined positions along a dimension that ranged from the Articles at one end to a powerful, unified national govern- ment at the other.’

If preferences were arrayed along a single dimension and if the issue was purely what position on that dimension should be chosen, there would be a well-defined social choice, an equilibrium based on Black’s median voter theorem.’ But the Constitution did not, perhaps could not, precisely define the powers the new government might employ. The ambiguity remaining in the Constitution meant that resolution of the great principle must await actions taken in the first few Con- gresses.

The members elected or appointed to the First Congress were a diverse lot. Although those like Patrick Henry, whose ideal was closest to the Articles, disproportionately chose to remain outside the new government, some opposed to ratification were participants: fourteen of the sixty-five members elected to the first House were Anti- Federalists (those who had opposed ratification) and two were selected to the Senate (see Aldrich and Grant 1993). Their goal on the great principle was to seek outcomes that rendered the new government as limited as possible.

74 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

Largely owing to such Anti-Federalists, a great many proposals were debated on just these grounds. As Aldrich and Grant put it (1993, p. 310), “Even seemingly noncontroversial proposals were greeted by antifederalist objections or treated as constitutional ques- tions, perhaps as a result of excessive fear that dangerous precedents would be established.” Examples included the power of the president to declare a day of thanksgiving at the close of the first session, the authority of Congress to require state officers to swear allegiance to the Constitution, the ability of the House to grant the president the authority to deal with Indians, and the propriety of providing the pres- ident with furniture and china. Every proposal, that is, had the poten- tial of raising the great principle, and many, even innocuous ones, were considered on those grounds.

Most in the new Congress approved of ratification (at least if amended). To that extent the scope of disagreement was thereby re- duced but far from eliminated. With the new machine in motion, every action, whether successful or defeated, defined a specific in- stance of just what powers the government held and would use. Where ardent Anti-Federalists might see power lurking behind the decision to buy George Washington a desk, Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians might not. But when it came to Hamilton’s ambitious fiscal policy, Jeffersonians might well disagree.

But proposals were not simply precedents revealing the scope and power of the government. They were also substantive legislative pro- posals in their own right, with their own intrinsic merits and demerits, and they affected the values and the interests of the members, and those they represented, in different ways. Representatives and sena- tors, therefore, necessarily judged such proposals in part on their own merits and in light of their own values and interests. The more conse- quential the matter, the more it needed to be judged on its own grounds rather than purely and simply on implications for the great principle. Proposals were multidimensional. Indeed, because they were seen to have implications for the great principle, and to set prece- dents on it, proposals were necessarily multidimensional, combining the great principle with whatever dimensions of values and interests they intrinsically concerned. Perhaps, indeed, a day of thanksgiving or furniture for the president could be decided on great principle grounds alone, precisely because of their low intrinsic content. But the location of the capital, disposition of Hamilton’s plan, and other weighty issues could not be decided solely on those grounds .7

These issues were decided by majority voting in the House and


Senate. If important issues were necessarily multidimensional, setting important precedents on the great principle and valuable on their own terms, then the voting equilibrium due to unidimensionality disap- pears and impossibility results, agenda control, coalitional manipula- tion, and “chaos” theorems become relevant. This, I argue, is pre- cisely what happened, especially in the First and Second Congresses.

One way to see this instability is to consider the findings of scholars who have analyzed roll call votes in the first Congresses. Any review reveals a very muddled literature, especially with respect to the first two Congresses. Grant (1977), reviewing work through the mid- 1970s, found two major classes of interpretations.” Some discovered voting blocs. Ryan (1971), for example, saw two blocs based on sec- tionalism, and Bowling (1968) also found two, but these appeared to him to be pro- and antiadministration (with antifederalists being the core of the latter in the first sessions, to be joined by some southerners later). Henderson (1974), conversely, discovered three sectional blocs: northern, southern, and middle states. Others such as Libby (1912) and Bell (1973) could observe only “different factional groupings formed around each issue.” (Grant 1977, p. 37). Bell, for example, found clear factions on the votes concerning the Bill of Rights and the removal power issue. Votes on the capital, however, were largely not structured at all, whereas such issues as creation of a national bank led to sectional divisions. He uncovered four blocs on funding and assumption votes, with nearly every state delegation being divided on these issues regardless of state interests. As Grant noted (1977, p. 39), “Those representatives who voted against their state interests did so in a manner reflecting the federalist and antifederalist sentiments be- hind the factions on strong government issues.” She further said: “These loosely defined groups are not to be confused with Congres- sional parties. Federalists and Republican legislative parties based ei- ther on the federal/anti-federal division [i.e., pro- and antiratification] or on divisions over Hamilton’s program did not appear in the First Congress. Rather there seems to have been a small hard core ‘national- ist’ group and a similar opposing group. But, the factions on each major issue can only be explained by a combination of ideological and sectional concerns” (p. 40). More recently Hoadley (1980, 1986) found that the first two Congresses were highly factionalized, and his graphs indeed illustrate widely dispersed scatters (see, for example, 1986, Figs. 19, 20, and 26 for the first two Congresses). By the Third Congress, factionalism gave way to increasing polarization and to party politics. The dispersed scatter of congressmen and senators of

76 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

the first two Congresses becomes, even in the Third Congress, a much tighter clustering into two clear and quite separate blocs (see especially fig. 28, the Senate, and fig. 27, the House), and those two blocs are not just polarized but also very strongly related to partisan affiliations.

Illustrative, finally, was the fate of particular pieces of legislation. Consider, for example, the House votes on assumption. Assumption failed in the House on 12 April 1790 by an unrecorded vote of 29-31, and it passed on 26 July by a (recorded) vote of 34-28, although the critical vote was an unrecorded one in Committee of the Whole on 24 July by a 32-29 tally. Bowling’s reconstruction of these votes (1971) showed that only four states (Massachusetts and Connecticut in the affirmative and Maryland and Georgia in the negative) voted as a uni- fied delegation on 12 April. All others (except, of course, Delaware with its one representative) were divided on this particular vote. He then records fourteen changes in the vote count, including at least nine congressmen who actually changed sides on the issue by 24 July, and two more changes, one of them a vote switch, by 26 July. He re- corded this set of changes in his defense of the simpler vote trade by Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison. It was Cooke (1970) who, in re- butting Bowling’s claims, saw the politicking, maneuvering, and changing as even more complicated.

Thus majority voting was highly unstable, shifting, and chaotic— just what would be expected in multidimensional choices that lack preference-based equilibrium. As Grant stated, “the factions on each major issue can only be explained on by a combination of ideological and sectional concerns” (1977, p. 40). This was so in the First and Second Congresses, especially on the major issues of the First Con- gress: location of the capital and Hamilton’s plan.

Although both issues were successfully resolved by the end of the second session of the First Congress (12 August 1790), their resolu- tions were achieved only through compromise, if not actual vote trades. Any compromise or trade means that each side paid some price, because neither got its most preferred outcome. Transaction costs in salvaging half loaves case by case are high. Moreover, political maneuvering was at best a necessary but unpalatable means, and espe- cially at that time such politicking was generally understood to be in- imical to social and political consensus. The very notion of politicking and stratagem (which founders disparaged as “cabal and intrigue”) risked—and in fact engendered—outrage on the floor of Congress and in the nation.

Great costs were also exacted on the great principle. The most im-


portant and contentious issues were being resolved by provisional, issue-specific compromises. Such resolutions left uncertainty about what would happen in the future, and policy was evolving with no guarantee of long-term consistency or clarity of principle. The results were the absence of a clear signal to the nation about how strong and active the new government was and would be, and their precedent- setting value was necessarily undercut. Although decision by strata- gem was costly on principle and inherently unpalatable to all, the costs likely were highest to Hamilton. He could count a majority in both chambers who supported his plan and, presumably, his vision of the proper role of the national government, but Madison’s strategizing had divided his majority and nearly cost his plan assumption.9 Indeed, Madison’s temporary success in blocking assumption was accom- plished by creating a coalition of minorities, just as Downs (1957) described, and doing so required both multidimensional choices and lack of a voting (or preference-induced) equilibrium. All, therefore, saw the need for a new basis for structuring decision making in the government, and Hamilton, whose goals were closest to realization and therefore most at risk, had the most to gain by taking new initia- tives.


By the Second Congress (1791-93), most officeholders could be iden- tified as Federalists or (Jeffersonian) Republicans (see Martis 1989). 10

By the Third Congress, voting patterns can be identified as polarized, broadly along party lines (as in Hoadley 1980, 1986). The presidential elections of 1796, following the announcement of Washington’s retire- ment, were organized by the two parties, and by 1800 elections were publicly and undeniably partisan. Although no precise date can be given for the formation of these gradually strengthening political par- ties, they clearly emerged early in the new order, impelled by the at- tempts of Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians to win a consistent pattern of victories on policy—in reaction to the instability apparent in the First Congress—and to establish undeniable precedents on the great principle. These efforts are consistent with one solution to this prob- lem of disequilibrium, examined in chapter 2, by establishing institu- tional constraints or incentives for themselves so that they would more often find it in their interest to vote according to the great principle rather than on other grounds. That is, institutional arrangements could induce equilibrium where preferences alone would not. These

78 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

arrangements were designed to create a “long” coalition, as Schwartz (1989) defined a party, and they were needed, in the face of disequilib- rium, because there was stiff competition seriously affecting the chances of the Hamiltonian majority-in-preference to win.

The presence of incentives does not by itself guarantee that the in- centives will be acted on. Those who desire to organize majorities nec- essarily face a collective action problem. Hamiltonians might have known they shared interests collectively. They may have understood that, as a majority, they stood to benefit the most from organizing, and they surely recognized they had the most to lose by failing to organize. Madison’s minority had exploited the instability of preference-based majorities to wrest victory temporarily from them on debt assump- tion. Such knowledge does not guarantee that they had incentives, individually, to expend the time, effort, and resources needed to trans- late that collective interest into an organization. ‘ Frolich and Oppen- heimer (1970) proposed that a political entrepreneur might be willing to exert the effort to create and maintain an organization in exchange for the leadership values he would accrue. According to Alvarez (1989b), Hamilton was that figure. Chambers (1963) writes of Ham- ilton:

Throughout the long shaping of the Federalist formulation, Hamilton played a curious though commanded role. In effect, he had initiated the whole effort with his vision and advocacy, and throughout its early years he stood forth as the party’s unquestioned spokesman and leader. His proposals, as he saw them, were to point the new nation in the “right” direction, place its new government on firm foundations, mobi- lize support for his management in that government, and thwart such political foes as might appear.

On 1 September 1789 Congress resolved that the secretary of the treasury should prepare a plan on the public debt, which Hamilton submitted in January 1790. Thus, at least in part, leadership was thrust on him, but it also provided him with a key resource. He could, and aggressively did, seize the initiative to define the agenda, enabling him “to frame the policy responses to the economic crises” (Alvarez 1989b, p. 27). Second, whereas formal caucusing risked revelation of “cabal and intrigue,” informal caucusing was common from the out- set. Hoadley (1986, p. 53) points to caucuses in this period as showing “the need for the party to provide a degree of coordination in its legis- lative strategy.” Although not yet constituting a party, they at least partially achieved coordination of strategy. In the House, for example,


Fisher Ames and Theodore Sedgwick of Massachusetts and Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut served as Hamilton’s lieutenants on the chamber floor, exercising some control over what proposals were made and how they were voted on by coordinating Hamilton’s supporters in the House. Hamilton, though strengthened by his office and his in- fluence with the president, was prohibited from the chamber floor, but he sat in the gallery throughout the debate over his plan, often confer- ring with his supporters. In short, the first signs of a party-in– government appeared as early as the First Congress.

The effects of this tentative organizing became clearer in the third session, after the vote trade agreement. Hamilton was instructed by Congress to prepare a second report for the third session of the First Congress. He used the opportunity to propose a system of taxation, a mint, and a national bank in December 1790 and January 1791. The proposed mint passed easily. A solid southern bloc led opposition to the plan for taxation, pushing to keep taxes as low as possible. Madi- son, however, supported this part of Hamilton’s plan, and it passed (albeit in the Second, not First, Congress) with only slight modifica- tions.

The bank bill raised more substantial opposition in the Senate and later, when opponents’ numbers proved too small there (it was passed largely unchanged in late January 1791), in the House. House mem- bers objected to locating the main branch in Philadelphia, the tempo- rary capital. Southerners, who all along had feared acquiescing even to temporary location of the capital in the North, saw locating the central bank there as a threat to building a permanent capital on the Potomac. There was also substantial opposition “to the general prin- ciple of Congress creating a separate institution” (Alvarez 1989b, p. 23). Madison led this opposition, arguing that Congress lacked the power to charter a corporation, even though this has been seen by some as contradicting the implied powers clause of the Constitution Madison himself defended in Federalist 44. As before, Ames and Sedg- wick defended Hamilton’s plan against Madisonians. The bank bill passed 30-20, reflecting the Hamiltonians’ majority-in-preference in the House and their ability to hold their supporters in line, with all but one nay coming from southern representatives.

Washington was concerned that Madison’s questioning of the con- stitutionality of the bank required legal rather than merely political defense. Attorney General Edmund Randolph (Virginia), joined by Jefferson, agreed with Madison’s analysis. Hamilton wrote the oppos- ing brief, arguing (as he had in Federalist 23) that if the end was consti-

80 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

tutional, if the measure was relevant to that end, and if the proposed means were not directly prohibited by the Constitution, then the means were constitutional Washington was persuaded by Hamilton’s brief (which may be seen as a paraphrase of Madison’s arguments in Federalist 44) and signed the measure into law. It thus appears that, over the course of the first two Congresses, Hamilton was a sufficiently active entrepreneur to shape his majorities-in-preference into actual voting majorities and, by this time, to have established an emerging pattern of victories on substance and therefore on the great principle. This rudimentary organization had become something closer to a party-in-the-government.

At the end of the Second Congress, therefore, “Madison and Jefferson decided they must organize an opposition” (Fribourg 1872, p. 76). Jeffersonians had, like Hamiltonians, sought to coordinate their legislative plans, control the agenda, and seek votes and victories on the floor.12 Hamilton and his closest allies simply held most of the votes most of the time.

Madison and Jefferson had lost in Congress. They had won perma- nent victory only on the capital and temporary victory on assumption. Hamilton’s plan eventually was carried, however, with only a few weakening amendments. By this time, that is, a clearer pattern of pre- cedents were being set, and Jeffersonians realized that strategizing to upset majority coalitions in Congress was too frail a reed to support their central hopes of a more limited government than Hamiltonians desired and could with effort achieve. Although a disorganized major- ity could be split and thereby defeated, a more organized majority could be divided less often. There is an alternative in a republic, how- ever, and that is to seek to capture a majority in Congress by popular election.

Fribourg, at least, actually saw a formal plan for creating an opposi- tion political party (1872, p. 76). She argued that Jefferson and Madi- son intended to “blend” landed gentry from the South with dissatis- fied groups in the large northern cities into a “new force.” To do this Jefferson secured a part-time job in the government for Madison’s col- lege friend Philip Freneau. This kept at hand the editor of the National Gazette, which served as the Republican’s first and most important partisan newspaper. Before the Third Congress, Madison and Jeffer- son vacationed in New York, where they allegedly met with Aaron Burr and George Clinton, who opposed Hamilton. It is disputed whether these Virginians and New Yorkers forged their intersectional alliance there, but it was done in time for elections to the Third Con- gress. Hofstadter (1969) observes that “committees of correspon-


dence” first appeared in that election. Such committees were the clos- est thing to electoral organizations of that era, and they were disproportionately Republican.13 Jeffersonians’ efforts led to their winning a majority of House seats in the Third Congress (57-48) but not dominating the Senate and resulted in the more fully polarized parties of the Third Congress.

By about the Third or Fourth Congress, then, political parties had come into existence. Shifting factions became settled. Hamiltonians had established a clear pattern of victories on the floor on the most important matters. These victories, moreover, were clearly more in the direction of the Hamiltonians’ preferences than the earlier compro- mises the full chamber yielded. Jefferson and Madison reached out beyond their section and beyond their closest set of acquaintances. They had, at least by Fribourg’s account, a plan for an intersectional alliance, and they united the two largest states. They had a partisan press and rudimentary campaign organizations. Opposition to Hamil- tonians spread in numbers and gradually new issues were also in- cluded.

Foreign policy questions began to separate Jeffersonians from Hamiltonians, especially over whether the United States should be more closely allied with Britain or France. Some mark the true emer- gence of a partisan spirit with these concerns, especially the Jay Treaty (1795) and later the XYZ Affair and the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798). In the Third Congress, the House used its role as the body most closely tied to the public to express public displeasure with the Jay Treaty that had been passed in secret in the Senate and to attempt to halt its implementation. In this Third Congress, the House also voted on actions to be taken against British seizure of merchant ships and over payment of debt to France.

The connection between the great principle and foreign affairs is not as immediately obvious, since no one disagreed that these were national affairs, appropriately acted on by the central government in general and by the president and Senate in particular. 14 That it directly raised the principle at all was more symbolic, with Federalists prefer- ring to align with the British government and act in the Senate and executive branch (which they held), whereas Republicans preferred to align with France (and act in the House, where they were strongest and actually held a majority in this Third Congress). It is, in fact, more a measure of the growing importance of partisan spirit and organiza- tion that all consequential matters were becoming polarized around the emerging political parties.

Organizing continued for some time, and there is dispute about just

82 Party Formation in America, 1790-1860

when these efforts were sufficient to call them political parties. The will refer to them important point is that—even if tentatively—by the Third Congress Republican partie officeholders were divided into two recognizable, broad, intersectional The final data alliances, and the range of partisan interests extended to virtually all erences of membe consequential matters under consideration. Basic electoral institu- lematic even in the tions and partisan presses appeared. The totality of these partisan or- for example), estii ganizations was sufficient to create the incentives to keep partisans Congresses, and voting more or less directly along party lines. By the time Hamilto- have therefore cho nians could be called Federalists and Jeffersonians could be called Poole and Rosent Republicans, both had achieved enough organization to coordinate the ideal point loc presidential elections, extend their concern over issues, and capture on the totality of 1 the affiliation of essentially all national politicians on one side or the grateful to Keith F other and the affiliations of many outside the national government. In mates for three d: short, many of the elements we identify with political parties today mated dimensions had appeared, if tenuously, by the Third Congress. be to demonstrate

cipal components strongest single di


In this section, I compare roll call voting the House on selected key using votes to infer issues. 15 The basic hypothesis is that votes on key issues important in I by analyzing the n the development of the first parties should be different in the largely to a small set of vot preparty First Congress than in even the Third Congress, after the of choice that assu outlines of the two parties had emerged. In that sense this is a conser- I mensions recovere vative test, because the parties, though visible in the Third Congress, tested. These are, became much more visible soon thereafter. Thus, if there are differ- preferences includ ences between these two Congresses consistent with the theory, they or otherwise affecti should be expected to be even stronger if the First Congress is corn- of any added impa pared with later ones. The purpose of

other bases of pref Data interests, or whate Systematic data about this period are limited. Recorded roll call votes outcomes. If there’ are, of course, available. 16 Assignment of partisan affiliation continues I would have conceri to be a contended issue today, even for members elected well into the this plan were reco nineteenth century, let alone in the preparty period when they, of two concerns of H course, did not even have parties to affiliate with. Fortunately, Martis in the Third Cong (1989) has recently reexamined the various measures of partisanship foreign policy and compiled over the years and produced the best measure of affiliation dressing remaining available. “Partisan affiliation” in the First Congress is conventionally tailed in the appen referred to as “pro- and antiadministration,” that is, supporters and There are, of coi opponents of Washington’s administration (and thus of Hamilton). I ual votes, and som

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