The Federalists believed in a strong central government.
The Republicans believed in a limited, decentralized government, states’ rights, and freedom of the common man.
John Adams was elected in 1796 by a very narrow margin.
Foreign policy issues grew in importance as the 1800 election approached with a large conflict looming with France. The French favored the Republicans and regarded the Jay Treaty as too pro-British. The Jay Treaty, which was also known as the Treaty of London of 1794, was between the United States and Great Britain. It averted war and solved many issues left over from the American Revolution, such as the British withdrawal from the posts they had occupied in the Northwest Territory of the United States. The British granted some rights to the United States to trade with British possessions in India and the Caribbean in exchange for American limits on the export of cotton. From the British perspective, their war with France made it imperative to improve relations with the United States to keep the United States from falling into the French orbit.
The Republicans opposed the treaty because they feared that closer economic ties with Great Britain would strengthen the Federalists.
On the domestic front, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress worried those who believed in unfettered democracy. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were clearly anti-immigration and allowed for the imprisonment of foreigners in times of war. The Sedition Act made it a crime to voice or commit a “conspiracy or revolt” against the government, obviously an effort to stifle opposition to Adam’s Federalist administration. A number of Republican newspaper editors were arrested and tried, and some were convicted of sedition.