Partisanship, now and the 1790’s


North vs. South, State rights vs. Federal government. The Election of 1796.

Reading about the campaigns of 1796 when John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson, there’s really nothing new or original about the media smears and partisanships of today. People tend to believe strongly in different things and often feel the others are dangerously mistaken, at times traitors and liers, sometimes out to destroy the Republic as foreign spies or collaborators.

The issues at that time was the size of the federal government, foreign policy and individual liberty. Some thought a strong DC (or Philly at the time) was necessary to prevent the chaos and slaughter of the French Revolution – others saw that as return to tyranny and undermining the spirit of the Declaration of Independence for the State’s rights.


the kind of bought and manipulated government we see today is something quite different. Both Jefferson and Adams would’ve joined forces and strongly resented that kind of private wealth influence in the governing of the country.


7 thoughts on “Partisanship, now and the 1790’s

    • I think so too. Hamilton would probably be pushing for more pre-emptive wars and more police state measures were he to work in Congress today. As for Adams I don’t quite get him. Mostly he seems just quarreling and stuck to some arbitrary principles – without seeing the bigger picture or having a willingness to accept the nature of politics.

      One could even wonder if his place in history is largely by coincidence – he seems to have little sense of timing in regards to the Revolution. And I think Franklin had some cover for his “Adams is at times completely out of his senses”.

      It also seems that Abigail was the real politician in the house, gently steering his stiff logic into the tracks she thought was necessary..

  1. Some things never change, do they mac? It seems that deep disagreements about the nature of government is eternal.

    Today is different – we’ve gone from being philosopical political adversaries to cultural tribalism. And that is dangerous. It’s not impossible that we could have Jeffersnon’s revolution in our future.

    • Very true.

      As long as we have large groups of different people, there will be lots of politics..
      And most people also just play their part I think. Reshuffle the wealth and positions, and many would be singing a very different tune.

      And we’ll see. But I’m optimistic 🙂

  2. I remember hearing somewhere that America’s politics was always very contentious in tone, with a short reprieve during the 40s and 50s when things were very polite. Don’t know how true that is. It’s comforting to know, anyway, that the “unprecedented” political divisions the pundits are decrying are actually nothing new…

    • Yep. I thought some of the same – that it was not all jolly in-it-together back in the early days. Politics is in large part timeless and dirty by nature..

      At the same time – there has been some pretty big improvements in the 20th century I think (lets say 1900-1980), with a more equal society on some important economic and social issues.

      And not to downplay today – but the Gilded Age still seems worse than what we have now.

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