Origin of Political Parties


August 1861


by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby


It is laughable to hear people talking about political parties and claiming to belong to this or that party, just as though parties never change their principles. This error arises from the fact that all parties spring up in opposition to some measure or ambition of a few politicians. They get up a false issue and talk about it till the people believe it; then a party is started, and the people attach themselves to it, without the slightest idea of the principles, or whether there is any principle at all.

Let us go back to Washington. All parties claim Washington as the father of our country. Why do they, when the opposition to Washington by the friends of Jefferson was so great that it was with difficulty Washington could be prevailed on to become a candidate the second time? Here commenced the two great political parties. The opposing party, after Jefferson came in, had no sympathy for Washington, but when Adams and Jefferson, Hamilton and Burr came up, then the Jeffersonians praised up Washington and denounced all others as Federalists.

The country was in debt from the war, and Jefferson, in reality, was opposed to it, and the friends of Washington elected the elder Adams. The war debt must be paid, and a spirit of revolution in the country was kept up by the opposers of Washington and Adams. All sorts of stories were circulated about the latter; and as a direct tax would be unpopular, the enemies of Adams elected Madison. Then came the war with England, and parties split up, but finally all settled down on Monroe; so that at his second election, there was no opposition.

In all these changes, slavery was never mentioned. Its extinction was never advocated. But as there must be two great parties, they must have political food to live on. When Jackson and Clay, Adams and Crawford came up, they were called Republicans; being in favor of the war, they were said to have brought it on. But be that as it may, the war was popular, as all wars are, after they are over; and these men, being all of one stripe, for all other stripes had faded out, a new era in political parties sprang up.

Men had their preferences; some for Jackson and some for Clay, but as Clay gave his influence for Adams, Jackson was defeated and Adams elected. Adams, not making any changes for party preference, displeased his friends, and they left him. So the next election, Jackson came in. Here is where the present dynasty commenced. It began with deception and lying politicians, and ended with that traitor, Buchanan. As soon as Jackson came in, commenced the war, founded on the proverb, “To the victors belong the spoils.”

The people identified their senses with the party, never looking to measures; and the Jackson party took the name Democrat, while their opponents were called Federalists. Yet Jackson never varied one particle from Adams, till Calhoun nullified, when he put him down. The very next message recommended the reduction of duties on tea, and then the Democrats engrafted free trade and direct tax. This free trade was food for the people. It was sweet to the mouth, but bitter to the belly or purses. But as it never came, it worked well to keep up the steam.

But when this died away, another element must be introduced to keep up the party or name; and as the North and West were gaining, the democracy saw that they must lose political power. So they must get up a false issue to split up the North and South. The blacks could be made a wedge to drive between the two parties, but to do this it required a party so obnoxious to the Whig or Federal party that they would not unite. So the South starts up a party of fire-eaters, claiming that slavery, according to the Constitution, might spread all over the land. Another party in the South did not want to carry slavery into politics, but leave it just as the state had made it, and Congress must have nothing to do with it.

This hypocrisy of the South inflamed the North, and a set of men sprang up, actuated by pure revenge for the wrongs heaped upon the honesty of the North. They appealed to the Whigs or Federal party for help; but as the Federal party never had anything to do with slavery, as a party, they got no sympathy. This fretted them, and the democracy saw this and hugged it like a twin brother. So the Democratic party made a wedge of the abolitionists to split up the Federal party. This gave them the power, and they have nourished a viper, which has destroyed the democratic party; and it will, before long, establish the old party of North and South, which always held that slavery was a state institution and the government never had any authority over it, outside the states where it existed.

— August, 1861.

P. P. Quimby

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