John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the Birth of Party Politics in America

Developed by Duncan Wood, Newton North High School, Newton, Mass.

In this unit students will learn how the Federalist and Republican parties, represented by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were founded, what they believed, and their struggle for the hearts and minds of the American people. Students will also learn how, despite their very different views, members of these two parties shared an idealistic vision and belief in the future of the United States, that in the end transcended vicious party rivalries.

Although today the people of the United States may disagree on some fundamental issues, they find common ground in the country’s founding ideals: republican government, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. Studying the relationship of Adams and Jefferson is an excellent way for students to understand this unifying dynamic in American political history. Working together, they helped to unite thirteen colonies and founded a nation based on commonly held beliefs. They then parted ways on fundamental political disagreements, and in later life were reunited by their commonly held beliefs.

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