Political Parties

May 18, 2010
By , Park City, UT
At the end of his political career, George Washington gave a farewell address. In it, he told his countrymen to make sure they did not grow in party division. Yet throughout history the division of political opinion has widened. Parties today still debate the same issues as the government in the 1790’s—government power, economics, freedom of speech and press to name a few.
In 1790 the Republicans wanted a strong state government. They thought everyone should share political power. The Federalists wanted a strong central government over all of the states. They believed only the rich and well educated should have political power. Republicans feared monarchy if the government took too much control over the states. The Federalists feared destruction of the union if the Republicans got their way.
Today the Republicans want a small government. They want everyone to have political power. The Democrats of today prefer a big government – they believe the government should make the big decisions over the individual states. On the issue of government size, the party platforms have not changed that much.
Both parties were already strongly divided on the idea of a national bank. The Federalists were in favor of a national bank and the Republicans were opposed to one. The Federalists thought the government could effectively run the banks and economy. They also wanted protective tariffs. The Republicans believed private people should run banks and businesses. and that we should have a free market society—free of protective tariffs.
Another issue they debated was freedom of speech and press. The Republicans wanted the freedom to say or write whatever they wanted about the government, religion, etc. The Federalists wanted more control over what the people could speak, write, and read. The Republicans of the time were more liberal on this issue. The Federalists were more conservative on the issue.
Generally speaking the two parties maintain the same idea and opinions as they did in the early government. What has changed is our view of what is liberal and what is conservative. The Republicans were considered liberal. The Federalists were conservative. Today the Republican Party is considered to be the conservative party, and the Democrats are considered the liberal party.
George Washington’s advice against party division was idealistic. The reality is it is impossible to keep two parties from widening the gap of their opinions. In the end, the goals of the early Americans and their government were the same as our people and government today—a unified nation of people with the freedom and liberties they did not have before. The political parties represent different ways of getting to the same goals.

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