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Map of Massachusetts

With independence from Great Britain in 1776, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was governed by the same bicameral legislature that existed during the colonial period. It was not until 1780 that John Adams, armed with a statewide mandate for a constitutional convention, set about drafting a formal state constitution. What Adams forged proved so successful that it later became a template for the Constitution of United States. What made the 1780 Massachusetts constitution so influential was how it seemingly balanced the populist ideals promised to the citizenry by the Revolution with the fundamentally conservative expectations of the existing Massachusetts elite. In terms of structure, it established an elective chief magistrate (the governor), a bicameral legislature (the General Court made up of a House and a Senate), and an independent judiciary (an appointed state court system). Also, Adams included a declaration of rights to ensure civil liberties (as well as his brainchild's ratification). Although ratified by town meetings throughout the commonwealth, the document was fundamentally conservative in that it secured the ruling elite's control over the state by giving disproportionate power to the wealthy coastal counties of Suffolk and Essex. Not surprisingly, the 1780 constitution became the darling of the Federalist Party establishment that fought to resist constitutional reform. In opposition, the Democratic-Republicans chafed at the propertied basis for representation in the Senate, which gave an eastern county like Suffolk six senators to Berkshire's two, despite the fact that Berkshire had a larger population. Also, the Democratic-Republicans, whose popular base was in the western part of the state and tended to be of modest means, despised the pecuniary qualifications for the franchise, as well as the nonelected judiciary, claiming both were profoundly undemocratic.

In 1820 the opponents to the 1780 constitution had their chance when the Maine district of Massachusetts was broken off and given statehood. As a result of such radical change, the General Court called for a constitutional convention to revisit the constitution of 1780. Despite optimistic expectations for major constitutional reform, an assortment of conservatives, led by a highly sophisticated Federalist Party machine, outwitted the forces of reform at the convention, and little significant change was effected. Power remained centralized in the east, with Boston serving as its epicenter. Although the state constitutional convention proved a great victory for the Federalist establishment, in the early 1820s the party faced an angry populist insurgency fed up with the dictatorial leadership style of the Federalists. In Boston a third party, the Middling Interest, emerged that rejected the deferential nature of past politics and took up an activist stand for reform. In the mayoral election of 1822, the insurgency forced Federalist Party boss Harrison Gray Otis to bow out of the race and elected a Middling Interest candidate, thus marking the demise of the Federalist Party in Massachusetts. Although it still existed in name for a few more years, the party never regained its once dominant position in Massachusetts political life, thus signaling the advent of the Jacksonian Age and the Second Party System.

<h3>Bibliography </h3> <ul> <li>Banner, James M., Jr. <title>To the Hartford Convention: The Federalist and the Origins of Politics in Massachusetts. New York: Knopf, 1970.
  • Brooke, John L. The Heart of the Commonwealth: Society and Political Culture in Worchester County, Massachusetts, 1713–1861 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Brown, Richard D. and Jack Tager. Massachusetts: A Concise History. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.
  • Cayton, Andrew R. L. "The Fragmentation of 'A Great Family': The Panic of 1819 and the Rise of the Middling Interest in Boston, 1818–1822," Journal of the Early Republic, 2 (Summer 1982), 143–167.
  • Clark, Christopher. The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780–1860 Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.
  • Crocker, Matthew H. The Magic of the Many: Josiah Quincy and the Rise of Mass Politics in Boston, 1800–1830. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.
  • Crocker, Matthew H. "'The Siege of Boston is once more raised'": Municipal Politics and the Collapse of Federalism, 1821–1823," in Massachusetts Politics: Selected Essays, ed. Jack Tager, Martin Kaufman, and Michael F. Konig. Westfield, MA: Institute for Massachusetts Studies Press, 1998, pp. 52–71.
  • Dalzell, Robert F., Jr. Enterprising Elite, The Boston Associates and the World They Made. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.
  • Fisher, David Hackett. The Revolution of American Conservatism: The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965.
  • Formisano, Ronald P. The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1790s–1840s New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • Handlin, Oscar and Mary Flug Handlin. Commonwealth: Study of the Role of Government in the American Economy, 1774–1861, rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969.
  • Hartford, William F. Money, Morals, and Politics: Massachusetts in the Age of the Boston Associates. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2001.
  • McCaughey, Robert A. Josiah Quincy, 1772–1864: The Last Federalist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harrison Gray Otis, 1765–1848: The Urbane Federalist. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783–1860. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
  • Peterson, Merrill D., ed. Democracy, Liberty, and Property: The State Constitutional Conventions of the 1820's. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966.
  • Sheidley, Harlow W. Sectional Nationalism: Massachusetts Conservative Leaders and the Transformation of America, 1815–1836. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.
  • Smith, Page. John Adams: 1784–1826, Vol. II. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.
  • Story, Ronald. Harvard and the Boston Upper Class: The Forging of an Aristocracy, 1800–1870 Middletown, CN: Wesleyan University Press, 1980.
  • Wilkie, Richard W. and Jack Tager, eds. Historical Atlas of Massachusetts. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.

  • Federalist

    The Federalist Party

    The Federalist Party was dominated by a man who never actually ran for public office in the United States - Alexander Hamilton. "Alexander Hamilton was, writes Marcus Cunliffe, 'the executive head with the most urgent program to implement, with the sharpest ideas of what he meant to do and with the boldest desire to shape the national government accordingly.' In less than two years he presented three reports, defining a federal economic program which forced a major debate not only on the details of the program but on the purpose for which the union has been formed. Hamilton's own sense of purpose was clear; he would count the revolution for independence a success only if it were followed by the creation of a prosperous commerical nation, comparable, perhaps even competitive, in power and in energy, with its European counterparts." (fn: Marcus Cunliffe, The Nation Takes Shape, 1789-1837, (Chicago, 1959), 23.) (Linda K. Kerber, History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher. p. 11)

    "Federalists created their political program out of a political vision. They had shared in the revolutionaries' dream of a Republic of Virtue, and they emerged from a successful war against empire to search for guarantees that the republican experiment would not collapse." (Kerber, p. 3)

    "The Federalist political demand was for a competent government, one responsible for the destiny of the nation and with the power to direct what that destiny would be. What was missing in postwar America, they repeatedly complained in a large variety of contexts, was order, predictability, stability. A competent government would guarantee the prosperity and external security of the nation; a government of countervailing balances was less likely to be threatened by temporary lapses in civic virtue, while remaining strictly accountable to the public will." (Kerber, p. 4)

    "So long as Federalists controlled and staffed the agencies of the national government, the need to formulate alternate mechanisms for party decision making was veiled; with a Federalist in the White House, Federalists in the Cabinet, and Federalist majorities in Congress, the very institutional agencies of the government would themselves be the mechanism of party. Federal patronage could be used to bind party workers to the Federalist 'interest.' 'The reason of allowing Congress to appoint its own officers of the Customs, collectors of the taxes and military officers of every rank,' Hamilton said, 'is to create in the interior of each State, a mass of influence in favor of the Federal Government.' (fn: Alexander Hamilton, 1782, quoted in Lisle A. Rose, Prologue to Democracy: The Federalists in the South, 1789-1800, (Lexington, Kentucky, 1968), 3.) Federalists though of themselves as a government, not as a party; their history in the 1790's would be the history of alignments within the government, rather than of extrernal alignments which sought to influence the machinery of government." (Kerber, p. 10)

    "Major national issues invigorated the process of party formation; as state groups came, slowly and hesitantly, to resemble each other. The issues on which pro-administration and anti-administration positions might be assumed increased in number and in obvious significance; the polarity of the parties became clearer." (Kerber, p. 11)

    "As Adams' presidential decisions sequentially created a definition of the administration's goals as clear as Hamilton's funding program had once done, the range of political ideology which called itself Federalist simply became too broad to the party successfully to cast over it a unifying umbrella. Federalists were unified in their response to the XYZ Affair, and in their support of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which passed as party measures in the Fifth Congress, but in little else. The distance between Adams and Hamilton - in political philosophy, in willingness to contemplate war with France, in willingness to manipulate public opinion - was unbridgable; Hamilton's ill-tempered anti-Adams pamphlet of 1800 would be confirmation of a long-established distaste." (Kerber, p. 14)

    "One result of the war was to add to Federalist strength and party cohesion. There were several varieties of Federalist congressional opinion on the war: most believed that the Republicans had fomented hard feeling with England so that their party could pose as defende of American honor; many believed that in the aftermath of what they were sure to be an unsuccessful war the Republicans would fall from power and Federalists would be returned to office . . . Regardless of the region from which they came, Federalists voted against the war with virtual unanimity." (Kerber, p. 24)

    "As an anti-war party, Federalists retained their identity as an opposition well past wartime into a period that is usually known as the Era of Good Feelings and assumed to be the occasion of a one party system. In 1816, Federalists 'controlled the state governments of Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Massachusetts; they cast between forty percent and fifty percent of the popular votes in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont...Such wide support did not simply vanish...' (fn: Shaw Livermore, Jr. The Twilight of Federalism: The Disintegration of the Federalist Party 1815-1830, (Princeton, 1962), 265.) Rather, that support remained available, and people continued to attempt to make careers as Federalists (though, probably fewer initiated new careers as Federalists). Because men like Rufus King and Harrison Gray Otis retained their partisan identity intact, when real issues surfaced, like the Missouri debates of 1820, a 'formed opposition' still remained to respond to a moral cause and to oppose what they still thought of as a 'Virginia system.' Each of the candidates, including Jackson in the disputed election of 1824 had Federalist supporters, and their presence made a difference; Shaw Livermore argues that the central 'corrupt bargain' was not Adams' with Clay, but Adams' promise of patronage to Federalists which caused Webster to deliver the crucial Federalist votes that swung the election. If the war had increased Federalist strength, it also, paradoxically, had operated to decrease it, for prominent Federalists rallied to a beleaguered government in the name of unity and patriotism. These wartime republicans included no less intense Federalists than Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut and William Plumer of New Hampshire, both of whom went on to become Republican governors of their respective states, and in their careers thus provide emblems for the beginning of a one party period, and the slow breakdown of the first party system." (Kerber, p. 24)

    "The dreams of the Revolution had been liberty and order, freedom and power; in seeking to make these dreams permanent, to institutionalize some things means to lose others. The Federalists, the first to be challenged by power, would experience these contradictions most sharply; a party that could include John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Noah Webster, would be its own oxymoron. In the end the party perished out of internal contradiction and external rival, but the individuals who staffed it continued on to staff its succesors." (Kerber, p, 25)

    Additional Sources:

    • History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher.
    • The Revolution of American Conservatism: The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy. David Hackett Fischer. New York, 1965, Harper and Row.
    • The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800. Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick. New York, 1993, Oxford University Press.

    The Federalists were referred to by many monikers over the years by newspapers.

    American Party:

    • In 1809, The Concord Gazette refers to the Federalist Ticket as the American Ticket.
    • Beginning in 1810, the Newburyport Herald (MA), began referring to Federalists as the American Party (as opposed to the "French" Party, who were Republicans). This continued in the 1811 elections.


    The Aurora, based in Philadelphia, the most well-known Republican newspaper of the era (see American Aurora: A Democratic-Republican Returns by Richard N. Rosenfeld.) in the February 11, 1800 issue referred to Mr. Holmes, the losing candidate for the Special Election for the Philadelphia County seat in the House of Representatives as an "anti-republican".

    Federal Republican:

    The October 7, 1799 issue of the Maryland Herald (Easton) referred to the Federalist ticket of Talbot County as Federal Republicans. It would continue to be used intermittently throughout the next 20 years. Newspapers that used this term included the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) and Philadelphia Gazette in 1800, the Newport Mercury in 1808, the New Bedford Mercury in 1810, the True American (Philadelphia) in 1812, the Northumberland Republican (Sunbury) in 1815, the United States Gazette (Philadelphia) in 1816 and the Union (Philadelphia) in 1821 and 1822.

    Friends of Peace / Peace / Peace Ticket:

    Beginning in 1812 ("In laying before our readers the above Canvass of this county, a few remarks become necessary, to refute the Assertion of the war party, that the Friends of Peace are decreasing in this country." Northern Whig (Hudson). May 11, 1812.) and continuing through to 1815 a number of newspapers referred to the Federalists as the Peace Party (or Peacemaker Party, as the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill) of March 19, 1814 used), as the Peace Ticket or as the Friends of Peace due to their opposition of the War of 1812 (many of these same newspapers referred to the Republicans as the War Party). This use occurred all through at least August of 1815, with the Raleigh Minerva of August 18, 1815 referring to the Federalist candidates as Peace candidates.

    These newspapers include the Columbian Centinel (Boston), Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill), Providence Gazette, the New York Evening Post, the New York Spectator, the Commercial Advertiser (New York), Northern Whig (Hudson), the Broome County Patriot (Chenango Point), the Independent American (Ballston Spa), the Baltimore Patriot, the Alexandria Gazette, Poulson's, Middlesex Gazette (Middletown), the Political and Commercial Register (Philadelphia), Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia), the Carlisle Herald, Northampton Farmer, Intelligencer and Weekly Advertiser (Lancaster), National Intelligencer (Washington), The Federal Republican (New Bern), the Raleigh Minerva, The Star (Raleigh) and Charleston Courier.

    The New Hampshire Gazette (Portsmouth) took the opposite side, listing the Federalists in the March 16, 1813 edition as "Advocates of Dishonorable Peace and Submission."

    Additional Sources:

    "The Tyranny of Printers": Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic. Jeffrey L. Pasley. Charlottesville, 2001, University Press of Virginia.


    One who has officially the charge of treasure; originally, a person entrusted with the receipt, care, and disbursement of the revenues of a king, noble, or other dignitary, of a state, city, or church; now, one who is responsible for the funds of a public body, or of any corporation, association, society, or club.

    Oxford English Dictionary

    1787 - 1824: Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennyslvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia

    Office Scope: State / County / City / Town(ship)

    Role Scope: State / County / District / City / Town(ship)