George Washington (1st President, 1789-1797)

Background

The men who created the new American government knew how bold an experiment they were undertaking. Never before in history had men tried to enforce effective government over so wide a geographic area while deliberately limiting its power and making it responsible to popular control. The Founding Fathers placed their faith in the federation, a unique blend of national, state, and local government. But would the federation of the new Constitution work?

In 1789 many conditions favoured the success of the venture. The United states were at peace, and its economy was prosperous. Although the Continental Congress and the Confederation had been weak, they had given many Americans experience in making political decisions for a nation. Men who had provided leadership to the American states and the Confederation government in the years since 1775 filled the top positions in the new federal government. Many minor federal office-holders, too had experienced under the Confederation. The first President George Washington enjoyed enormous prestige. Most important, American citizens had long ruled themselves and believed firmly in representatives government based on a philosophy of natural rights.

Yet serious problems lay ahead. In every state, for example, a minority of men still spoke out in opposition to the Constitution and had stoutly supported its ratification, important differences of opinion remained about the meaning of that document. At Philadelphia, these differences had been compromised or overlooked for the sake of getting a Constitution which the delegates could support. But the theory now had to be turned into practice. Some men could certainly join the opposition when decisions went against them.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

1. Majority Rule and Minority Rights

Supporters of the Constitution hoped that opposition to it could be reduced by winning decisive votes of approval in each of the ratifying conventions called by the states. The support of New York was particularly important because of its bustling port and its key location between New England and the Middle Atlantic States. Yet Alexander Hamilton of New York, who had joined in the task of drafting the new Constitution, feared that his state might reject it. He called upon two of the nation’s most experienced political thinkers, John Jay, author of New York’s State Constitution of 1777, and James Madison, the leading figure at the Philadelphia Convention, to help him sells the Constitution to the people of New York. These three men wrote a series of letters which were published in New York Journals to explain the Constitution’s purpose and meaning.

New York might have ratified the Constitution even if the letters had not been written. Nevertheless, their value as a commentary on American government was recognized immediately. They were published together in a volume called “The Federalist”, generally considered the most important discussion of political ideas that has ever been written in America.

Not only did “The Federalist” give explanations of the Constitution which lawmakers, judges, and lawyers still study, but they also contained broad, philosophical discussions of problems that any government must solve. One of the problems examined in “The Federalist” is as real to us today as it was to the “Founding Fathers”. How can minority rights be protected in a society whose government is based on majority rule?

The great political thinkers, the Englishman John Locke (16321704) and the Frenchman Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), had each believed in the philosophy of natural rights. Each had also believed that man formed governments by agreement, under a “social contract”, in order to protect their natural rights. Yet the two men had different ideas about what should be done with persons whose opinions and interests conflicted with those of the majority. The men who wrote the Constitution were familiar with the ideas of both Locke and Rousseau.

Locke believed that when individual men entered a social contract they reserved for themselves certain basic rights. No just government, even or representing the will of the majority, could violate these rights. Should a government do so, the people could over-throw it and establish a new one. While Locke’s argument implied protection of minority rights, it carried with it the potential dangers of disunity and instability.

According to Rousseau, men who entered the social contract agreed to conform to the “general will” of the society, that is a kind of ideal consensus of what was best. Because Rousseau believed that all men were by nature good, he thought that the “general will” could be trusted to protect the rights of all members, of society. But once the “general will” was decided, all had to abide by it. Rousseau did not acknowledge the existence of minorities whose opinions justly differed from the majority, so a government based on his idea could not be expected to tolerate, let alone protect, minority views.

The important question then became whether a government could guarantee a minority the right to political action and still maintain an orderly society. James Madison believed that the Constitution offered an answer to that question.

2. Interpreting the powers of Government

Early in Washington’s first term, disputes arose over questions which the Constitution had left vague or unanswered. Some involved the form and the style of government. (Should Washington be referred to as “His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of their liberties”? The answer was “no”). Some involved questions of authority. (Since the President needed the Consent of the Senate to appoint department heads such as the Secretary of State, could he remove them without its consent? The answer was “yes”). As might have been expected, however, the hottest debates about interpreting the Constitution grew out of attempts to define how much power the new government had.

At first, the administration was inclined to take a liberal view of its powers, or as it came to be termed, to adopt a “broad Constitution” of the Constitution”. James Madison, who had had more to do with writing the Constitution and putting it into effect than anybody else, took this view. But Madison and others soon realized that the government could use broad powes to favour some groups at the expense of others.

In 1790, for example, Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton proposed that the government approve the organization of a national bank by private citizens and advance part of the money to start it. Hamilton saw that a bank could provide credit for business expansion and act as a financial agent for the government. The Constitution, however, said nothing about the government’s right to create such a bank. Madison and his close friend Thomas Jefferson, who had become Secretary of State, recognized that a government bank would benefit Commercial interests along the northern seaboard more than it would help farmers and planters of the backcountry and the South. Both these men owned an extensive plantation in Virginia. They began moving towards a narrower view of governmental power, a strict constructions of the Constitution, by denying that the government had the power to charter a bank.

Congress despite Madison’s efforts, passed Hamilton’s bank bill. In enacting this bill, Congress and the President obviously interpreted the Constitution; they believed they had the power to create a bank. But did they have the final voice in such a matter? The members of the Constitutional Convention had not taken a position on this question. Some of them had suggested that the Supreme Court ought to sit with the President as a “Council of Revisions to examine laws passed by Congress. Some had thought that challenges to the Constitutionality of laws would naturally come before the Supreme Court for decision. Some also had doubted whether the judges could set themselves above legislators. The issue of the bank raised all these questions.

George Washington’s Administration

It will be no exaggeration to state that time and distance were probably the greatest assets of the United States. The nation had time for its people and leaders to learn how to govern. The country also was far enough away from Europe so that it did not become a battleground in Europe’s many wars. The nation had other assets, of course, but most of its resources were untapped or undeveloped. In 1789, when George Washington became President, there were fewer than 4 million people in the thirteen states. Most people ate regularly and well, but they were far from being rich. With a new government in control, Americans hoped the nation would enter a period of stability and prosperity.

Early Life

Washington was the son of Augustine Washington, a moderately wealthy planter, and his second wife, Mary Ball. He was born on the family’s Virginia estate (new known as Wakefield) on Feb. 22, 1732. His father died in 1743. George’s half-brother Lawrence then became head of the family. George displayed an early talent for mathematics, and at the age of 15 began earning small fees by surveying. In 1748 he assisted George Fairfax in making an extensive survey of Thomas Lord Fairfax’s lands in the wilderness country west of Virginia’s the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In 1751-52 he accompanied Lawrence, who was suffering from Tuberculosis, to Barbados. The George survived a case of smallpox, becoming immune to the disease that was to plague his troops during the Revolutionary War. Lawrence died soon after returning to his Mount Vernon home. George inherited a part of his estate. At 20 he obtained a commission as major in the militia.

Washington first gained public notice in 1753 when he was entrusted with a dangerous mission before the French and Indian war, he volunteered to deliver a message from Virginia Government. Robert Dinwiddle to the French in Ohio country, warning them to leave the British-claimed territory. His two-and-a-half-month journey took him across hundreds of miles of untapped and unmapped wilderness to the shore of Lake Erie. When he returned he was commissioned, Lieutenant Colonel.

Washington was then sent back to the frontier in command of a militia unit. In May 1754 he fought the first skirmish of the French and Indian War. He built Fort Necessity near present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania, but was forced to surrender it to the French on July 4, 1754.

A year later, an aide-de-camp to British General Edward Braddock in the disastrous expedition against Fort Duquesne, Washington established his reputation as a military leader by rallying the survivors for an orderly retreat. In 1758, commanding colonial forces supporting British regulars, he distinguished himself anew in the final capture of the French fort.

Washington, not yet 27, retired to private life when peace returned. A tall, well-built man, he was amiable, just and immensely vital. In 1759 he married. Mrs. Martha Custis, a wealthy widow with two children. He then settled down to the life of a Virginia gentleman on his plantation, Mount Vernon.

Washington was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses (175974), where he became a leader in opposing British Colonial policy. He served in 1774-75 as a delegate to the Continental Congress. As Commander of the Continental Army, he displayed the unique qualities of his martial powers up to the period when British General Cornwallis surrendered on Oct. 19, 1781, which virtually put an end to the Revolutionary War. In 1783 Washington retired from the Army and returned to Mount Vernon.

First President of the U.S.A.

After the new government was organized, Washington was unanimously chosen as the first President. He took office on April 30, 1789, in New York City. : Washington’s own views were Federalist. But in staffing his administration he was above partisanship. It was mainly his capacity for conciliation that kept the American Revolution free of terrorism, purges and arbitrary seizures of power that have marked other revolutions.

He brought both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, leader of opposing faction, into his Cabinet. Washington’s poise, prestige, and dignity made the new government of the United States respected at home and abroad.

While President Washington traveled extensively throughout the Country. Factions developed into political parties, and the strain put upon Washington as Conciliator led to his refusal to accept a third term.

In public life, Washington combined modesty with self-assurance. In his first inaugural address, he acknowledged “deficiencies” in natural endowments and administrative experience. Characteristically, he set about overcoming them by study, as he had fitted himself for managing his plantations by studying agriculture.

Many precedents were set during his terms of office. The “advise and consent” role of the Senate evolved into the right of that body to approve or disapprove the President’s actions but never to give him formal advice beforehand.

Chief among the vigorously debated issues of his administration were taxation and banking policies the assumption of state debts, and the jurisdiction of federal courts. During his second administration, he was severely criticized by the Jeffersonians, especially for Jay’s Treaty with England. In the war between England and France Washington proclaimed neutrality and urged it as basic U.S. Policy.

In his Farewell Address, he warned against “entangling alliances.” Washington died on Dec. 14, 1799. Over 178 years later on March 13, 1978, in accord with a resolution of Congress, the U.S. Army promoted Washington to General of the Armies of the United States to preserve his seniority.

As Commander of the Continental forces during the Revolutionary War and as the Frist President of the United States, George Washington became “Father of his country. In the eight years of his Presidency, the nation’s basic institutions were established. Washington’s personal qualities were remarkable.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that “his integrity was the purest his justice the most flexible, I have ever known. He was true, in every sense of the word, a wise, a good and a great man.”

His Cabinet and Administration

President Washington and the members of the first Congress knew that their actions would set precedents for the future. Therefore, they were careful as they applied the basic ideas of the Constitution to existing situations. Gradually, the outlines of the new government began to fill in his Presidential period from 1789-1797.

1. Congress in Session

Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 4th.

2. Vice-President

John Adams, 1789-97.

3. Secretary of the Treasury

Alexander Hamilton, 1789-95
Oliver Wolcott, 1795-97

4. Secretary of State

Thomas Jefferson, 1789-93
Edmund Randolph, 1794-95
Timothy Pickering, 1795-97

5. Secretary of War

Henry Knox, 1789-95
Timothy Pickering, 1795-96
James McHenry, 1796-97

6. Attorney General

Edmund Randolph, 1789-94
William Bradford, 1794-95
Charles Lee, 1795-97

7. Postmaster General

Samuel Osgood, 1789-91
Timothy Pickering, 1791-95
Joseph Habersham, 1795-97

The Machinery of Government

The first Congress soon found that the Constitution did not clearly provide for executive departments. It referred to them vaguely but said nothing about how many or what kinds they should be. Assuming that it had the freedom to act, Congress quickly created three executive departments state, treasury, and war. It also set up the offices of the attorney general and the postmaster general. The persons heading these departments and the major executive offices soon came to be regarded as the President’s Cabinet or group of Chief advisers. The judicial system, too, required action by Congress before it could work. The Constitution said: “The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

In September, Congress passed the “Judiciary Act of 1789”. It created a Supreme Court of six members three circuit courts and thirteen district Courts. This law also outlined which kinds of cases to be heard in each kind of court. It gave the state courts original jurisdiction in Cases involving the Constitution, the laws, and the treaties of the United States. This meant that the courts of the state were at the base of the federal judicial system. In effect, this act distributed the nation’s judicial power between the Central Government and the states.

The Constitution did not say that a case could be appealed from a state court to a federal court. Federalists in Congress assumed that this right was implied in the Constitution. In the Judiciary Act, therefore, they established the principle of judicial review of state legislation.

The Bill of Rights

During the struggle over ratification, the Federalists had realized that the greatest weakness in the Constitution was the lack of a bill of rights. The delegates had not been opposed to such a bill. They had thought it unnecessary because the national government would have only the powers listed. In several states, however, including Virginia and New York, the outcome of the fight for ratifications had hinged on including a bill of rights. Federalists won some people to their side by promising amendments to the Constitution that would clearly protect the personal liberties of free citizens.

In the state ratifying conventions, dozens of amendments were proposed to protect individual rights. Under the leadership of James Madison, Congress went through the proposals and reduced them to twelve amendments. In September 1789, they were submitted to the states. Three fourth of the states ratified ten of the amendments but rejected two of them. In December 1791, the ten amendments became part of the Constitution.

Since the Bill of Rights (as these amendments came to be known or called) limited the central government and not the states, it added strength to the federal features of the Constitution. The first eight amendments listed individual rights, such as freedom of religion, speech and press, and the right to trial by jury. The Ninth Amendment stated that the listing of rights in the Constitution was not complete or exclusive. The Tenth Amendment said:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.”

The lingering distrust between the nationalists and the supports of states’ rights could be seen in the debate over the Tenth Amendment. Some supporters of states’ rights wanted to place the word “expressly” before the word “delegated”. They felt that this would more clearly shift the emphasis of the constitution away from nationalism. Their efforts failed, but the Tenth Amendment still marked a retreat from the strong nationalism of the Philadelphia Convention.

Strengthening the Foundations of Federal Government

Washington at first tried to organize a non-partisan administration, But party politics soon developed. Washington appointed Federalists to most of the government posts, and these people formed the core of the first national political party.

Role of Alexander Hamilton

Many of the basic ideas of Washington’s government came from Alexander Hamilton, the secretary of the treasury. He was young, brilliant and thirsty for power. He had definite views on politics, economics and foreign affairs, and he also had plans for putting his ideas into practice. Hamilton, though born poor in the British West Indies, had developed aristocratic tastes and ideas. Through his marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler, a member of the wealthy New York family, he had finally joined the aristocracy of wealth that he had long admired. He believed that the common people were ignorant and incapable of governing. He admired the British aristocracy, based on a hereditary nobility. He insisted that the British system of government was the best in the world. He wanted to entrust political power to men of intelligence, education and wealth. Men of property, he reasoned, would have a selfish interest in the government. Since their property would need government protection, they would support and defend the Constitution.

Hamilton’s philosophy and Program

Economic Plans

With Washington’s support, Hamilton developed a program designed to gain the respect of foreign nations for the new government. Hamilton’s programme was designed to strengthen the nation’s economy, political system and foreign policy.

In January 1790, Hamilton presented his plan to the House of Representatives. He pointed out that the United States would have to be fair to its creditors if it were to be able to borrow in the future. Its credit would depend on law faithfully it paid its existing debts. He recommended that the national debt to be “funded” at face value. This meant that the government should take in its various certificates of indebtedness and replace them with government bonds bearing one dependable rate of interest. The money for this funding would come from import duties and excise taxes on goods produced within the country.

Hamilton also recommended that the government assume, or take over the payment of debts that the states had acquired during the Revolutionary War. Hamilton hoped to strengthen the national government by making the state governments financially dependent upon it. Also, he wanted holders of either state or national bonds to become strong supporters of the national governments.

Establishing Credit

Most members of Congress liked the idea of funding public debt to improve the nation’s credit. They felt that the foreign debt should be paid in full. But many objected to replacing domestic loan certificates, many of them worthless with new bonds promising to pay the same amount in sound new dollars. Hamilton and his friends argued that the foreign and domestic debts could not be divided. They insisted that national honor required payment of the entire public debt at face value. When the debate subsided, Congress passed the funding bill that Hamilton had proposed. Unfortunately, some speculators knew beforehand of the plans to fund the debts. They were able to buy outstanding certificates at low prices from people who thought they had become worthless. The speculators made huge profits.

Hamilton’s proposal to assume the states’ debts met stiffer opposition. States with large or unpaid debts liked the idea of having the national government take over their payments. States that had repaid most of its debts opposed the plan. They did not want to pay federal taxes to help states that had not taken care of their own debts. Virginia, which had repaid most of its debts, led the opposition. The struggle increased the distrust between northern and southern states. To avoid a sectional split, Hamilton asked Thomas Jefferson, the secretary of state, to persuade fellow Virginians to accept a political deal. In exchange for votes from the south in favor of assumption, Hamilton offered northern votes in Congress for locating the national capital on the Potomac River. The Virginians were eager to have the capital on the South, and so Jefferson agreed to the deal. Hamilton’s assumption bill passed in July 1790.

A National Bank

Another feature of Hamilton’s program was the Bank of the United States, modeled after the Bank of England. Private individuals would own four-fifths of its stock and the national government would own one-fifth. The bank would operate under a charter from the Central government and would be given all of the government’s banking business. The bank would be able to issue bank-notes that would circulate as paper money. At the time there were few banks in the nation, and most of them were unstable. Hamilton argued that a national bank was needed to provide banknotes that had a set value. He said that the bank would give the government a safe place to deposit federal funds, increase government income by paying for its charter, and stabilize the price of government bonds by purchasing them at proper times.

Hamilton had three basic reasons for wanting the bank. First, the bank would benefit the merchants and bankers who would control it, and it would be another tie between the wealthy class and the national government. Second, by allowing the government to engage in the banking business, Congress would broaden the power of the central government. Third, this enlarging of national powers would weaken the power of the states.

Nothing in the constitution specifically authorized Congress to create a bank. The only basis could be found in the “elastic” clause (Art. 1, sec. 8), which allowed Congress to enact such laws as were “necessary and proper” for carrying out the powers of government. When the bank bill reached Congress, James Medison and others fought against it on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and that it would benefit only the wealthy. Nonetheless, Congress passed the bill, and it went to the President. Hamilton argued for the bank He pointed out that the government had the power to coin money and collect taxes. He said a bank was “necessary and proper” to execute these powers. Jefferson opposed the bank. Washington accepted Hamilton’s advice and, in February 1791, signed the bank bill. The Bank of the United States began operating under a charter that, ran for twenty years.

Taxation

The main source of income of the new government was the sale of public lands. To pay for funding and assumption, the national government needed still more money. Hamilton favored two kinds of taxes to raise more money; a tariff on imports and an excise tax on distilled liquors, such as Whiskey. It was hoped to encourage American industry through the tariff. The tariff would raise the price of foreign manufactured goods. Hamilton believed that if these prices went high enough, Americans would buy goods made in the United States rather than imports. In 1789, a tariff was raised which were rather lower than those requested by Hamilton. Nonetheless, it produced some of the revenue the government required.

In December 1791, Hamilton explained his ideas for the encouragement and protection of industry. In his report on Manufactures, he pointed out that America’s new industries suffered from a shortage of inexperienced labor and in the capital. Without the government’s help, they could not be expected to compete with the established industries of Europe.

Hamilton urged Congress to set up protective tariffs and establish bounties for new industries. He asked Congress to give bonuses for improvements in goods, reward investors, and allow needed raw materials to enter the country duty-free. Congress would not accept all of Hamilton’s proposals but in May 1792, it passed a tariff act that included some of his recommendations.

Whiskey Rebellion

In March 1791, Congress had passed the tax on distilled liquors. Hamilton, had intended this tax to have a political as well as an economic impact. He wanted to use it to assert the direct power of the national government over individuals. Such powers has previously belonged only to the states. Almost from the day the tax was passed, it aroused opposition. The farmers in the back country of Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina had difficulty moving their crops to market, and so they commonly made part of their crops into Whiskey. They then transported this Whiskey over mountain trails to country, towns, where they sold it or bartered it for supplies. To many farmers, Monongahela rye whiskey was as good as money. The excise tax went as high as 25 percent of the price, and it hit the western distillers hardest.

In 1794, farmers in four Countries of western Pennsylvania refused to pay the tax. They attacked on the tax collectors started the “Whiskey Rebellion”. Hamilton viewed the uprising as a chance to test the power and strength of the national government.

Under the Constitution, Congress had the power to use the militia, “to execute, the laws of the Union” and to “suppress insurrections.” Congress, therefore, authorized the President to call out state militia to end the uprising. In the first test of the federal law no one knew if the states would remain loyal to the Union and respond to the President’s request.

Four states, including Pennsylvania, provided troops. An army of some 13,000 men, headed by Hamilton and accompanied part of the way by the President, marched on Pennsylvania’s western countries. Al the approach of this force opposition vanished. The troops captured a few rebel leaders, whom Washington later pardoned. The federal government thus established its authority, strength, and credulity, but it gave rise to critics who condemned the use of such great force to stop a few farmers. These critics turned to political action to oppose the government and Hamilton’s policies.

The Rise of Organized Opposition

Background

Several years before the outbreak of the Whiskey Rebellion, people inside and outside the government began grouping into two national parties. Those who followed the leadership of Hamilton and Washington became known as “Federalists”. Their opponents led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were called Republicans. Hamilton and Jefferson differed over how the United States should develop. Their ideas were reflected in their parties. Comparative differences as follow:

  1. “Federalists” was the party of Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and John Marshall. Whereas the “Democratic-Republicans” was the party of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
  2. Federalists were led by merchants, bankers and lawyers, living primarily in New England. Whereas the Democratic-Republican was led by planters, farmers and wage-earners, living mainly in the South and Southeast.
  3. The Federalists favored a strong central government; whereas the Democratic-Republicans favored strong state governments.
  4. The Federalists interpreted constitution loosely; whereas the Democratic-Republicans interpreted the Constitution strictly.
  5. The Federalists believed in government by the aristocracy and distrusted common man; whereas the Democratic-Republicans favored rule by the educated masses.
  6. The Federalists passed Alien and Sedition Acts, whereas the Democratic-Republic supported individual libterties, passed Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.
  7. The Federalists had been Pro-England, While the Democratic-Republican were Pro-France.
  8. The Federalists favored Hamilton’s financial policies; for a protective tariff, for Nation Bank, for manufacturing interests and for the assumption of state debts; whereas the Democratic-Republican opposed Hamilton’s financial policies against the protective tariff, for state banks, for agrarian interests, and against the assumption of state debts.

While Hamilton dreamed of the United States that was an industrial giant, Jefferson hoped the country would remain a nation of small farmers. The Hamiltonians thought the government should encourage business and industry by granting special privileges. The Jeffersonians were opposed to this idea.

Most of the Hamiltonians were merchants, bankers and manufactures from the New England states and coastal areas and wealthy farmers and southern plantation owners. Jeffersonians were mostly craft workers, frontier settlers, or owners of small farms in the South and West.

Jefferson favored a more democratic form of government than the British system that Hamilton admired. He thought that most men were capable of self-government, and he wanted to lower the voting qualifications so that more men could vote.

As members of the Republican party, the Jeffersonians pushed for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, with most of the power residing in the states and little given to the central government. They opposed Hamilton’s efforts to broaden the powers of the national government. The Republicans also were more concerned with civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and press. The Hamiltonians, as. Federalists sponsored laws to restrict these freedoms.

Although Federalists and Republicans differed over many issues, they divided with greatest bitterness over foreign policy. Federalists believed that the nation would be best served if the government tied itself closely to Britain. Republican generally favored a policy of close political and economic cooperation with France.

The French Revolution, which had started in 1789, strengthened party feelings in the United States. At first most Americans were in sympathy with the revolt in France, and many even praised it. Then, in April 1793, the revolutionaries beheaded King Louis XVI and declared war on Britain, the Netherlands and Spain. Republicans rejoiced because France had become a republic and was fighting Britain, America’s old enemy. They celebrated French victories and wore the tri-colored cockade, a hat symbolic of the French republic. The Federalists were horrified by the violence in the French Revolution. They defended Britain and denounced France.

Views on Diplomacy

It is intended to make a study of “Federalist Diplomacy.” As a secretary of state, it was Thomas Jefferson’s job to plan the governments’ foreign policy. Hamilton feared that Jefferson and James Madison would drive the country to war against Britain. Determined to prevent this, the secretary of the treasury interfered with the conduct of foreign affairs. He tried to get Washington to follow his, not Jefferson’s ideas in dealing with France and Britain. At times he negotiated privately with the British. As a result, Jefferson decided, in 1792, to resign. He said he could not stand Hamilton’s tampering with Foreign affairs. Hamilton also spoke about leaving. Washington asked both of them to stay so that the government could remain unified. Both Jefferson and Hamilton agreed to stay in the President’s Cabinet.

As the end of his term approached in 1792, Washington made plans to retire. Fearing that party differences might break up the union unless Washington served a second term as President, both Hamilton and Jefferson begged him to reconsider. Jefferson told Washington, “North and South will hang together if they have you to hang on.”

Others also pleaded with Washington, and no one would run against him. He easily won re-election. Although Republicans made a party contest out of the balloting for Vice-President, John Adams also was re-elected.

A Policy of Neutrality

In his second term, Washington devoted much of his time to foreign relations. One of his first decision in the new term concerned American policy in the war between France and Britain. He turned to his Cabinet members for advice. All the – advisors agreed that the President should adopt a policy of neutrality. Washington made this the official policy in a proclamation that be issued on April 22, 1793. It said that the United States was at peace with both France and Britain, and it warned Americans not to act hostilely toward either country. The overthrow of the French monarchy raised other policy questions.

Washington asked his advisers if the American treaties with France were still in effect and if he should receive a minister from the French republic. Again Hamilton and Jefferson differed. Hamilton wanted to suspend the treaties and refuse to recognize the republican government of France. He wanted to use the French Revolution as an excuse to end the alliance with France.

Jefferson argued that the treaties were still legally binding and that the President should recognize the French republic. This time Washington followed Jefferson’s advice. The new French ministers was a rash young man is known as “Citizen” Edmond C. Genet (the French revolutionaries used “Citizen” in place of “mister”). As soon as he arrived in the United States, Genet meddled in American politics. He appealed directly to the people, rather than to the heads of the government. He insulted Washington and enraged the Federalists. He did not ask for military aid under the terms of the French alliance, but he did demand assistance that would have violated. American neutrality. His disregard for American neutrality became intolerable, and Washington demanded that the French government recall him. Genet’s misconduct also forced the government to clarify its neutrality policy. The Neutrality Act of 1794, which prohibited foreign warships from being fitted out in United States ports, was the result.

Jay’s Treaty

Meanwhile, the United States was brought to the verge of war with Britain. During the European war, France had opened ports in its Caribbean Colonies to American shipping. These ports had previously been closed to foreigners. France opened them because it needed supplies. The British were destroying most French shipping, and only neutral ships could get through.

The profits were good, and Americans, quickly built up a flourishing trade in these ports. Since this trade helped France, the British decided to stop it. Beginning in June 1793, Britain issued three executive orders which said that Britain would not allow in time of war a trade that was prohibited during peace. In enforcing this policy, British naval officers seized United States ships and Cargoes and imprisoned the seaman.

Newspapers in the United States played up these captures. AntiBritish feelings became so strong that it was difficult to follow Washington’s policy of neutrality. The difficulty increased when word reached the capital of British actions in the Northwest.

The trouble stemmed from Washington’s efforts to Conquer the Indians in the region. American military expeditions in 1790 and 1791 failed, in part because British officials had provided the Indians with supplies. The British had also promised the tribes that they could recover lands settled by Americans at the time of the Revolutionary War. This promise enraged Americans.

Americans had other grievances. British troops still held the northwest posts on American soil and the British government still refused to make a commercial treaty. Together these grievances brought on a crisis between the United States and Britain.

Many Americans started preparing for war much to the alarm of Hamilton and other Federalists. To head off a war, in April 1794, Hamiltonians persuaded the President to send john jay, the chief justice of the United States, on a special mission to London. Jay was able to get a commercial treaty, which he signed in November 1794. When details of the treaty reached the United States, Republicans called it a sellout to Britain. The treaty granted few of the things that jay had been told to get from Britain, such as payment for the Caribbean captures and generous trade privileges.

Republicans tried and failed to defeat Jay’s Treaty in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, they attempted to without the funds necessary to carry out the provisions of the treaty.

Although the treaty had shortcomings, it kept the peace at a time when war with Britain might have split the Union. Because of it, the British finally left the northwest posts. In addition, the willingness of Britain to make a treaty with its former colonies was at least a small victory for American diplomacy.

Though few Americans realized it at the time, jay’s Treaty had a great influence on the defeat of the Indian tribes in the Ohio country. During the Treaty negotiations, Britain told its troops in the northwest posts to prepare to evacuate. When the Miami, Shawnee, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa fought American troops in the Battle of alarm of Hamilton and other Federalists. To head off a war, in April 1794, Hamiltonians persuaded the President to send John Jay, the Chief Justice of the United States, on a special mission to London. Jay was able to get a commercial treaty, which he signed in November 1794. When details of the treaty reached the United States, Republicans called it a sellout to Britain. The treaty granted few of the things that jay had been told to get from Britain, such as payment for the Caribbean captures and generous trade privileges.

Republicans tried and failed to defeat jay’s Treaty in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, they attempted to without the funds necessary to carry out the provisions of the treaty.

Although the treaty had shortcomings, it kept the peace at a time when war with Britain might have spilled the Union. Because of it, the British finally left the northwest posts. In addition, the willingness of Britain to make a treaty with its former colonies was at least a small victory for American diplomacy.

Though few Americans realized it at the time, jay’s Treaty had a great influence on the defeat of the Indian tribes in the Obis country. During the Treaty negotiations, Britain told its troops in the northwest posts to prepare to evacuate. When the Mianic, Shawnee, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa fought American troops in the Battle of Fallen Timbers (August 1794), their British allies gave them no help. The Americans soldiers burned the cornfields, killed the fruit trees, and destroyed the villages. The following June the defeated tribes signed the – Treaty of Greenville.

In it, they gave up their rights to most of Ohio, part of Indian and scattered sites, including those that became Detriot, Vincennes, and Chicago.

Agreement with Spain

While jay was negotiating in London, Spain broke with Britain and became an ally of France. Because Jay’s mission seemed to draw the United States closer to Britain, Spain feared an attack by AngloAmerican forces on its Northern American colonies. Spain also thought that American pioneers might invade Louisiana and Florida. Its ministers decided to purchase American goodwill.

In 1794, Spain asked the United States to negotiate its grievances. Washington sent Thomas Pinckney, the minister in London, to Madrid. In October 1795, he and the Spaniards signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo (Pinckney’s Treaty.). So pleased were American leaders with the agreement that the Senate approved it unanimously.

The treaty gave the United States unrestricted navigation of the Mississippi River and the right to deposit goods in warehouses at New Orleans for reloading on ocean-going vessels. It also set the boundary of West Florida at the 31st parallel. Spain promised that it would not promote Indian attacks against Americans, and the United States promised to keep Indians in its territory from striking at Spanish lands. The new national government had made important diplomate gains. It had done so, in part, because Spain and Britain were preoccupied with their policies in Europe. The Jay and Pinckney treaties freed American social from the British and the Spanish for the first time since independence.

France’s interference

When the French learned of Jay’s Treaty from going into effect. The French made a distinction between the American people and their Federalist government. They portrayed Washington’s administration as a slave to British policy while most Americans favored French friendship. The French ministers to the United States publicly supported Republicans in elections, put pressure on senators to defeat the treaty, and tried to get the American people to oppose that agreement.

This interference in American politics enraged Washington. It made him determined to support the British treaty The tensions over foreign policy also prompted Washington to announce his decision to retire. For some time, he had been tired and disappointed with abusive politics. However, the French meddling convinced Washington that his nation needed a warning. He decided to give it in the form of a farewell statement, which he issued through the newspapers in September 1796.

Washington’s Farewell Address came to be one of the most influential statements on foreign policy ever made by an American. The President began by announcing that he would not be a candidate for a third term. He warned against “foreign influence,” stressed faithfulness to existing agreements, and said “it is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” He defended his own policies and denounced French meddling. Federalists praised the Farewell Address; Republican called it political propaganda, and the French disliked it. The French minister threw his weight into the presidential campaign on the side of Thomas Jefferson the Republican candidate. He said that only a victory by Jefferson would end the possibility of war with France. The French minister’s interference did Jefferson more harm than good. Jobin Adams won the nations first contested the presidential election in 1796. Though Jefferson gained the vice-presidency, Federalists retained control of the Government. It seemed likely that there would be no basic change in American politics.

The Role of Political Opposition

For a few years, President Washington’s Administration mot no organized opposition. Jefferson, Madison, and others disliked Alexander Hamilton’s use of federal power to strengthen the Commercial interest of the American economy. But to oppose Washington directly seemed a little like treason. He was re-elected unanimously in 1792.

During Washington’s second term, however, his fellow Virginians took the lead in organizing a network of political groups. Members of these groups disagreed with many of the policies proposed by Hamilton and adopted by Washingon. They called themselves“ Republicans“, leaving to the Administrations’ supporters the name of “Federalists”.

Many circumstances, besides opposition to the Administration’s pro-business policies, contributed to the Republican opposition. Political fights at the state and local level turned some powerful leaders, such as George Clinton of New York, into opponents of the Federations. The court break of war in 1793, between the French revolutionary government and Great Britain, created dissension between sympathizers with Britain such as Hamilton, and sympathizers with France such as Jefferson. Federalists also blamed Republican societies, which were influenced by the democratic aims of the French Revolution, for a revolt, in 1794, of western Pennsylvania farmers against a highly unpopular commercial treaty with Great Britain. President Washington used his influence to get the Senate to ratify the treaty over-vigorous Republican objections.

While the Republican organization was much too lose and informal to resemble a modern political party, it nearly won the Presidency for Jefferson in 1796. John Adams defeated Jefferson by the narrow electoral margin of seventy-one to sixty-eight. Under the existing rules, each elector voted for two men without specifying which one was to be President. Jefferson, with the second-highest vote, became VicePresident.

After a brief “honeymoon” between Adams and the Republicans, an even more bitter political fight broke out. Each side had the support of newspapers which vied with one another in denouncing both the leaders and the policies of the opposition. The war between Britain and France entered a more active phase in 1798. American foreign affairs became a violent partisan issue. Both Federalists and Republicans hurled charges of disloyalty to American interests at each other. It became uncertain whether the antagonists could continue to work with each other within a constitutional framework.

The Federalists absorb their opponents

Most of the strong feelings aroused by the battles over ratification of the constitution died down quickly. Some of the men who had vigorously opposed the constitution were elected to the First Congress. They may have been attracted to Congress by the prospect of sharing in a new kind of power or by a desire to guard with the sharp eye’s the rights of their states against the new central government. In any case, they devoted their abilities to the Common task of making the federal system succeed. By mid-1790 when all thirteen states had ratified the constitution, outward opposition to the new system of government had virtually disappeared. The proposal of a Bill of Rights by Congress ad much to still the fears of the suspicious. The reputations and talents of the men who took office in George Washington’s first Administration quieted these fears further.

Washington’s qualities of leadership during the years of the Revolution and the Confederation had influenced his colleagues to make the office of President strong. Washington did not disappoint his supporters as he helped shape the Presidency. His conduct in office won for the new government what it needed mast, the confidence of its citizens. While Washington’s immense dignity and reserved air kept his subordinates somewhat in awe of him, his rock-like integrity and sound Judgment commanded their deep respect. John Adams, who as VicePresident added prestige to the Administration, Commented after observing Washington in action for a few months:

“No man, I believe, has influence with the President. He seeks information from all quarters, and Judges more independently them any man I ever knew.”

Thomas Jefferson disagreed with many of Washington’s policies. Yet in 1914 he recalled of the first President:

“Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed. His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known.”

Washington tried hard to get men of high abilities to serve in appointive offices. He also set the precedent of awarding some offices to men from all sections of the nation. This policy was one important way to promote national Unity. He selected, trusted former subordinates for two executive positions by appointing Alexander Hamilton of New York as Secretary of the Treasury and Henry Knox of Massachusetts as Secretary of War. He drew up the largest state, Virginia, for its politically powerful governor, Edmund Randolph, and for its most distinguished political thinker and diplomat, Thomas Jefferson. Randolph became Attorney General and Jefferson became secretary of State. The six Supreme Court justices were drawn from all parts of the country. John Jay of New York became the first Chief justice. Of the largest states, only Pennsylvania did not contribute a high-ranking federal office.

The rise of organized Opposition

The men who designed the Constitution were realists. They expected that those who took part in the government would find many reasons to disagree with each other. The delegates to the Philadelphia Convention had built a system of checks and balances into the new government to make it difficult for a distinct interest group to gain control of the whole government. Madison had argued in The Federalist”, that federalism gave protection against the evils of factions. But the authors of the Constitution had not expected that such interest groups would grow into organizations operating openly and peacefully to gain leadership and control in the government. In the 1790s political parties were not yet a recognized part of the political process, but the beginnings of the American party system date from this period.

The Republicans (later called Democratic-Republicans) informally organized their opposition to the Federalists as early as 1791, When Hamilton pressed his financial program. on Congress. The Republicans grew in strength by battling the foreign policies of Washington and Adams, which to the Republicans seemed pro-British and anti-French. But not until 1796, with Washington’s retirement from office, did they make a concerted effort to win the Presidency and control of Congress. They failed in both; John Adams became President, and the Federalists maintained their majority in Congress.

The Republicans wanted to gain control of the existing government through regular elections. They promised to administer the government according to the constitution but they frightened a good many Federalists who believed that their opponents were real revolutionaries. Federalists had done a good job of representing people with commercial, financial and urban interests. Too many of these men, Jefferson’s followers seemed to be enemies of property. Even more frightening to the Federalist was the timing of the Republican challenge. The Republicans became a recognizable group at every time that the revolutionary government in France, which had executed King Louis XVI and had gone to war with Britain, Austria and Prussia, reached its most radical and violent stage. Many Republicans, like their leader, Thomas Jefferson, sympathized with the French revolutionaries, who had cast off monarchy in favor of the republican government. But conservative men shuddered as they imagined Republicans seizing property and setting up guillotines in the public squares of Philadelphia. Savage criticism of Federalist leaders — even of revered Washington — in Republican newspapers convinced Federalists that liberty of the press was leading to a breakdown of public order.

Events abroad influenced the tone of polite warfare at home. The American political battle subsided when the French revolutionary government fell into the hands of a more conservative group in 1795, and the European war abated temporarily. Jefferson, in fact, greeted the election of Adams in 1796 cheerfully. His own election as Vice-President suggested that the two discordant groups could be brought together. Hamilton and the most conservative Federalists, however, opposed such a reconciliation The renewal of the war in Europe aggravated FederalistRepublican differences, Both Britain and France confiscated neutral American ships. Federalists and Republican accused each other of being in league with a foreign enemy to betray American interests.

The Federalists with a clear majority in Congress, took steps to repress what to them booked clearly like subversion. In 1798 they passed, and President Adams signed the so-called Alien and Sedition Acts. One of the acts gave the President power to deport any alien he thought was dangerous to the nation. Another provided heavy fines and jail terms for persons who criticized federal officials in “false scandalous, and malicious“ terms. This language was broad enough so that Federalist judges sent several Republican editors and one Republican Congressman to jail.

To these challenges, the Republicans responded first with protests. In late 1798, the Kentucky and Virginia state legislatures adopted resolutions (written by Jefferson and Madison respectively) calling the Alien and Sedition laws illegal and declaring that the states had the power to declare federal laws unconstitutional. While these challenges to federal authority set a precedent for later states – rights causes, they drew little support from other states in 1798 and 1799.

A more effective Republican answer to the Federalists came in their vigorous effort to create a party organization at the local level throughout the nation in order to win the election of 1800. This attempt was successful. Jefferson and Aaron Burr of New York received 73 electoral votes each, while Federalists Adams and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina won 65 and 64 respectively. The time in electoral votes between Jefferson and Burr gave states with Federalist electors a chance to decide the outcome. In the end, Hamilton who considered Jefferson less dangerous than Burr, as he pointed out in his letter to James A. Beyard, persuaded Federalists to throw the election to Jefferson. The twelfth amendment to the Constitution ratified in 1804, prevented the candidates of the same party from being tied in the vote for President. Now that the Republicans were in power, what actions would they take against their political enemies? Jefferson gave a conciliatory response in his inaugural address in 1801:

“We are all republicans, we are all federalists”.

Nor did he oust Federalists from appointive offices in large numbers, although he required their loyalty to the new Administration. After the vindictiveness of the 1790s, a calmer spirit prevailed in the nation. A challenge had been met; the leadership of a nation had been changed peacefully. Political opposition within a constitutional framework would be tolerated and eventually praised rather than driven underground and punished.

A Brief Survey of The Inhabitants, 1790

The population grew rapidly in the years before the 1790 census. It is estimated that the British colonies gained 1 million people between 1760 and 1775, primarily because of high birth and the influx of immigrants.

The colonists were encouraged to marry and to marry early. Since considerable labor was needed to make a farm productive, a big family was considered a necessity. Families of ten or twelve children were Common and those of twenty or twenty-five were not unusual. The country had a high death rate among infants and young children, however. Even in well-settled areas, as many as one-third of the children died before the age of five. Life was hard for adults as well as for children. Many marriages ended early with the death of one partner. Second marriages were often entered into shortly after the funeral, for marriage was in many ways an economic necessity, Third and fourth marriages were not uncommon.

During the Revolutionary War, population growth slowed. This was partly due to fatalities of war (approximately 100,000), the departure of many Loyalists, and a lower birth rate. Some of these losses were offset by continued immigration and by British and German troops who decided to stay after the war.

As peace was restored the population began to grow rapidly again. Most Americans favored unlimited immigration, and political leaders encouraged it. Also, the slave trade increased.

By 1790, the United States was still a nation with a young population. For example, the median age of white males was 16.

At the time of the first census in 1790, western New York and Pennsylvania were considered the most promising areas in which to settle. Both had fertile, reasonably priced land to offer and both were less crowded than many of the New England and southern states. A large · number of Americans were moving west in 1790. By that year, the non-Indian population of the territory of Tennessee, for example, had grown to approximately 70,000.

National Origins and Religions, 1790

English 48.7% African 20%; Scotch-Irish 7.8% German 7.0%; Scotch 6.6%; Dutch 2.7%; other 7.2%.

Religious denominations in order of strength

A. Anglican (Episcopal) ; B. Baptist; C. Congregational; D. Dutch Reformed; F. French Huguenot; G. German Reformed. J. Jewish; L. Lutheran. M, Methodist; P. Presbyterian; Q. Quaker; R. Roman Catholic

Subscribe to brighten your future

An email was just sent to confirm your subscription. Please find the email and click 'Confirm Follow' to start subscribing.

About Editorial Staff

It is an educational blog and intended to serve as complete and self-contained work on essays, paragraph, speeches, articles, history, letters, stories, quotes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *