MHQ Reader Comments: Republicans and Democrats in 1812

8/28/2009 • MHQ Letters

MHQ Comments
Summer 09 

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I have to question the use of the term “Republican” to describe the U.S. congressional majority party of 1812, more commonly called the Democratic-Republicans [in Stephen Budiansky’s “Giant Killer,” Spring 2009]. While it is true that some members referred to themselves as Republicans, there is also documentation that they referred to themselves as Democrats.

In these highly partisan times, I would think it advantageous for a history periodical to avoid using current labels for political affiliation when there are other, more widely used terms associated with the era in question.

—Robert Dalton, Chicago, Ill.



Stephen Budiansky responds:
While it is correct that one faction of the party founded by Jefferson and Madison would later give rise to the modern Democratic Party, “Republican” was what they most often called themselves during the period I was describing. “Democratic Republican” and “Democrat” were terms almost exclusively used by their Federalist Party opponents, who meant it as disparagement—“democrat” carrying the connotation of “mob rule.”

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