Until 1800, Salem was for all intents a one‐party town, the Federalists enjoying almost complete hegemony over local politics. But in 1800, the Democratic‐Republicans entered the fray with new life, and there was William Bentley squarely in the thick of things, helping edit the party newspaper, continuing his pleading from the pulpit, and helping his most prominent congregant, Jacob Crowninshield, run for office. The First Party System was, finally, fully formed in Salem. Crowninshield ran for office several time before finally winning the 1802 Congressional race against none other than Timothy Pickering, Salem's highest‐ranking and most ideologically extreme Federalist. Salem Republicans—the party of the rising middle class anxious to break the grip of elite power while keeping a newly sympathetic eye towards the lower sort—had accomplished a most unlikely coup. Other towns in Massachusetts were moving toward Republicanism too, but not for the reasons that Salem was. In Salem, Bentley was the deciding factor.
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