When They Were One Party


Two-hundred and ten years ago as of July, the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr resulted in the death of Hamilton, who had been the nation’s first Treasury Secretary under President George Washington. The Burr-Hamilton pistol duel arose from long-standing political and personal bitterness that had developed between the two men over several years.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia notes: “Tensions reached a boiling point with Hamilton’s journalistic defamation of Burr’s character during the 1804 New York gubernatorial race in which Burr was a candidate. Fought at a time when the practice was being outlawed in the northern United States, the duel had immense political ramifications.”

After the duel, Burr was indicted for murder in New York and New Jersey, although these charges were later either dismissed or resulted in acquittal. However, the harsh criticism directed toward him ended his political career.

Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Federalist Party was already weakened by John Adams’ defeat in the Presidential Election of 1800. That party was further weakened by Hamilton’s death. But, beyond the duel itself, the irony that’s rarely discussed is that duel was a major skirmish between two parties: the Democratic-Republicans—and the Federalists.

It’s especially important to note that the Democrat-Republicans were one party, not two. The Democratic-Republican Party, sometimes called the Jeffersonian Republicans, was organized by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison between 1791 and 1793.

The import of this development cannot be overstated. This juncture was a short chapter in which the US could have been put on a course toward a much more honest money system—with far less military meddling overseas.

The Democratic-Republicans opposed the Federalist Party and controlled the Presidency, Congress and most states, from 1801 to 1825. The Democratic-Republican Party did not split into two parties until after the 1824 presidential election. After that election arose the Democratic Party and the short-lived National Republican Party, which was later succeeded by the Whig Party.  The Republican Party we know today was not born until 1854. Abe Lincoln was its first president.

The Democratic-Republican Party first met in Philadelphia, our national capital at the time, to oppose the programs of none other than Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson needed a nationwide party to challenge the Federalists. Hamilton was a key organizer of the Federalist Party.

Moreover, the Federalist philosophy behind the Federalist Party had already strongly influenced the creation of the US Constitution in a manner that formed a stronger central government than Jefferson and other anti-Federalists had wanted.

The anti-Federalists inserted the Bill of Rights into the Constitution. They wanted a less centralized government and more power for the states—precisely what many of today’s freedom activists still fight for, sometimes involving both the left and the right.

In the mid 1790s, foreign affairs took a lead role as Jefferson’s party vigorously opposed the Jay Treaty with Britain, right when Britain was at war with France. The Democratic-Republicans, rightly or wrongly, saw France as more democratic after its own revolution. Meanwhile, Britain represented the hated monarchy from which our new nation had just separated.

Jefferson’s party also denounced many of Hamilton’s measures, especially the national bank, as unconstitutional. And, as it turned out, Hamilton began a banking movement that created our money as interest-bearing debt and led to the First Bank of the United States, the Second Bank of the United States and, today, the private Federal Reserve System.

So, in a way, the sound of the dueling pistols shot by Burr and Hamilton still echoes across two centuries, providing a history lesson which shows, at one time, that Democrats and Republicans were united in trying to defeat a powerful centralized government ruled by the banking elite — an elite that spawned the corporate culture harnessed by today’s plutocrats to steer our ship of state.

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at truthhound2@ yahoo.com.

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2014


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