The Philly Election Of 1794 Essay, Research Paper
The Swanwick-Fitzsimmons election in Philadelphia of the most infamous elections in American history due to the fact that, it brought with it the first distinction ever between two political parties, the Federalists and the Democrats. Subsequently the election of 1794 brought America it’s first democratic congressional leader, John Swanwick. The factors surrounding Swanwick’s congressional debut were national issues, local issues, yellow fever epidemic, the Whiskey Rebellion, and the excise tax.
The democratic party was led by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. This society was composed of mostly middle class citizens being composed of artisans and laborers. Their beliefs consisted of a central government power but with limitations, they also had a strict interpretation of the Constitution. The also supported pro-French foreign policy and opposed the Bank of the United States. This party also passed a resolution resisting the excise tax. George Washington believed that the democratic party and similar societies were the one is responsible for the Whiskey Rebellion .
On the contrary, the Federalist party, which was led by Alexander Hamilton, believed in a strong sturdy central government, and had a broad interpretation of the constitution. They believed in full payment of national and state debts, and were the ones that established the Bank of the United States. They also supported pro-British policy and the excise tax was established by their leader Alexander Hamilton.
Until 1794, America was predominantly led by our first president George Washington, being a federalist. Therefore, Fitzsimmons had seemed to be the perfect candidate, due to the fact that this country had been run by federalist leaders. Suprisingly, the election in Philadelphia did not go as expected because the federalists had a new competitor. The Democrats were now forming a strong political party and were ready to challenge the Federalists.
Thomas Fitzsimmons, member of the Federalist society, entered commerce as a clerk and worked his way up the ladder, to secure his position he married into the principle merchant’s family. During the Revolution he was the captain of the Pennsylvania militia. In 1782 and 1783 he was member of the Continental Congress, in 1786 and 1787, was elected in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was a signer of the United States Constitution. In 1788 he was elected in the Federal House of Representatives. Fitzsimmons was a tremendous supporter of Alexander Hamilton’s policies and in his excise tax. He helped draft legislation chartering the Bank of the United States, and was the primary founder of the Bank of North America. He was also a Roman Catholic.
John Swanwick, member of the Democratic Society, in 1777 was hired as a clerk in a merchant firm for Robert Morris. He worked his way up by gaining full partnership by 1783. By 1794, bought out Morris’s share of the company. Swanwick was one of the leading export merchants in Philadelphia, was a stockholder at the Bank of North America. He also held minor offices (under Morris) in the confederation government. In 1792 he was elected to the state legislature and by 1793 he drifted from Federalism to become a Democratic Republican, in which he joined in 1794, soon after he became an officer. Swanwick was also an officer for a society that aided immigrants. Furthermore, he opposed the excise tax, but thought the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania used the wrong method to protest against what they believed in. He also a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
Along with the complications of the election came local controversial issues. For example, friends of the two candidates filled the public with “vicious charges and countercharges in hopes of attracting voters to their respective candidates”(p 90).
Other factors that contributed to the problems of the election were the Whiskey Rebellion and the excise tax. The reason for the excise tax, a system that lay a tax on selected products manufactured in the United States(tobacco products, snuff and pipe tobacco, sugar products and whiskey) was to resolve the massive public debt to pay off the national debt and to establish government operating capital. This excise tax, raised extreme protest in western Philadelphia where whiskey was a very important commodity. “Farmers tried to prevent the collection of the tax, a protest that eventually grew into the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.” (P 92) Washington in return sent out 15,000 troops to stop the rebellion, but the protesting already collapsed by the time they arrived. Jefferson wrote to James Madison, December 28, 1794 of the situation: “The excise law is an infernal one?The information of our militia, returned from the Westward, is uniform, that the people there let them pass quietly; they were objects of their laughter, not their fear.” (p100)
A final possible complication of the congressional election was “a disorder to have occasioned great devastation in the year 1793″ (p 104), known as the Yellow Fever Epidemic. However, a person by the name of Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the few doctors that actually stayed to help battle this epidemic. During this dark time, the city lost 10 of its most valued doctors and many other were sick. By the time of the election, the death toll reached its height at 4041 people. Whether this situation had a direct correlation on the outcome of the election or not, will not be known, however it seriously upset the social agendas of the Democratic-Republican parties and well as the Federalist parties.
Taking into consideration that Dr. Rush, in 1794 crossed over political parties to become a Democrat-Republican. “Most physicians in Philadelphia in 1794 were Federalists.”(p 105)
In conclusion, the election of 1794 proved to be one of the most important aspects of our nation’s history because it clearly distinguished two political parties, Democratic-Republicans and Federalists. The democratic-Republic win of John Swanwick demonstrated that his campaign was more aggressive, less elitist, and his appeal to the general public. For example, Swanwick opposed the excise tax, which, in turn, allowed him to receive a majority of the votes of the public. “Democratic-Republicans gained strength, so much so that by 1800 their titular leader, Thomas Jefferson, was able to win the presidential election and put an end to Federalist control of the national government.” (p 94)