The Federalist Party essentially died in 1816. Despite this, some Federalists remained as throwbacks to a bygone era. James Monroe’s victory in the 1816 Presidential Election ushered in the so-called Era of Good Feelings and the end of the First Party System. Four years later, Monroe ran for re-election unopposed. The raucous vitriol of the party system subsided and allowed the president to coast to victory. On the other hand, the Panic of 1819 damaged Democrats at the polls, but lack of strong opposition saved Monroe’s faction from a shellacking. As a result, Monroe won re-election, the Democrats gained in the U.S. Senate, and experienced minimal losses in the House of Representatives.
James Monroe represented the last of the Founding Fathers. His first term was defined by the lack of solid opposition. In 1819, the Missouri Crisis threatened to shatter the so-called Era of Good Feelings. Without the Federalist boogeyman, Democrats bickered amongst themselves and splintered along sectional lines. Additionally, the economy collapsed creating widespread anxiety and voter dissatisfaction. Monroe stood above the fray while Henry Clay ushered in a compromise which kept the sections at peace for three decades. However, little was done to assuage the economic dislocation.
A strong two-party system would have spelled doom for the Democratic Party in 1820. However, the remnants of the Federalist Party lacked the strength and organization for a presidential campaign. They did nominate Richard Stockton for Vice President, but otherwise remained sidelined. As a result, President Monroe won an easy re-election victory. He collected all but one Electoral Vote. One elector voted for John Quincy Adams blocking Monroe’s otherwise unanimous victory.
While Monroe coasted, House Democrats saw their advantage drop to 123 seats. They lost just five seats because of Federalist impotency. Had a healthy two party system existed, the losses would have been larger. Pennsylvania turned out four Democrats in favor of remnants of the old Federalist Party. Future President James Buchanan was among the victorious Pennsylvania Federalists. The opposition picked up single seats in Maryland, Massachusetts, and two in New York. Democrats gained single seats in Virginia and Ohio and two in New York.
The Senate provided a ray of light for the ruling party. The Democratic advantage increased from 33-9 to 39-4. Although former Federalist presidential candidate Rufus King earned a seat from New York, the Democrats dominated the state legislatures and therefore the U.S. Senate. Missouri’s Thomas Hart Benton joined the body and served for thirty years. Benton emerged as a giant of the period as an advocate for expansion.
The Democratic Party was lucky in 1820. A sectional crisis threatened the country while a depression ravaged the economy. However, the Federalist Party continued its disintegration. Without strong opposition, James Monroe won an easy re-election as president and the Democrats increased its stranglehold on the U.S. Senate. The lack of opposition shielded the party from potentially devastating losses in the House of Representatives. In the end, the Democrats won the 1820 elections by appearing on the ballot.