Anti-Administration Party (United States)

Virginia Congressman James Madison was the leader of the anti-Administration party

The "anti-Administration party" (1789–1792) was an informal faction led by Thomas Jefferson that opposed policies of then Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton in the first term (1789–1792) of President George Washington. This was not an organized political party but an unorganized faction. Most had been Anti-Federalists in 1788, meaning they opposed ratification of the Constitution of the United States. However, the situation was fluid, with men moving in and out.

Although contemporaries often referred to Hamilton's opponents as "Anti-Federalists", historians prefer not to use this term, because several leaders supported ratification, including Virginia Congressman James Madison. Madison joined with former Anti-Federalists to oppose Hamilton's financial plans in 1790.

After Jefferson took leadership of the opposition to Hamilton in 1792, the faction became a formal party, Jefferson's "Republican Party" (often called by historians and political scientists the "Democratic-Republican Party").


At the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and during the ratifying process in 1788 Madison was one of the two or three most prominent advocates of a strong national government. He wrote The Federalist Papers, together with Hamilton and John Jay. In 1789–1790, Madison was a leader in support of the new federal government.[1]

At this time, the concept of a loyal opposition party was novel.[1] But in January 1790, Madison joined with Henry Tazewell and others to oppose Hamilton's First Report on Public Credit. The creation of this coalition marked the emergence of the anti-Administration party, which was almost exclusively southern at this time. Madison argued that repaying the debt rewarded speculators.[2] His proposal to repay only the original bondholders was defeated by a vote of 36 to 13.[2] Hamilton's report also provided for the assumption of state debt by the federal government. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and South Carolina owed nearly half of this debt, so other states resented assumption. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill without assumption, but the Senate included this provision. This deadlock was broken by a deal (Compromise of 1790) between Madison and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson on the one hand and Hamilton on the other which included both assumption and a decision to locate the national capital in the South, in what became the District of Columbia.[3][4]

In the summer of 1791, Jefferson and Madison brought journalist Philip Freneau, fiery editor of an Antifederalist paper in New York City to Philadelphia to start an anti-Administration newspaper, the National Gazette. Jefferson only had one State Department patronage job, which he gave to Freneau.[5]

In the second Congress (1791–1793), the anti-Administration elements were more numerous and included about 32 House members (out of 72). In 1791, Madison and Hamilton again clashed when the latter proposed the creation of a national bank. Southern planters were opposed, but urban merchants supported the idea. Madison said the Bank was unconstitutional, but Hamilton successfully argued that the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution allowed for it.[6]

The French Revolutionary Wars, which began in April 1792, hardened the differences between the factions. The Pro-Administration Party generally supported the British side, or wished to remain neutral, while the Anti-Administration Party supported the French side. Jefferson joined the party in 1792, and it contested the election that year under the name "Republican." Politics now became more stable, with well-defined parties (Hamilton's Federalist Party and Jefferson's Republican party), thereby creating the First Party System which lasted two decades.[7]


  1. ^ a b Wood, Gordon S. (2009). Empire of liberty : a history of the early Republic, 1789-1815. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 140. ISBN . 
  2. ^ a b Wood, p. 141.
  3. ^ Wood, p. 141–142.
  4. ^ Chernow, Ron (2010). Washington: A Life. New York: The Penguin Press. p. 631. ISBN . LCCN 2010019154. 
  5. ^ Norman K. Risjord (2010). Jefferson's America, 1760-1815. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 267–8. ISBN . 
  6. ^ Wood, p. 145.
  7. ^ William Nisbet Chambers, ed., The First Party System (1972)

Further reading

  • Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (1978)
  • Bowling, Kenneth R. and Donald R. Kennon, eds. Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789–1801. (2000)
  • Charles, Joseph. The Origins of the American Party System (1956), reprints articles in William and Mary Quarterly
  • Cunningham, Noble E., Jr. Jeffersonian Republicans: The Formation of Party Organization: 1789–1801 (1957), highly detailed party history
  • Elkins, Stanley and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism (1995) online version, the standard highly detailed political history of 1790s
  • Hoadley, John F. "The Emergence of Political Parties in Congress, 1789–1803." American Political Science Review (1980) 74(3): 757–779. in JSTOR Looks at the agreement among members of Congress in their roll-call voting records. Multidimensional scaling shows the increased clustering of congressmen into two party blocs from 1789 to 1803, especially after the Jay Treaty debate; shows politics was moving away from sectionalism to organized parties.
  • Libby, O. G. "Political Factions in Washington's Admninistration," NDQ: North Dakota Quarterly (1913) vol 3#3 pp 293-318 full text online, looks at votes of each Congressman
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