The 1794 midterms marked George Washington’s swansong in electoral politics. The president remained popular, but the westward demographic shift favored the opposition party. Historically, the party in power suffers a shellacking in a president’s second midterm. Washington avoided a debacle, but still surrendered a few seats in the House of Representatives. On the other hand, pro-administration Federalists increased their advantage in the U.S. Senate. As a result, the Federalist could declare victory with senate gains and minimal house losses.
George Washington held sway in state legislatures. People revered and trusted Washington’s leadership and judgment. As a result, the Federalists controlled the state houses that selected senators. The party held a 17-13 edge in the U.S. Senate with 10 of the 30 members standing for re-election. The Federalist advantage in the states led to a three seat increase in the senate. They held Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina and added Vermont, Georgia, and Kentucky. The Democratic-Republicans held New Hampshire and North Carolina. In the end, the Federalists held a commanding 20-10 advantage in the United States Senate.
The senatorial turnover did not translate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeffersonian libertarian ideals trumped Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s governmental activism with the voters. The Democratic-Republicans added five seats to increase their narrow margin. They entered the election with a slim three vote edge and exited with an eight member margin. New York proved bloody for the Federalists where they lost three seats. The opposition party added two in Virginia to increase their advantage in Washington’s home state to 17-2. Overall, Democratic-Republican candidates garnered 56% of the vote.
Despite the popular vote landslide, the Jeffersonians only added five seats while the Hamiltonians expanded their lead in the senate. The Federalists suffered a beating in the house races, but not the catastrophe future presidents experienced in subsequent elections. Overall, Washington and the Federalists finished strongly considering it was a second presidential midterm. Typically, a two-term chief executive is completely drubbed in their second midterm. Washington avoided this fate and the Federalists would recover in the short term. However, the libertarian tide personified by Thomas Jefferson would eventually extinguish the Federalist Party once Washington, Adams, and Hamilton exited from the electoral scene.