American System: 1815–1824

Era of Good Feelings

A growing nationalism, less concern with international politics and wars, fewer political disputes, and the demise of the Federalist Party marked the Era of Good Feelings from 1815 to 1824.

A growing nationalism developed during the period from 1815 to 1824, dubbed the "Era of Good Feelings" by a Boston newspaper. It began in 1815 with the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and, for the United States, the end of the War of 1812. The United States was finally able to shift its attention from European politics and wars to focus on American development. Later in American history, this attitude of avoiding involvement in international politics and wars was called isolationism and became a strong part of American diplomacy.

In 1816—the last year of James Madison's presidency—Congress passed the first protective tariffs on imports to aid American industry and manufacturing. Until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, tariffs paid for the federal government's budget. The federal government did not create its department of internal revenue and first income tax until 1862. Congress also established a Second Bank to stimulate commerce. Both these measures were part of congressman Henry Clay's plan for economic growth known as the "American System."

Few political disputes arose during this era, in part because the Federalist Party was in decline. The Federalist Party advocated a strong central government. It had much power in the early years of the republic, from 1789 to 1801, when the system of political parties was evolving. Opposition to the Federalist Party began in 1791 with the formation of the Jeffersonian Republicans, also called the Democratic-Republican Party. It was the latter name that stuck with the party until it evolved into the Democratic Party. Its opposition to the Federalist Party was formidable, and after 1801 the Federalist Party never again held any positions of power.
President James Monroe (1817-25) presided over most of the Era of Good Feelings. His Monroe Doctrine promised no U.S. interference in European matters while insisting on no European interference in independent countries of the Western Hemisphere.
Credit: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-11883
Henry Clay's party during the Era of Good Feelings was called the National Republican party. It advocated much of what the Federalist Party had, including protective tariffs and a national bank, which became part of Clay's American System. During the Era of Good Feelings, politicians like Henry Clay were able to garner votes from both the Democratic-Republican Party and his National Republican Party to pass these two significant pieces of national legislation. John Quincy Adams used shrewd diplomacy to mitigate tensions with both the British and the Spanish over U.S. borders. The Era of Good Feelings did not last long, however, and political disputes arose again as the political parties evolved throughout the 1800s.

Evolution of Political Parties

Name of Political Party Evolution
Federalist Party Lost power by 1801 and ceased to exist.
Jeffersonian Republican Name changed to Democratic-Republican. Andrew Jackson ran in 1824 as a Democratic-Republican. Known today as the Democratic Party.
National Republicans Organized after Federalist Party ceased, this party ceased to exist in 1830s and evolved into the Whig Party.
Whig Party Ceased to exist by 1854 and became the Republican Party.