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Map of Vermont

Vermont became the fourteenth state in 1791, fourteen years after declaring itself independent from the claims of New York. Vermont adopted its first constitution in 1777. Patterning its constitution after the radical document created by Pennsylvania, Vermont went even further, granting universal male suffrage and prohibiting slavery. Wary of power, the framers denied the veto to the governor and forced him to share executive duties with a twelve-man council. A unicameral assembly held legislative power.

The governor, lieutenant governor, and treasurer were chosen annually in general elections; they needed a majority to gain office. If there was no majority, the winner was chosen by the Joint Assembly (the House, or General Assembly, and the Executive Council). Freemen of each town selected their representative to the General Assembly annually. Members of the Executive Council were elected statewide. United States congressmen were voted on by district, with the exception of the years 1812–1820, when they were chosen statewide. United States senators were chosen by the Joint Assembly. The Council of Censors were the caretakers of the state constitution. Thirteen men, each elected statewide every seven years to a one-year term, were charged with examining legislation for constitutionality and with proposing appropriate amendments. The early years of statehood saw the old political factions of the Arlington Junto (Thomas Chittenden, the Allen brothers, and their followers) and their opponents fade as the Federalist and Democratic-Republican divisions took center stage. Voter participation was initially sparse but inched upward. It took Jefferson's embargo to jolt Vermonters out of their political inertia. Fifty percent more voters cast ballots for governor in 1808 than in 1807. Madison's declaration of war precipitated a similar rise in 1812. The war years contributed the highest voter turnout of the period. The two parties were evenly matched. In the years of 1813 and 1814, their candidates for governor were separated by less than 300 votes, and the parties in the General Assembly were separated by a handful of votes. Vermont's congressmen were elected by the same narrow margins.

Despite such intense party competition, very few men held statewide office. Straying from its Pennsylvania model, Vermont allowed unlimited reelection to state office and multiple office holding. From 1787 to 1825, only eight men sat in the governor's chair. Only seven men served as lieutenant governor. Just two had been elected treasurer. From 1778 to 1825, only 114 different men sat on the Executive Council, out of a possible 588 seats. Because of this, and because of their ability to hold other offices, a small group were able to wield immense influence in the state.

After the end of the war, the Federalist Party slowly dissolved, and with it voter participation. The last Federalist candidate for governor ran in 1817. The two-party system being defunct, Republican statewide candidates were chosen by caucus in the legislature and ran virtually unopposed. With no issues to divide the populace, by 1825 the number of votes for governor had dwindled to its lowest level since 1800.


  • Aichele, Gary. "Making the Vermont Constitution, 1777–1824." In Michael Sherman, ed. A More Perfect Union: Vermont Becomes a State, 1777–1816. Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1991, pp. 2–37.
  • Bellesilses, Michael. Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1993.
  • Brynn, Edward. "Patterns of Dissent: Vermont's Opposition to the War of 1812." Vermont History, 40 (Winter 1972): 10–27.
  • Carroll, Daniel P. "Development of the Unicameral Legislature of Vermont." Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society, III (1932): 12–31.
  • Crockett, Walter Hill. Vermont, The Green Mountain State. 5 vols. New York: The Century History Company, 1921–1923.
  • Gilles, Paul S. and D. Gregory Sanford, eds. Records of the Council of Censors of the State of Vermont. Montpelier: Secretary of State, 1991.
  • Graffagnino, J. Kevin. "’I saw ruin all around’ and ‘A comical spot you may depend’: Orcamus C. Merrill, Rollin C. Mallory, and the Disputed Congressional Election of 1818." Vermont History, 49 (Summer 1981): 159–168.
  • Muller, H. Nicholas III. "Early Vermont State Government: Oligarchy or Democracy? 1778–1815." In Reginald L. Cook, ed., Growth and Development of Government in Vermont. The Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences, Occasional Paper 5 (1970): 5–10.
  • ________. "Smuggling into Canada: How the Champlain Valley Defied Jefferson's Embargo." Vermont History, 38 (Winter 1970): 5–21.
  • Potash, P. Jeffrey. Vermont's Burned-Over District: Patterns of Community Development and Religious Activity, 1761–1850. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, 1991.
  • Roth, Randolph A. The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791–1850. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Shaeffer, John N. "A Comparison of the First Constitutions of Vermont and Pennsylvania." Vermont History, 43 (Winter 1975): 33–43.
  • Shalhope, Robert E. Bennington and the Green Mountain Boys: The Emergence of Liberal Democracy in Vermont, 1760–1850. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).
  • Sherman, Michael, Gene Sessions, and P. Jeffrey Potash. Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont. Barre, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 2004.
  • Smith, Donald Allen. "Green Mountain Insurgency: Transformation of New York's Forty-Year Land War." Vermont History, 64 (Fall 1996): 197–235.
  • Walton, Eliakim P., ed. Records of the Governor and Council of the State of Vermont. 8 vols. Montpelier: J. and J. M. Poland, 1873–1880).
  • Williamson, Chilton. Vermont in Quandary: 1763–1825. Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1949.


What is today referred to as the Democratic Republican Party did not exist as such under that name.

"The party name which the Jeffersonians used most commonly in self-designation was Republican. Since nearly all Americans professed to be supporters of a republic, Federalists were reluctant to allow their opponents the advantage of this name, preferring to label them as Antifederalists, Jacobins, disorganizers, or, at best, Democrats." (Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., 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. 240.)

"No precise date can be given for the establishment of the Republican party, for it did not spring suddenly into being, and even those leaders most intimately involved in its formation were not fully aware of what they were creating. The beginnings of what in course of time became the Republican party can be found in the Second Congress in the congressional faction that contemporaries referred to as the 'republican interest.' . . . An examination of roll calls during the Second Congress indicates that a voting bloc was forming around Madison in opposition to another bloc that united in support of Hamilton's program. While only about half of the membership of the House could be identified with one or the other of these factions, two such groups had not been observable in the First Congress." (Cunningham, p. 241)

"As members of Congress defended their legislative records and sought reelection, they took to the electorate the issues and the disputes that had divided Congress, and they tended in their campaigns for reelection to impart to the voters something of the partisanship that was developing in Congress. Thus, the party divisions in Congress filtered down to the voters through the electoral process, and voters came to align along the lines that divisions in Congress had marked out. In this process the congressional factions acquired the mass followings in the county necessary to transform them from capital factions into national political parties." (Cunningham, p. 244)

Though Thomas Jefferson was seen as the primary leader of the emerging Republican Party, his retirement in 1793 would force that mantle back upon James Madison. "Contemporaries referred to 'Madison's party,' and, when Jefferson was put forward for the presidency in 1796, he was recognized as the candidate of Madison's party. Adams's supporters warned that 'the measures of Madison and Gallatin will be the measures of the executive' if Jefferson were elected. Under Madison's leadership, the Republican party in Congress moved from a role characterized largely by opposition to administration measures, mostly Hamiltonian inspired, to one of offering policy alternatives and proposing Republican programs." (Cunningham, p. 246)

"As the country became dangerously polarized, the Federalists, in 1798 with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Laws, used the full power of the government in an effort to destroy their opponents, whom they saw as subversive. The Republicans, forced to do battle for their very survival, were compelled to change their strategy radically. Prior to 1798 they had optimistically believed that the people would repudiate leaders who supported antirepublican measures hostile to the general good of society. By 1798, however, the Federalists' electoral successes and their hold on the federal government seemed to belie that belief. Therefore, the Republicans shifted their focus of attention from the national to the state level. And by emphasizing a more overtly, self-consciously sectional, political enclave strategy, they left the clear implication that state secession and the breakup of the union might follow if the federal government refused to modify its policies and actions to make them more acceptable to opponents, especially Southerners." (American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. James Roger Sharp. New Haven, 1993, Yale University Press. p. 12)

"On the national level, Republican members of Congress through their informal associations in the national capital formed the basic national party structure. Many of them lodged together in boarding houses or dined together in small groups where there were ample opportunities to plot party tactics. They kept in close touch with political leaders and party organizations in their home states. In 1800, Republican members introduced what was to become the most important element of national party machinery and the most powerful device for the maintenance of congressional influence of the leadership of the party: the congressional nominating caucus." (Cunningham, p. 252)

"The coming to power of the Jeffersonians in 1801 marked the beginning of the Republican era that saw the presidency passed from Jefferson to Madison to Monroe. When the Virginia dynasty came to an end in 1825, the presidential office went to a former Federalist who had become a Republican while Jefferson was president. But, although John Quincy Adams was a Republican, the presidential election of 1824 shattered the Republican party and destroyed the congressional nominating caucus which had given direction to the party's national structure since 1800. Adams's presidency was a period of restructuring of parties - a transitional period from the first party system of the Federalists and the Jeffersonians to the second party system of the age of Jackson." (Cunningham, p. 258-259).

"During the period from its rise in the 1790's to its breakup in the 1820's, the Jeffersonian Republican party made contributions of major significance to the development of the american political system. It demonstrated that a political party could be successfully organized in opposition to an administration in power in the national government, win control over that government, and produce orderly changes through the party process. In challenging the Federalist power, Republicans were innovative in building party machinery, organizing poltical campaigns, employing a party press, and devising campaign techniques to stimulate voter interest in elections and support of republican candidates at the polls. In the process, it became acceptable for candidates to campaign for office and for their partisans to organize campaign committees, distribute campaign literature, see that voters get to the polls, and adopt other practices which, though subsequently familiar features of american political campaigns, previously had been widely regarded with suspicion and distrust. Many of the methods of campaigning and the techniques of party organization, introduced by the Jeffersonian Republicans, while falling into disuse by the end of the Republican era, would be revived by the Jacksonians. In taking office in 1801, the Jeffersonians led the nation through the first transfer of political power in the national government from one party to another; and Jefferson demonstrated that the president could be both the head of his party and the leader of the nation." (Cunningham, p. 271)

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.
  • American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. James Roger Sharp. New Haven, 1993, Yale University Press.
  • Partisanship and the Birth of America's Second Party, 1796-1800: "Stop the Wheels of Government". Matthew Q. Dawson. Westwood, CT, 2000, Greenwood Press.
  • Party of the People: A History of the Democrats. Jules Witcover. New York, 2003, Random House

Beginning in 1799, many Federalist papers began to refer to the Republican Party as Democrats or the Democratic Party. This continued throughout the first quarter of the 18th Century until what is currently known as the Democratic Party emerged among the followers of Andrew Jackson in the 1828 Presidential Election.

Republicans were also called by a variety of different terms in various newspapers throughout the period:


Though the Anti-Federalists were not quite the exact same group as the Republicans as they would develop after 1792, there were still some of those who referred to them as such. The term was used by the following newspapers in the following elections:

  • Porcupine's Gazette (Philadelphia). October 22, 1798. Pennsylvania 1798 Assembly, Chester County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). April 30, 1799. Virginia 1799 House of Delegates, New Kent County.
  • The Virginia Federalist (Richmond). April 26, 1800. Virginia 1800 House of Delegates, Norfolk County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). May 12, 1802. Virginia 1802 House of Delegates, Bedford County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). May 12, 1802. Virginia 1802 House of Delegates, Pittsylvania County.
  • The Salem Gazette. May 17, 1805. Massachusetts 1805 House of Representatives, Salem.

Democratic Republican:

Though the term is commonly used today to distinguish the Jeffersonian Republicans from the later Republican Party and because so many of those among the Jeffersonian Republicans eventually became Jacksonian Democrats, this term was extremely rare during the actual period. It was used by the Readinger Adler in the October 27, 1818 edition recording the 1818 county elections in Pennsylvania.

French / War / Warhawk / Jacobin:

Starting in 1798, various Federalist newspapers would refer to Republicans as Jacobins. ("In Newbern district the contest lay between two federalists -- No Jacobin had the effrontery to offer himself." United States Gazette. September 1, 1798.) These references continued through until at least 1810. ("From the Cooperstown Federalist: The election in this County has terminated in favor of the Jacobin Ticket for Assembly. An important revolution has been effected by the most shameful artifices. Never before were the jacobin ranks so completely formed and thoroughly drilled for action. We hope next week to be able to lay before our readers a correct statement of votes, and to exhibit to the world a picture of depravity in the conduct of some of the inspectors of the election which has no parallel." The American (Herkimer). May 3, 1810.)

Beginning in 1810, the Newburyport Herald (MA), began referring to Republicans as the French Party (as opposed to the "American" Party, who were Federalists). This continued in the 1811 elections.

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 1813 and 1814 a number of newspapers were referring to the Republicans as the War Party (or Warhawk Party, as the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill) of March 19, 1814 used) due to their support of the Madison administration and the War of 1812 (most of these same papers referred to the Federalists as the Peace Party). These newspapers include the Trenton Federalist, the Columbian Centinel (Boston), the Northern Whig (Hudson), the Independent American (Ballston Spa), the Broome County Patriot (Chenango Point), the New York Spectator, the Commercial Advertiser (New York), the New York Evening Post, the Albany Gazette, the Political and Commercial Register (Philadelphia), the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill), The Federal Republican (New Bern), the Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia), Alexandria Gazette, Poulson's, Middlesex Gazette (Middletown), the Raleigh Minerva and The Star (Raleigh).

Jackson / Jacksonian:

With the Presidential election of 1824 split among four candidates who were, ostensibly, members of the same political party, the divisions among the Republican Party began to be apparent.

The phrase "Jackson" or "Jacksonian" candidate was used in nearly every state election in Georgia in 1824 to distinguish between those were were supporters of Andrew Jackson as opposed to the supporters of William H. Crawford. The Maryland Republican (Annapolis) and the Federal Gazette (Baltimore) used the term "Jacksonian" in the Cecil County elections of 1824 (as opposed to "Adamite" or "Crawfordite") and the Allegheny and Butler county election in Pennsylvania in 1824.


The New Hampshire Gazette of March 5, 1816 would refer to the Republican ticket as the Whig Ticket and as being in favor of Peace and Commerce.