In April 1778, a number of men gathered at Ipswich in Essex County, Massachusetts, to discuss the drafting of a new Massachusetts constitution. Composed of lawyers and merchants, the majority of the group were residents of Essex County, from which the assembly derived its name. Included among its members were politicians George Cabot and Timothy Pickering, and jurist THEOPHILUS PARSONS.
The Essex Junto began as a small, independent faction of prominent, educated men but developed into a strong section of the FEDERALIST PARTY, which exerted political influence for many years. It advocated the acceptance of the U.S. Constitution and the financial policies of ALEXANDER HAMILTON. The junto staunchly opposed the ideologies of President THOMAS JEFFERSON, and the EMBARGO ACT of 1807, which prohibited the exportation of American goods to France and England in an effort to compel those countries to ease their restrictions on U.S. trade. The opposition to this act was so vehement that it was repealed.
The Essex Junto was opposed to the WAR OF 1812. It convened, in secrecy, the Hartford Convention in 1814, which proved to be nothing but an airing of grievances without any serious solutions. The war ended shortly thereafter, and many of the junto members were ridiculed and threatened with TREASON for the closed-door tactics at the Hartford Convention. The junto soon lost much of its power with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which signified the end of the much-opposed War of 1812.