American Liberalism

Examines idea of Liberalism in American politics from 1776 to 1850 which stemmed from Federalist views and ultimately contributed partially to the Civil War.

Liberalism in America has both waxed and waned, but by the 1850’s the idea of a large central government dictating the behavior of states and individuals was abhorrent to at least 50% of the states. When America began, while there was one voice for the creation of an independent nation, there were two distinct voices claiming legitimacy for the form which that new nation would take. The Republicans believed that the best form was an essentially toothless national government with very limited powers other than those of creating laws, forming the military, managing money and negotiating treaties. The Federalists believed that a strong central government with broad powers that would supercede states’ rights was the proper course. Liberalism emerged from the Federalist view – the idea that the Federal Government could and should, provide for an individual-level of influence and benefit. Liberalism, then, was the politics of managing the lives of the citizens in the manner that the central government perceived would provide the greatest benefit. This concept has been part of the American political scene since then, in various forms, but while it was a movement in the first 75-years of the nation’s history, a central distrust of large centralized governments stemming from the anti-English and anti-Monarchy sentiments. Liberalism was, in part, cause for the Civil War.