U.S. History
Material Type:
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
  • History
  • Ohs0432
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:

    Early Republic 1790-1820

    Early Republic 1790-1820


    In the nation’s first few years, no organized political parties existed. This began to change as U.S. citizens argued bitterly about the proper size and scope of the new national government. As a result, the 1790s witnessed the rise of opposing political parties: the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Federalists saw unchecked democracy as a dire threat to the republic, and they pointed to the excesses of the French Revolution as proof of what awaited. Democratic-Republicans opposed the Federalists’ notion that only the wellborn and well educated were able to oversee the republic; they saw it as a pathway to oppression by an aristocracy.

    Learning Objectives

    • Compare & contrast the views and characteristics of the Federalists and Anti-federalists
    • Explain why Anti-federalists wanted a Bill of Rights.
    • Explain Alexander Hamilton=s vision for the republic and the reasons why his vision garnered such opposition.
    • Compare & contrast the philosophical positions of Federalists and Republicans on the issues of public credit, the bank, tariffs, internal improvements, new lands, and foreign policy.
    • Analyze the significance of the French Revolution, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Quasi-War, the Alien and Sedition Acts, and the Virginia and the Kentucky Resolutions on the development of political parties in the 1790s.
    • Analyze the impact of the Louisiana Purchase on the United States and for Jefferson's Administration.
    • Evaluate the reasons for the emergence of the two-party system and the ideas about political parties held by Americans of this era.
    • Explain if there anything either Jefferson or Madison could have done that would have solved the conflict with the British and avoided the War of 1812?

    Textbook Readings

    US History ‑ OpenStax

    Boundless US History

    Chapter:  "The Federalist Era: 1789 - 1801"

    Chapter:  "Securing the Republic: 1800 - 1815"

    The American Yawp

    History in the Making a History of the People of the United States

    Module Supplemental Readings/Videos

    Glossary of Key Terms

    Adams-Onís Treaty: Spain ceded Florida to the United States and in exchange abandoned its claims to Texas.

    Alien Laws: Acts passed by a Federalist Congress raising the residency requirement for citizenship to fourteen years and granting the president the power to deport dangerous foreigners in times of peace.

    Bank of the United States: Chartered by Congress as part of Alexander Hamilton’s financial program, the bank printed paper money and served as a depository for Treasury funds.

    Citizen Genêt Affair: forced the United States to formulate a consistent policy on the issue of neutrality.

    Declaration of the Rights of Man: Declaration of rights adopted during the French Revolution, modeled after the American Declaration of Independence.

    Embargo Act: Enacted in response to British and French mistreatment of American merchants, the Act banned the export of all goods from the United States to any foreign port.

    excise tax: Tax on goods produced domestically.

    Hartford Convention: Convention of Federalists from five New England states who opposed the War of 1812 and resented the strength of Southern and Western interests in Congress and in the White House.

    Impressment: The British practice of forcibly removing American men from their ships and inducting them into the navy

    Jay’s Treaty: Negotiated by Chief Justice John Jay in an effort to avoid war with Britain, the treaty included a British promise to evacuate outposts on U.S. soil and pay damages for seized American vessels.

    loose construction: Doctrine which holds that the federal government can use powers not specifically granted or prohibited in the Constitution to carry out its constitutionally mandated responsibilities.

    Marbury v. Madison: Supreme Court case that established the principle of “judicial review”—the idea that the Supreme Court had the final authority to determine constitutionality.

    Neutrality Proclamation: It proclaimed America’s formal neutrality in the escalating conflict between England and France

    Reign of Terror: Ten-month period of brutal repression when some 40,000 individuals were executed as enemies of the French Revolution.

    Revolution of 1800: Electoral victory of Democratic Republicans over the Federalists, who lost their Congressional majority and the presidency. The peaceful transfer of power between rival parties solidified faith in America’s political system.

    Sedition Act: Enacted by the Federalist Congress the law made anyone convicted of defaming government officials or interfering with government policies liable to imprisonment and a heavy fine.

    tariff: Tax levied on imports.

    Treaty of Ghent: Ended the War of 1812, restoring prewar borders.

    Virginia and Kentucky Resolves: Drafted by Jefferson and Madison for the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia that argued that states were the final arbiters of whether the federal government overstepped its boundaries and could therefore nullify, or refuse to accept, national legislation they deemed unconstitutional.

    war hawks: Democratic-Republican Congressmen who resented British constraints on American trade and accused the British of supporting Indian attacks against American settlements on the frontier and pressed James Madison to declare war on Britain.

    Whiskey Rebellion: Uprising of whiskey distillers in southwestern Pennsylvania in opposition to an excise tax on whiskey. In a show of resolve by the new central government, Washington put down the rebellion with militia drawn from several states.

    XYZ Affair: Diplomatic conflict between France and the United States when American envoys to France were asked to pay a hefty bribe for the privilege of meeting with the French foreign minister.

    Instructor Resources


    1. Divide class into groups of 3-6
    2. Each group is an Ohio Assembly of 1817. They must vote how to spend their budget to govern the new state.
      (Per Savage, Balanced Budgets & American Politics, pg 108, avg state government expedentures between 1800-1820 ~$100k-$200k)
    3. Have groups display their budgets to the class
    4. Facilitate a debate/ discussion of WHYs of different allocations of different groups, guiding groups to cite specifics form the material to support claims.