The Federalists Yesterday, the Tea Party Today

  • There is an interesting Op-Ed piece in The New York Times (7-Aug-2013), by James Traub, that compares the modern Tea Party and its crusade to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining a path to citizenship with the Federalist Party of the nascent U.S. Because the Federalists culturally identified with New England and the mid-Atlantic, the Louisiana Purchase (1803) — which more than doubled the size of the country — threatened to marginalize them. Every Federalist in Congress save John Quincy Adams voted against the Louisiana Purchase, says Traub. In addition, fearing that immigrants would vote for the Republican Party of Jefferson and Madison, they also sought to restrict newcomers from holding office.

     

    Of course the Federalist Party collapsed because it could not — or would not — adapt to demographic realities. And the Tea Party?

JDN | 7-Aug-2013

The French years provided Franklin’s detractors precisely what they needed: proof that the ur-American was un-American. Franklin was the Founding Father who had come the furthest, which makes him today the most compelling; he was also the Founding Father who traveled the farthest, which in his own century made him the most suspect. Few other homes in Philadelphia sported both Réaumur and Fahrenheit thermometers. The story goes that when Franklin proposed that Congress open its meetings with a prayer, Alexander Hamilton quipped that that body had no need of foreign aid. The story may be apocryphal but the sentiment was real. The expatriate patriot, Franklin was associated in many minds with the dependent chapter of American independence, one better expunged from the record.

Stacy Schiff
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005)