A History of Early American Politics and Conflicts

The French and Indian War (1754-1763)

Also known as the Seven Years’ War, this conflict between Great Britain and France ended with the Proclamation of 1763. The war left Britain in considerable debt. To recoup their losses, the British government imposed taxes on the colonies, including the Stamp Act, which ultimately contributed to the outbreak of the American Revolution.

Adding to the tension, the British had made promises of protection to various Native American tribes in exchange for their allegiance during the war. The subsequent British policies regarding westward expansion further fueled resentment among the colonists.

Szab’s Notes:

  • 10,000-man army to control America

The Rise of Political Parties

Following the American Revolution, two distinct political ideologies emerged, represented by Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

Hamiltonian Federalists:

  • Favored a strong national government to promote economic stability.
  • Believed the national government should assume state debts.
  • Supported taxes on imported goods to protect American industries.
  • Advocated for a national bank.
  • Interpreted the Constitution loosely.
  • Aligned with England in foreign affairs.

Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans:

  • Advocated for states’ rights to prevent tyranny.
  • Believed states should manage their own debts.
  • Opposed excessive taxes, particularly on farmers.
  • Favored an agrarian economy.
  • Interpreted the Constitution strictly.
  • Supported France in foreign affairs.

The Whiskey Rebellion, sparked by a federal tax on whiskey, exemplified the clash between these ideologies. Jefferson saw the rebellion as a justified response to government overreach, while Hamilton viewed it as a threat to national unity.

The Federalist Party:

Formed in 1787, the Federalist Party, comprising businessmen, bankers, and merchants, primarily from the North, championed a strong central government and believed that a robust industrial sector was crucial for a thriving republic.

The Democratic-Republican Party:

Emerging in 1796, the Democratic-Republican Party, drawing support from planters, small farmers, and artisans, advocated for limited government intervention, favoring state and local control. They opposed the Federalists’ pro-British stance and sympathized with Revolutionary France.

The Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)

During John Adams’s presidency, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, reflecting the Federalist Party’s anxieties and attempts to suppress dissent. The Sedition Act criminalized criticism of the government, while the Alien Acts increased the residency requirement for citizenship and granted the president broad powers to deport immigrants.

These acts sparked outrage and were seen as a direct assault on the First Amendment. Jefferson and Madison responded with the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, asserting the principle of nullification—the right of states to invalidate federal laws they deemed unconstitutional.

The War of 1812


  • British interference with American shipping and trade during their war with France.
  • British impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy.
  • British support for Native American resistance on the frontier.
  • The rise of”War Hawk” in Congress demanding action against British aggression.


  • Strengthened American resolve and national identity.
  • Weakened Native American tribes allied with the British.
  • Stimulated American manufacturing due to trade disruptions.
  • Solidified the United States’ position as a formidable power on the world stage.

The War of 1812, despite its complexities and costs, ultimately reinforced American independence and fostered a growing sense of national unity and purpose.