A Federalist

A federalist was a member of an early U.S. national political party, which advocated a strong central government and held power from 1789 to 1801. The term federalist was first used in 1787 to describe the supporters of the newly written Constitution, who emphasized the federal character of the proposed Union. Parties were generally deplored as inimical to republican government, and President George Washington was able to exercise nonpartisan leadership during the first few years of the new government (begun in 1789).

Strong division, however, developed over the fiscal program of the secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, whom Washington supported. Differences were intensified by ideological attitudes toward the French Revolution, and by 1795 administration supporters had hardened into a regular party, which succeeded in electing John Adams to the presidency in 1796.