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Published by Tom Hoffay · July 15 at 9:52 AM · 
The Ulster County Democratic Committee

A history lesson: In preparation for this month’s City Committee Meeting, here is some background information on the Democratic Party in New York State, Ulster County and the City of Kingston. According to the NYS Democratic Committee, 1792 is the date the party was founded, making it the oldest continuous political organization in the world.

Yet it was in 1791 that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison toured upstate New York on a botanical expedition, that Pat Moynihan identified as the true foundation of the Democratic Party. Although many details of the trip remain obscured, some records do exist.

But prior to the evolution of the Federalist and anti Federalist factions into full scale political organizations, local and state groups had promoted candidates for election under newly adopted state constitutions and engaged in the debate over adopting a stronger form of national government than the existing Articles of Confederation. This was especially true in New York State under the political leadership of Revolutionary War hero and then first Governor George Clinton.

It is the connection of the political organization of George Clinton, James Clinton and Christopher Tappan founded in Ulster County prior to the Revolution with that of Thomas Jefferson’s national movement against the Federalism of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton that marks the beginning of a nascent Democratic Party that would find a fuller expression under the leadership of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

It is possible to trace Clinton’s Ulster County political party records to 1788 in the debate leading up to the adoption of the National Constitution in Poughkeepsie.

But in truth an active organization existed in the years leading up to the Revolution, supported in Ulster County by the preaching of the Dutch Reform Church, the family connections of the Clintons and their allies and the lack of large manor type land holdings such as those that dominated the eastern shores of the Hudson River. Clinton became the leader of the Yeoman class of small landowners, merchants and especially of the militia soldiers who fought under his command in the French-Indian War and later during the Revolution. He successfully advocated that the voting franchise be extended to non landholders under New York’s new constitution, adopted in Kingston in 1777 and they rewarded him with a loyalty that put him in the Governorship for the next 18 years. It was during this time that Clinton’s political machine came to dominate New York State politics.