The Resolutions were two of the most influential American political works prior to the Civil War. Arguing that member states had the authority to nullify unconstitutional acts of Congress, the resolutions effectively claimed the power of judicial review for the states, not the Supreme Court. The resolutions also sparked the first debate over whether the states or the federal government had the final authority.

Future Democrats—the political descendents of the Democratic-Republicans—would continue this line of reasoning later in U.S. history. One example was John C. Calhoun, whose “South Carolina Exposition” essay sparked the Nullification Crisis of 18321833, which contributed toward support for southern secession and the Civil War.

The Federalist Legacy

In the years between the ratification of the Constitution and James Madison’s presidency, the system of two-party politics in the United States began, with political loyalties split between the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists. The Adams presidency marked the peak of the Federalist Party. John Adams was the first and only Federalist president, and the party largely dissipated by the end of the War of 1812.

Even though Federalism was short-lived, it had a profound impact on American history. Federalism helped create a strong Union, strengthened the office of the presidency, put the nation on solid financial footing, and established the authority of the Supreme Court.

Popular pages: The Constitution (1781–1815)