Podcasts | Constitutionally Speaking

Episode 27: The Rise of the Political Parties

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy. (Wikimedia Commons)

In this episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke discuss the rise of the political parties. Though they are not mentioned in the Constitution, parties quickly became an essential part of republican government in the United States. Right from the start, parties served three major purposes: organizing allies in the government, nominating candidates and formulating governing agendas, and informing and mobilizing voters.

The Founders themselves were very skeptical of parties, owing in large measure to the experience of England following the Glorious Revolution, when parties were seen as narrow-minded factions looking to advance their self interests over the good of the nation. Party politics really only got started in the United States because Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and their allies believed that Alexander Hamilton and his friends were a threat to self-government. They felt obliged to sound the alarm to their fellow citizens, and a political party—known at the time as the Republican party (today remembered as the Democratic-Republican party)—was the  way to accomplish that goal.

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