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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.

  • candidates supported by both major parties

    As early as the first Federal elections in 1788, there were candidates, who while alligned with one party or another, was supported in the press by both parties in a particular election.

    Republican splinter parties

    See Republican. These are elections in which two distinct and separate Republican tickets were run.


    New Jersey 1820: Several newspapers, including the Elizabeth-Town Gazette and the True American (Philadelphia) listed a separate ticket of dissident Republicans for the U.S. House of Representatives race in New Jersey in 1820, referred to as the "Anti-Caucus" ticket. Nominations for At Large candidates on a state wide level could often cause problems. Rotation of candidates, or lack thereof, from different regions/counties would sometimes cause dissension, and occasionally regional candidates, often an incumbent who had been dropped from the list, would be set up in opposition. As the Federalist Party declined, the process of country meetings, conventions and the Legislative caucus to nominate candidates came under increased criticism and with less party competition the idea of a more open and balanced method of selecting candidates was becoming a political issue.

    Adamite / Crawford:

    While many tickets would grow up around support for one person (such as Clintonians in New York or Snyderites in Pennsylvania), the affiliations of many candidates in various elections in 1823 and 1824 were based around which candidate for President in 1824 the individual candidate was supporting. While those supporters of Andrew Jackson would become the mainstream part of the Republican Party as it transitioned into the Democratic Party, there were also the followers of John Quincy Adams, many of whom would soon form the basis for, first the National Republican Party, then its successor, the Whig Party. The followers of William H. Crawford were also identified, though they never coalesced into any sort of larger organization and mostly existed in Georgia, Crawford's home state, though they found support among the Bucktails of New York.

    Friends of Reform:

    In 1820, these were Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, mostly in Bucks County, opposed to the present administration.

    New School / New School Republican / Old School / Old School Democrat / Old School Republican:

    Used in Pennsylvania throughout the 1810's. They were often in opposition to the Constitutionalists. (See also: Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism and Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania. Andrew Shankman. University Press of Kansas. 2004.)

    Opposition Republican:

    Used in several states over the course of over 20 years.

    "Prior to the election of 1802 there had been minor divisions based largely upon personal jealousies and the quest for offices; and a vague dissatisfaction with the Governor had developed. A new cause of dissension became prominent in 1803 and 1804 as the legislature began to attempt modifications in the judicial system and to use its powers of impeachment against the judges of the State courts. McKean's opposition to most of these measures alienated many Republicans; and some of his supporters sought Federalist aid to redress the political balance." (The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics, 1800-1816. Sanford W. Higginbotham. 1952. p 49)

    "The election of 1803 found the Republican splits becoming deeper and more widespread. The quarrel over Federal patronage in Philadelphia nearly reached the point of an open breach, while the Rising Sun movement against Leib gained added strength in Philadelphia County. In Lancaster some of the State officeholders made an unsuccessful attempt to organize a third party movement in support of McKean. The Federalists for the most part abandoned active politics, although the dissident Republican factions courted their aid." (Higginbotham, p 58)


    Used in several states over the course of over 20 years.

    In Rhode Island in 1807 and 1808 this was a splinter party formed by a combination of those republicans who were supporters of Governor James Fenner, combined with Federalists.

    In New Jersey, for several years, from 1807 through 1822, this was a quasi-merged group between Federalists and Republicans, similar to the Quids in Pennsylvania.