“I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality. Both of our political parties, at least the honest portion of them, agree conscientiously in the same object—the public good; but they differ essentially in what they deem the means of promoting that good. ”

- Thomas Jefferson, 1804

Resources ... The Idea ... Making the Idea a Reality ... Legacy

Timeline of Patriotism and Partisanship

A Closer Look

The Idea

“There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured to him ... I love to see honest men and honorable men at the helm, men who will not bend their politics to their purses, nor pursue measures by which they may profit, and then profit by their measures.”   
-Thomas Jefferson, 1796

As a realist, Thomas Jefferson recognized partisan politics were inevitable under a representative government; but as an idealist, he firmly believed that the vast majority of Americans shared common goals even when differing in means to achieving them.

Patriots would put country before party, ensuring the success of the American experiment in self-governance. This is what Jefferson meant when he declared in his first inaugural address that “we are all republicans: we are all federalists."



Making the Idea a Reality

Jefferson and the partisan press
Jefferson and the partisan press

The Legacy

Throughout American history, politicians have grappled with balancing the interests of their party and the broader national interest. The challenge of putting country before party continues to the present day.

Collage of patriotism and partisanship in America

Click on the image to view a timeline of pivotal patriotic and partisan moments in American history.

Moving Toward the Future

“It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques -- techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.” Senator Margaret Chase Smith, 1950

A Civic Engagement Initiative sponsored by and in collaboration with The New York Community Trust – The Peter G. Peterson FundPeterson Foundation Logo