“Something energetic and spirited”: Massachusetts Federalists, rational politics, and political economy in the age of Jefferson, 1805–1815
This dissertation examines the resurgence of Massachusetts Federalists in national politics from 1805 through 1815. During this ten-year period, Federalists were relegated to the periphery of national politics as the Democratic-Republican majority in Congress passed a string of controversial commercial policies directed at French and British violations of America’s neutral trade. However, the rejection of bipartisan solutions, along with the anti-commercialism and sectional bias in Jeffersonian political economy, precipitated a resurgence of the Federalist Party after 1805. In Congress, Federalists, led by Massachusetts’ representatives, compensated for their dwindling numbers and influence in the national arena by adopting a populist stance and opposition platform that attracted New England voters. In fact, this study suggests that national expansion, the spread of slavery, and Jefferson’s agrarian ethos, played a more significant role in the Democratic-Republican Party’s rise to national prominence after 1800, than a widespread rejection of Federalist elitism. By testing the validity of Federalist claims that New England’s ability to safeguard its interests in national government diminished in direct proportion to the nation’s growth, we gain a better understanding of the emergence of New England nationalism and the deepening sectional hostilities that threatened the survival of the Union. Finally, through its reassessment of the Federalists’ opposition to commercial restrictions and their calls for constitutional reform to abolish slave quotas, this dissertation departs from the focus of previous studies, expands the discourse surrounding early national politics, and places Federalists in their appropriate historical context.
0615: Political science