9

Apparently, there exist several "party system" partitions of American political history:

First Party System - 1792 to 1824. Federalists vs Republican-Democrats

Second Party System - 1828 to 1854, Democrats vs National Republicans (Jacksonians vs non-Jacksonians).

Third Party System - 1854 to 1890s - GOP vs Democrats.

Fourth Party System - 1890s to 1930s - same.

What exactly is the reason to split these periods into distinct "Party systems"?

What are the major differences between these systems aside from the names of the main parties? (Wiki seems to imply that #1 and #2 differed in the level of voting participation, but I wasn't able to find a good overall summary of differences)

  • The difference in the voting participation might be due to the First Party system allowing the vote only to those individuals who owned land and were males (and white) (7% of the population of the United States) where as the Second Party system was dominated by Jacksonian Democrats which secured greater voting suffrage so that all white males could vote, regardless of land ownership. – hszmv Nov 13 '18 at 21:03
  • What happened to the Whigs and the Anti-Masonic party? – ohwilleke Nov 14 '18 at 0:52
5

The concept of party system was introduced by English scholar James Bryce in American Commonwealth (1885).

The split is based on significant changes in thinking that redefined parties that held power during those time frames:

picture showing parties in power

We are currently on the Fifth Party System, Republican/Democrat

  • The First Party System of the United States featured the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party .
  • The Second Party System saw the Jacksonian Democrats (who grew into the modern Democratic Party), and the Whig Party.
  • The Third Party System was characterized by the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party.
  • The Fourth Party System retained the same primary parties as the Third Party System, but saw major shifts in the central issues of debate.
  • The Fifth Party System emerged with the New Deal Coalition.

each system has entries in Wikipedia
Note that the entry about Party System has the US entering the Sixth Party System in 1964
As with any classification when it relates to people or ideas, there is much speculation on what constitutes a party period.
In The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840, there is no mention of a Second Party System, which we would expect if these were agreed on by all.


Disclaimer: I get nothing from the Amazon link, it's just included for further reading if you should wish to buy the books, or check them out from your local library.

  • 1
    Is there any actual political-sciencey difference aside from party names? Also, why differentiate between Systems 3-5? Those were ALL Republican/Democrat. – user4012 Feb 14 '13 at 20:02
  • 1
    slight error on my part - it wasn't technically different parties, but significant changes in thinking that redefined parties. With the political turmoil that has been occurring since Reagan, the Republicans gaining control of both houses in 1994, or even the extreme bi-partisanship that is occurring today, it will be up to the historians to decide when/if we entered the Sixth Party System – SeanC Feb 14 '13 at 20:15
  • Thanks for clarification - +1. Is there an official reasoning backing up this division? (e.g. specific historical paper/book proposing the division into Systems on this basis), as opposed to it simply being a correlation? If there is, I'd like to see it before accepting this answer. Thanks! – user4012 Feb 14 '13 at 20:25
  • as with any classification when it relates to people or ideas, there is much speculation on what constitutes a party period. inn The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840, there is no mention of a Second Party System, which we would expect if these were agreed on by all. The concept of party system was introduced by English scholar James Bryce in American Commonwealth (1885). – SeanC Feb 14 '13 at 20:38
  • Perfect! Please edit this comment into the answer. Thanks!!! – user4012 Feb 14 '13 at 20:40

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