Federalists, a political party in the United States who claimed to be the peculiar friends of the constitution and of the federal government. Their opponents, the republicans, they called anti-federalists, and charged them to a certain extent with hostility to or distrust of the United States constitution and the general government. The republicans, however, strenuously denied the truth of these charges. The federalist party was formed in 1788. Its most distinguished leaders were Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jay, and Marshall; and the leading federalist states were Massachusetts and Connecticut, supported generally, though not uniformly, by the rest of New England; while Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Burr, George Clinton, and Gallatin led the opposition. In the contests of the French revolution the federalists leaned to the side of England, the republicans to that of France. The former were defeated in the presidential election of 1800, when the republican candidates were elected, Jefferson president, and Burr vice president. Their opposition to the war of 1812, and above all the calling of the Hartford convention, completed their destruction as a national party.

In 1816 Monroe, the republican candidate for president, received the electoral votes of all the states with the exception of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware, which gave 34 votes against him, while from the other states he received 183. At the next election in 1820 the federalist party was disbanded, Monroe receiving every electoral vote except one.