Following the War of 1812, an “Era of Good Feelings" emerged, highlighted by the existence of only a single political party, the Democratic-Republican or Jeffersonian Republican Party. Their main rivals, the Federalists, were discredited during the war and disappeared from the national scene.
Partisan bickering returned in the 1820s due in a large part to the rivalry between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, who had engaged one another in the disputed Election of 1824.
The anti-Jackson forces were a varied lot, composed of New England businessmen and manufacturers, plus a smattering of farmers and workers from other areas of the country. They tended to support Henry Clay’s American System and its call for a strong and active federal government. They also were united by their shared antipathy toward Jackson and his strength among the untutored masses.
In the Election of 1828, a rematch of the 1824 Jackson-Adams contest, the opposing factions had not yet developed into formal political parties. Jackson’s victory, however, sharpened their differences. By 1830, the anti-Jackson forces were using the name National Republicans and Clay had replaced Adams as their leader. Jackson’s followers continued for a while, using the name Democratic-Republican, but would later shorten that to simply Democrat.
The National Republicans never became a potent national force. Their strength was largely confined to New England and small pockets of support elsewhere. Their fortunes were buoyed in 1831 when Daniel Webster lent his considerable political talents to the movement.
The Election of 1832 was judgment day for the National Republicans. Clay had received their nomination in 1831 and focused his campaign on criticizing Jackson for vetoing the second Bank of the United States, antagonizing the British in foreign affairs and perpetuating the “spoils system.”
Jackson’s overwhelming victory in 1832 spelled the end for the National Republicans. They never again ran a presidential candidate and soon joined with conservative elements in both the North and South to form the Whig Party.