I've read about Democratic-Republicans, and I've never seen it mentioned that they actually didn't use the term, but I read that (from http://elections.lib.tufts.edu/election-faq.html)

One term that was not used by either party during this time was the infamous label Democratic-Republican. Neither the followers of Thomas Jefferson nor the Federalists used this term. It was invented by historians because they could not decide which term should be used to describe the party of Thomas Jefferson.

Is that true?

  • Can you clarify what "during this time" means in the context of the quote?
    – Brian Z
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 0:48
  • 1
    And a source for the quote would be nice.
    – justCal
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 0:58
  • Downvote for all unsourced quotes.
    – MCW
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 8:50
  • 1
    @BrianZ: "During this time" is 1787-1825- I know the parties didn't last that long, but the site didn't specify and the site claims to be from '87 to '25.
    – 米凯乐
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


Yes, they did

(that is, the quoted assertion is not true)

Some members of this party indeed called themselves "Democratic-Republicans", although not consistently.

The Wikipedia article for this party states (in its main text) what I was taught in grade school, namely that the party was called "Republican" during the period it was in existence. Yet further along, they walk it back:

The name Democratic-Republican was used by contemporaries only occasionally.

And the footnote supporting that assertion has this:

After 1802, some local organizations slowly began merging "Democratic" into their own name and became known as the "Democratic Republicans"

along with a number of examples, including a link to an 1802 letter to Jefferson which says:

"At a large and respectable Democratic Republicans Meeting Held in Dover at the House of Daniel Cooke on the 24TH of March 1802, agreeing to the Notice given -- Major Abraham Pierce was called to the Chair, and Doct. John Hansen was appointed secretary."

(apologies for my attempts to transcribe the handwriting)

Even better, an 1803 campaign broadsheet, "To the Independent Republican Citizens of the County of Philadelphia." (reproduced at the Library of Congress) has:

Friends and fellow citizens!

You are this day presented with a strange and novel spectacle, two distinct tickets by two separate parties both styling themselves Democratic Republicans.


The Democratic-Republican Party was a term used mainly by historians and political scientists. It was initially called the "Republican" party by its founders. Only rarely was it called the Democratic-Republican party by its own members.

The party consisted of the people who weren't "Federalists," the party of a strong central government. The "Republicans" were advocates of "states rights" and other forms of local government. After Washington and Hamilton died, the Federalist party collapsed, and almost everyone became a "Republican," including John Q. Adams whose background was more nearly "Federalist." (His father, John Adams was a Federalist.)

At that point, the "Republican" party split into the National Republican (later Whig) wing, under Adams Jr., and the "Democrat" party under Jackson. Since it also included future "Democrats," the original "Republican" party was (retroactively) named the "Democratic-Republican" party to distinguish it from the future "Republican" parties that didn't include "Democrats."

  • One thing that just struck me: using "Democrat" as an adjective these days is mostly something only the party's detractors do. (Its more normally "Democratic", and has been most of my life). Do I take your quotes to mean that at the time the "-ic" was not used? If so, does this imply the people who are doing it are perhaps hearkening back to the late 18th Century?
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 15:15
  • @T.E.D.: I put those words (and "Republican") in scare quotes to signify that the terms were referring to the usages of the time, and not necessarily today's usages.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 17:26
  • OK, I guess that's what I was saying, just without the weird implication I made. :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 20:28

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