Federalists and Democratic-Republicans

Kayla Armstead, Clint Hughes
  • Author
    Kayla Armstead

    Kayla has taught history for over 2 years. They have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and Bachelors in Social Science Education from Florida State University. They also have a 6-12 Social Studies Certification.

  • Instructor
    Clint Hughes

    Clint has taught History, Government, Speech Communications, and Drama. He has his master's degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Explore the differences between the beliefs of Hamilton and Jefferson. Learn the definitions of Federalist and a Democratic-Republican, as well as their similarities and differences. Updated: 12/15/2021

Table of Contents


Hamilton vs Jefferson

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were both active in the writing of America's founding document, the United States Constitution. Although they were colleagues, their political perspectives varied widely. They were both advisors for George Washington, the first president of the United States. George Washington famously warned Americans that the formation of political parties would be to the detriment of the U.S. government. Neither man heeded this warning, however, and Alexander Hamilton went on to become the leader of the Federalist Party, while Thomas Jefferson would go on to lead the Democratic-Republicans.

Hamilton's Beliefs

As the first secretary of the treasury, Hamilton centered his political beliefs around America's economic plan. When founding a new country, all political systems must be constructed from scratch. The way that these institutions are built can determine the success or failure of the country. Hamilton believed that America's economy should be based on manufacturing and commerce. He believed that trade and the production of goods would provide the American economy with a strong foundation. He also believed that well-educated property owners should be trusted to run the country. He did not feel that the common people were suited to governance. In fact, during Hamilton's lifetime, men who did not own property could not vote. He wanted the federal government to have the most power, and so sided with the Federalist Party.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Jefferson's Beliefs

Thomas Jefferson was the first secretary of state, the second vice president, and the third president of the United States. Drawing on his various political experiences, he believed that the agrarian economy of the south should form the foundation of the economy. As a plantation farmer himself, as well as a slave owner, he defended the plantation system for both his own self-interest and the interest of his home state, Virginia. Jefferson believed that the general public could be trusted to govern the country. He did not believe that wealthy elites should be the only ones with political power, and even once called Hamilton a ''monarchist'' for believing so.

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  • 0:05 Hamilton vs. Jefferson
  • 0:23 The Federalists
  • 0:39 The Republicans
  • 1:24 Positions on the Issues
  • 3:32 Washington's Warning
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson


The Federalist Party believed in the need for a strong central government. They claimed it would protect the freedoms they had fought for in the American Revolution. At the same time, they also argued for a loose interpretation of the Constitution in order to ensure that the freedoms and liberties earned by the Revolution would remain. Federalists also wanted to create a national bank to increase the government's control of the economy. They believed that manufacturing, commerce, and foreign trade were key to a strong economy, and that it should be the job of the federal government to regulate this commerce. They also believed that wealthy, well-educated property owners should govern the country. Generally, supporters of federalism agreed with the Federalists' political philosophy because it aligned with their own interests. Wealthy landowners preferred this system, including manufacturers, bankers, and merchants. Many Federalists lived in New England, as industry was the basis of the economy there.


The Democratic-Republican Party believed that the government should be smaller to protect individual freedoms. They opposed a strong central government and believed that the Constitution should be interpreted strictly. They also emphasized states' rights, arguing that individual states should be able to hold power, not the federal government. Democratic-Republicans believed the United States' economy should be agrarian, based on farming. Because of this, they argued that small farmers and the common people should govern. Since only property owners could vote at this time, they were in favor of lowering voting regulations to allow the common people to have a voice.

Differences Between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans

There were many differences between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, just as there were between their respective founders, Hamilton and Jefferson. The differences in political beliefs led to the formation of a two-party system in the United States, contrary to George Washington's wishes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which party did the Federalists become?

When the Federalist Party was dissolved in 1835, many of their supporters moved to become a part of the Whig Party.

What were the main issues dividing the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans?

These two political parties were divided over the issue of the strength of the government. The Federalists argued for a strong central government, while Democratic-Republicans believed that the state governments should be stronger than the central government.

What did Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton disagree on?

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton disagreed on the strength of the federal government. Hamilton believed it should be strong, while Jefferson believed it should be weaker.

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