Launching the New Ship of State
Washington for President
George Washington was unanimously elected as President by the Electoral College in 1789. He took the oath of office on April 30, 1789. He established the cabinet.
At first, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, and Secretary of War Henry Knox served under Washington.
Bill of Rights
James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights and got them passed by Congress in 1791.
The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Supreme Court, with a chief justice and five associates, as well as federal district and circuit courts, and established the office of attorney general.
John Jay became the first Chief Justice.
Hamilton Revives the Corpse of Public Credit
In order to create a thriving federal government, Alexander Hamilton set out to create a plan to shape the policies of the administration in such a way as to favor the wealthier groups. These wealthier groups would then gratefully lend their money and political support to the government. The wealth in the government would then trickle down through society.
In this plan, Hamilton persuaded Congress to fund the entire national debt at par, meaning that the federal government would pay off its debts at face value plus accumulated interest. This would strengthen the national credit by creating public confidence in the small Treasury department.
He then convinced Congress to take on the states' debts, which would create confidence in the government by the states. States with large debts, like Massachusetts, were delighted with Hamilton's proposal, but states with small debts, like Virginia, did not want the government to assume state debts. Virginia did, however, want the forthcoming federal district, the District of Columbia, which would bring commerce and prestige. So Virginia made a deal with the government: the government would assume state debts if the District of Columbia was placed on the Potomac River. The deal was passed by Congress in 1790.
Customs, Duties, and Excise Taxes
One of Hamilton's objectives was to keep a national debt, believing that the more creditors to whom the government owed money, the more people there would be with a personal stake in the success of the government.
In this objective, he expected tariff revenues to pay interest on the huge debt and run the government.
The first tariff law, which imposed a low tax of 8% on the value of imports, was passed by Congress in 1789. Its purpose was to create revenue and to create a small protective wall around small industries.
He passed additional internal revenue and, in 1791, convinced Congress to pass an excise tax on a few domestic items, notably whiskey.
Hamilton Battles Jefferson for a Bank
Alexander Hamilton proposed a Bank of the United States that could print paper money and thus provide a stable national currency. The national bank would also be place where the Treasury could deposit monies.
Thomas Jefferson strongly opposed the Bank stating it was unconstitutional. He felt that the states had the right to manage their own money. Most of the opposition came from the south and most of the support came from the north.
Hamilton prevailed and the 1st Bank of the United States was created in 1791. Its charter lasted for 20 years and was located in Philadelphia.
Mutinous Moonshiners in Pennsylvania
The Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania in 1794 was lead by distillers who strongly opposed the 1791 excise tax on whiskey. The rebellion was ended when President Washington sent in federal troops. Although the troops faced no opposition, a strong message was sent by the government stating that it would enforce the law.
The Emergence of Political Parties
Political parties had not existed in America when George Washington took office.
What was once a personal feud between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had developed into a full-blown and bitter political rivalry.
In the 1790s, Jefferson and Madison organized their opposition to the Hamiltonian program but confined it to Congress. In due time, this organized opposition grew and the two-party system emerged.
The Impact of the French Rebellion
When Washington's first administration had ended in 1793, a formation of two political groups had ensued: Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans and Hamilton Federalists.
The French Revolution started in 1789. It began peacefully but entered a violent phase when France declared war on Austria in 1792. Things started to get worse when King Louis XVI was beheaded in 1793, the church was attacked, and the head-rolling Reign of Terror was begun.
At first, the Federalists supported the revolution but that view suddenly changed when the attitude of the revolution changed.
Washington's Neutrality Proclamation
Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans wanted to get into the French and British War to fight for France. The Federalists were opposed.
Washington issued the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 stating the country's neutrality from the Britain-France war. He was backed by Hamilton.
Embroilments with Britain
For years, the British had retained the frontier posts on U.S. soil, all in defiance of the peace treaty of 1783. The London government did not want to abandon the valuable fur trade in the Great Lakes region, and British agents openly sold firearms to the Miami Confederacy, an alliance of 8 Indian nations who terrorized Americans.
The Jeffersonians felt that American should again fight Britain in defense of America's liberties. The Federalists opposed this action because Hamilton's hopes for economic development depended on trade with Britain.
Jay's Treaty and Washington's Farewell
In a last attempt to avoid war, President Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to London in 1794 to negotiate. Opposed by Democratic-Republicans, Jay hammered out a treaty, Jay's Treaty, in which the British promised to evacuate the chain of posts on U.S. soil and pay for damages for the seizures of American ships. Britain stopped short of pledging anything about future maritime seizures or about supplying arms to Indians. The treaty also called for the U.S. to continue to pay the debts owed to British merchants on pre-Revolutionary War accounts.
Jay's Treaty caused Spain, which feared an Anglo-American alliance, to strike a deal with the U.S. In Pinckney's Treaty of 1795 with Spain, Spain granted the Americans free navigation of the Mississippi River and the large disputed territory north of Florida.
In his Farewell Address to the nation, Washington urged against permanent alliances. He left office in 1797.
John Adams Becomes President
John Adams beat Thomas Jefferson to become to the 2nd President in 1797.
Hamilton became the leader of the Federalist Party, known as the "High Federalists."
Unofficial Fighting with France
France was upset with Jay's Treaty and it started capturing American merchant ships. President John Adams sent John Marshall to France to negotiate in 1797. Hoping the meet Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, Adams's envoy was secretly approached by 3 go-betweens, later referred to as X, Y, and Z (Mme de Villette, Jean Conrad Hottinguer, and Lucien Hauteral). The French spokesmen demanded a bribe of $250,000 just to talk to Talleyrand. Angered by the intolerable terms, Marshall and the envoy returned to the U.S.
Infuriated with the XYZ Affair, America began preparations for war: the Navy Department was created; the three-ship navy was expanded; the United States Marine Corps was reestablished.
Adams Puts Patriotism Above Party
Because France did not want another enemy, it said that if the Americans sent another negotiator minister, then he would be received with proper respect.
Napoleon Bonaparte was the dictator of France.
Eager to free his hands of a potential enemy, the dictator of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, signed the Convention of 1800 with American representative John Jay. It annulled the alliance between France and America that had existed since the Revolutionary War. The convention also called for France to return captured American ships and for the U.S. to pay the damage claims of American shippers (damages were caused by France).
The Federalist Witch Hunt
In order to decrease the number of pro-Jeffersonians, the Federalist Congress passed a series of oppressive laws aimed at "aliens", or foreigners who came to America and supported Jefferson.
These Alien Laws raised the residence requirements for aliens who desired to become citizens from 5 years to 14 years. They also stated that the President could deport or jail foreigners in times of peace or hostilities.
The Sedition Act stated that anyone who impeded the policies of the government or falsely defamed its officials would be liable to a heavy fine and imprisonment.
The Virginia (Madison) and Kentucky (Jefferson) Resolutions
Jefferson's Kentucky resolution and Madison's Virginia resolution concluded that the states had the right to refuse laws created by the government. Virtually no other state followed the two states' resolutions.
Federalists versus Democratic-Republicans
Hamilton Federalists supported a strong central government; they believed that the government should support private enterprise, not interfere with it; and they supported the British.
Jeffersonian anti-Federalists demanded a weak central government and supported states' rights.