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The Civil War, the award-winning film produced and directed by Ken Burns, was rebroadcast as a newly restored, high-definition version in September of 2015. The 2015 rebroadcast coincided with the 25th anniversary of the series’ initial broadcast in September 1990, and presented the film for the first time in the same fidelity and framing as the negative that Ken Burns and his co-cinematographers Allen Moore and Buddy Squires shot more than 25 years ago. Funding for the 25th Anniversary presentation of The Civil War was provided by Bank of America, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS. Financial support for the original broadcast of The Civil War was provided by General Motors Corporation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and The John D. Independence Day Celebration in Centre Square. The Era of Good Feelings marked a period in the political history of the United States that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans in the aftermath of the War of 1812. The designation of the period by historians as one of good feelings is often conveyed with irony or skepticism, as the history of the era was one in which the political atmosphere was strained and divisive, especially among factions within the Monroe administration and the Democratic-Republican Party.

The phrase Era of Good Feelings was coined by Benjamin Russell, in the Boston Federalist newspaper, Columbian Centinel, on July 12, 1817, following Monroe’s visit to Boston, Massachusetts, as part of his good-will tour of the United States. The Era of Good Feelings started in 1815 in the mood of victory that swept the nation at the end of the War of 1812. The era saw a trend toward nationalization that envisioned “a permanent federal role in the crucial arena of national development and national prosperity”. Madison announced this shift in policy with his Seventh Annual Message to Congress in December 1815, subsequently authorizing measures for a national bank and a protective tariff on manufactures. Monroe’s landslide victory against Federalist Rufus King in the 1816 presidential election was so widely predicted that voter turnout was low.

As president, James Monroe was widely expected to facilitate a rapprochement of the political parties in order to harmonize the country in a common national outlook, rather than party interests. Both parties exhorted him to include a Federalist in his cabinet to symbolize the new era of “oneness” that pervaded the nation. Monroe approached these developments with great caution and deliberation. As president-elect, he carefully crafted the stance he would assume towards the declining Federalists in a letter to General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee in December 1816. Federalist Party was committed to installing a monarch and overthrowing republican forms of government at the first opportunity. To appoint a member of such a party to a top executive position, Monroe reasoned, would only serve to prolong the inevitable decline and fall of the opposition.

Secondly, he was loath to arouse jealousies within his own party by appearing to accommodate any Federalist, at the expense of a Republican. This would only serve to create factions and a revival of party identity. And third, Monroe sought to merge former Federalists with Republicans as a prelude to eliminating party associations altogether from national politics, including his own Republican party. All political parties, wrote Monroe, were by their very nature, incompatible with free government. His policy echoed the arguments put forth by President George Washington in his farewell address in 1796 and his warnings against political “factions”. The method Monroe employed to deflate the Federalist Party was through neglect: they were denied all political patronage, administrative appointments and federal support of any kind. Monroe pursued this policy dispassionately and without any desire to persecute the Federalists: his purpose was simply to extirpate them from positions of political power, both Federal and State, especially in its New England strongholds.

In his public pronouncements, Monroe was careful to avoid any comments that could be interpreted as politically partisan. Not only did he never attack the Federalist party, he made no direct reference to them in his speeches whatsoever: officially, they ceased to exist. So thoroughly had Monroe reduced party politics that he essentially ran unopposed in the 1820 presidential election. The Federalists ran no candidate to oppose him, running only a vice-presidential candidate, Richard Stockton. The most perfect expression of the Era of Good Feelings was Monroe’s country-wide good-will tour in 1817 and 1819.

His visits to New England and to the Federalist stronghold of Boston, Massachusetts, in particular, were the most significant of the tour. Here, the descriptive phrase “Era of Good Feelings” was bestowed by a local Federalist journal. The President’s physical appearance, wardrobe and personal attributes were decisive in arousing good feelings on the tour. Monroe’s visit to Boston elicited a huge outpouring of nationalist pride and expressions of reconciliation. New England Federalists were especially eager to demonstrate their loyalty after the debacle of the Hartford Convention.