The “Era of Good Feeling” refers to a period in U.S. history from about 1815 until about 1825, characterized by a sense of optimism and positivity. The era is closely associated with the presidency of James Monroe, who served two terms from 1817 to 1825.
Monroe easily won the presidential election of 1816, garnering 183 electoral votes while the opposing Federalist party won just 34. His victory signaled the effective end of the Federalist party and ushered in a period of total dominance by Monroe’s Democratic-Republican party.
After the election, Monroe went on a prolonged victory tour throughout New England. It was during this tour that one newspaper, the Columbian Centinel, published an article titled “The Era of Good Feeling.” The piece described a festive, upbeat mood which was shared by “eminent men of all political parties.”
The era was marked by America’s victory in the War of 1812. In Europe, the Napoleonic Wars were at an end, which also left Americans free to concentrate on their own affairs. The age is characterized by a growing isolationism.
Historians say that the era of good feeling was also shored up by economic prosperity. During Monroe’s first term, America put in place its first protective tariffs and established the Second National Bank. Congress, at Monroe’s request, also put an end to property taxes and other federal taxes. The federal government was able to pay off the nation’s extensive war debt using the money from tariffs.
At the same time, America continued to expand across the continent. In 1819, Andrew Jackson invaded Florida, which eventually led to a treaty with Spain that handed Florida over to the United States. During this period, America also stepped up its western expansion. In 1823, the president also articulated the Monroe Doctrine, which defined the Western Hemisphere as the United States’ sphere of influence and warned Europeans not to interfere in the region.
The era of good feeling was at an end by 1825. Even during Monroe’s second term, the sense of national goodwill was beginning to fade, and major conflicts over slavery and national expansion were making themselves felt. The period of one-party rule was also coming to an end.
Since the Federalist party had collapsed, the presidential election of 1824 featured candidates who were all from the Democratic-Republican party. Four candidates vied for the presidency: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Treasury Secretary William Crawford, and House Speaker Henry Clay. None of the candidates was able to win a majority in the electoral college, so that decision went to the House of Representatives. The choice was between Adams and Jackson; neither Crawford nor clay had enough votes to compete.
The House handed the presidency to Adams, although Andrew Jackson had won the most popular votes and the most electoral votes. The election marked a split in the party, leading Americans to re-organize into two new parties: the Democrats, loyal to Jackson, and the Whigs, who were allied to Adams. In 1828, Andrew Jackson ran again and, this time, defeated Adams in his re-election bid.