Tertium quids

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Old Republicans
LeadersThomas McKean,
Morgan Lewis,
John Randolph,
John Taylor,
Nathaniel Macon
Founded1806 (1806)
Dissolved1828 (1828)
National affiliationDemocratic-Republican Party
Virginia Congressman John Randolph was the leader of a quid faction of the Democratic-Republican Party

The tertium quids (sometimes shortened to quids) refers to various factions of the American Democratic-Republican Party during the period 1804–1812. In Latin, tertium quid means "a third something". Quid was a disparaging term that referred to cross-party coalitions of Federalists and moderate Democratic-Republicans.


Between 1801 and 1806 rival factions of Jeffersonian Republicans in Philadelphia engaged in intense public debate and vigorous political competition that pitted radical democrats against moderates who defended the traditional rights of the propertied classes. The radicals, led by William Duane, publisher of the Jeffersonian Aurora, agitated for legislative reforms that would increase popular representation and the power of the poor and laboring classes. Moderates successfully outmaneuvered their radical opponents and kept the Pennsylvania legislature friendly to emergent liberal capitalism. The term was first used in 1804, referring to the moderates, especially a faction of the Republican party calling itself "the Society of Constitutional Republicans." They gathered Federalist support and in 1805 re-elected Governor Thomas McKean, who had been elected by a united Republican party in 1802 but had broken with the majority wing of the party.[1]

New York[edit]

In New York state the term was applied to the Republican faction that remained loyal to Governor Morgan Lewis after he was repudiated by the Republican majority led by DeWitt Clinton. The New York and Pennsylvania "quid" factions had no connection with one other at the federal level; both supported President Thomas Jefferson.[2]


When Virginia Congressman John Randolph of Roanoke broke with Jefferson and James Madison in 1806, his Congressional faction was called "quids". Randolph was the leader of the "Old Republican" faction that insisted on strict adherence to the Constitution and opposed any innovations. He summarized Old Republican principles as: "love of peace, hatred of offensive war, jealousy of the state governments toward the general government; a dread of standing armies; a loathing of public debts, taxes, and excises; tenderness for the liberty of the citizen; jealousy, Argus-eyed jealousy of the patronage of the President."[3]

Randolph made no effort to align with either quid faction in the states and made no effort to build a third party at the federal level. He supported James Monroe against Madison during the runup to the presidential election of 1808, but the state quids supported Madison. They were led by Randolph, who had started as Jefferson's leader in the House and became his bitterest enemy. Randolph denounced the Yazoo Purchase compromise of 1804 as totally corrupt. After Randolph failed in the impeachment of a Supreme Court justice in 1805, he became embittered with Jefferson and Madison, complaining, "Everything and everybody seem to be jumbled out of place, except a few men who are steeped in supine indifference, whilst meddling fools and designing knaves are governing the country."[4] He refused to help fund Jefferson's secret purchase of Florida from Spain. Increasingly, Randolph felt that Jefferson was adopting Federalist policies and betraying the true party spirit. He wrote to an ally in 1806 that "the Administration....favors federal principles, and, with the exception of a few great rival characters, federal men.... The old Republican party is already ruined, past redemption. New men and new maxims are the order of the day."[5] Randolph's increasingly strident rhetoric limited his influence, and he was never able to build a coalition to stop Jefferson. However, many of his supporters lived on and, by 1824, looked to Andrew Jackson to resurrect what they called "Old Republicanism".

See also[edit]


  • Cunningham, Jr., Noble E. "Who Were the Quids?" in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 50, No. 2 (Sep., 1963), pp. 252–263 in JSTOR
  • Phillips, Kim T. "William Duane, Philadelphia's Democratic Republicans, and the Origins of Modern Politics." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (1977): 365-387. online
  • Risjord; Norman K. The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson (1965) the standard history of the Randolph faction.
  • Shankman, Andrew. "Malcontents and Tertium Quids: The Battle to Define Democracy in Jeffersonian Philadelphia" Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 43–72 in JSTOR
  • Sheldon, Garrett Ward, and C. William Hill Jr. The Liberal Republicanism of John Taylor of Caroline (2008)


  1. ^ Shankman (1999); Phillips (1977)
  2. ^ Junius P. Rodriguez, ed. The Louisiana Purchase: a historical and geographical encyclopedia (2002)
  3. ^ McCarthy, Daniel (2005-08-01) Liberty and Order in the Slave Society, The American Conservative
  4. ^ Risjord, 42
  5. ^ Risjord, 42

External links[edit]