The Toleration Party (also known as the Toleration-Republican Party, and later the American Party or American Toleration and Reform Party) was a political party active in Connecticut in the early 19th century. The 'American' name referred not to nativism or the later American Party, but the fact that it viewed itself as a nationally-oriented party.
The Federalist Party had been dominant in Connecticut, holding a near-monopoly on power, since its foundation. The Democratic-Republican Party was established in Connecticut in 1801, but succeeded in winning merely 33 of 200 seats in the Connecticut General Assembly at best. However, after the War of 1812 (which saw the Hartford Convention and the blue lantern affair in the state) the Federalist power began to wane. The Federalists were affiliated with the Congregationalist Church, which was still the established church of Connecticut (Connecticut was the last state to disestablish its state church; all other states had done so by the 1790s). All residents of the state had to pay a tithe, which irritated members of other sects, especially the Episcopals. Episcopals in Connecticut were largely wealthy and at odds with the Federalists and pre-Federalists dating back to the American Revolution but avoided joining the Democratic-Republicans due to the party being too radical for them. A group of Episcopals had put up bonds for a state bank, only for the Federalist government to avoid paying them back. This was the immediate impetus that led to the creation of the Toleration Party.
The Toleration Party was established at a state convention held at New Haven on February 21, 1816. The party was formed by an alliance of the more conservative Episcopals with the Democratic-Republicans, along with a number of former Federalists and other religious dissenters, specifically Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, and Universalists. Pierpont Edwards played a large part in the party's creation, and the party nominated Oliver Wolcott, Jr. and Jonathan Ingersoll as candidates for governor and lieutenant-governor, respectively. Wolcott had been a former Federalist and Ingersoll a Democratic-Republican.
In the 1817 elections, the Toleration Party swept control of the General Assembly, with Wolcott and Ingersoll winning election to their executive branch positions. This gave them the political capital to call for a convention to draw up a new state constitution; 111 of the 201 delegates belonged to the Toleration Party. The resulting Constitution of 1818 generally adhered to the Tolerationists' platform, especially their two major issues of increasing the electorate and democratic nature of the government and disestablishing the Congregational Church. The Tolerationist constitution would be used in Connecticut until 1965.
The Tolerationist Party, although generally independent of the national Democratic-Republican Party, was allied to them. Wolcott was the only governor elected by the ticket; he was in office until 1827, and his successor, Gideon Tomlinson, was nominated by the Democratic-Republican Party itself. By the end of the 1820s the Tolerationists had developed into the Jacksonian branch of the Connecticut Democratic Party, while the Connecticut Federalists and more orthodox Democratic-Republicans had become the state Whig Party.
- Connecticut in Transition: 1775-1818, by Richard J. Purcell. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 1963.
- 350 Years of Connecticut Government, by Ralph Gregory Elliot, United States Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1991.
- Dissenters Reading
- An Orderly and Decent Government: 1776-1818 Introduction
- Lyman Beecher and the Problem of Religious Pluralism in the Early American Republic