The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1789-1800.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 10.
America had developed from separate British colonies to independent friends to a union of states. Though paper money was worthless and the national debt rivaled mountains and a double-D rack, Americans set up a massive republic, something never done before.
Though the Republic was doubling in population every twenty years and the cities were only getting bigger and bigger, 90% of the population was rural with just 5% living west of the Appalachians. Vermont would become the 14th state in 1791 with Ohio and Kentucky right behind it. Many visitors were aghast at the rough-and-tumble ways of the West. Though the Brits and the Spanish offered independence to the Western states, they wouldn’t budge and were extremely loyal to the stars and stripes.
But even with all this patriotism, the country could easily fall to ruin. We needed someone large and in-charge to run the show. Enter George Washington, who was unanimously voted into the Presidency by the electoral college in 1789. As he journeyed from his home at Mount Vernon to the capitol of New York, he was met by parade after parade. George then established the cabinet with only three offices: Sect. of State Tommy Jefferson, Sect. of the Treasury Alex Hamilton, and Sect. of War Henry Knox.
Remembering their promise to Massachusetts and other states, a Bill of Rights had to be drawn up right away. The Amendments would be made by a new constitutional convention, but many feared they would change the Constitution too much. James Madison decided to be a badass and make the Bill of Rights himself. They are as follows:
- Amendment I: Freedom of religion, speech or press, assembly, and petition.
- Amendment II: Right to bear arms.
- Amendment III: Soldiers can’t be housed in civilian homes during peacetime.
- Amendment IV: No unreasonable searches; all searches require warrants.
- Amendment V: Right to refuse to speak during a civil trial; Double Jeopardy. Right to property.
- Amendment VI: Right to a speedy and public trial.
- Amendment VII: Right to trial by jury when the sum exceeds $20.
- Amendment VIII: No excessive bails and/or fines.
- Amendment IX: Other rights not listed are still guaranteed.
- Amendment X: Non-federal powers belong to the state.
In addition, the Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Supreme Court along with federal district and circuit courts. John Jay, a collaborator on the Federalist Papers and a delegate for the Paris treaty in 1783, was made the first Chief Justice.
Alexander Hamilton was a financial wizard who was born in the West Indies. Many feared his allegiance to the islands, but he insisted he loved the states. He felt that if the government favored the upper-class in their policies, the upper-class would then lend the government money as well as political support. With the upper-class doing well, the prosperity would then trickle down to the other classes. But first, he wanted the government to pay off its debts at full face value with interest (called funding-at-par), which, without interest, already totaled $54 million. Funding-at-par would come to support the rich class.
If that wasn’t enough, he wanted the feds to shoulder the states’ debt as well, who together owed $21.5 million. This was called ‘assumption’ and Hamilton vehemently believed that it would bond the states to the federal government even more. As soon as he got back from France, Jefferson picketed for assumption and soon it was a reality. Massachusetts, which had a shitload of debt, thought that assumption was groovy. Virginia, without a lot of debt, didn’t like it, so in return for votes, it got the federal District of Columbia built in its state.
The national debt swelled to $75 million and since more people wanted their money back, more people cared about the US and what happened to it. Congress passed a tariff of 8% on dutiable imports and later passed an excise tax on domestic items like whiskey. Since America still ran on its agricultural industry, little was done to tax the farms.
Hamilton, a former English subject, admired many English systems. The English Bank, he believed, should be the model for the national Treasury. The feds could then print money and secure a federal currency. The bank was argued to be in violation of the Constitution. Hamilton felt that the bank fell under the Necessary and Proper Clause– the feds could create something not in the Constitution so long as it carried out the enumerated powers given to the national government in Article I, Section 8. This is called elastic language.
Thomas Jefferson felt differently and thought that only states should be able to charter banks. He also believed that the Constitution should be read word-for-word and not between the lines. In the end, the Bank of the United States was established in Philly with a capital of $10 million. The feds owned 1/5 of it while the rest was bought in a public sale within two hours.
Hamilton’s excise tax on whiskey was met with much uproar. In 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion flared up in Western Pennsylvania, where alcohol was literally used as money. They claimed that the tax was unfair and mirrored the Brits’ old taxes. Washington countered their argument by stating that they now had representation in Congress and should STFU. 13,000 troops were sent by him to stop a possible revolt. However, the Rebellion was badly organized and gave up almost immediately. Washington’s government gained new-found respect that came with the use of force. The opposition, of course, decried this as an act of tyranny.
With the excise taxes in place, the US gained a sound credit rating. However, many were in opposition to Hamilton’s policies as they lessened states’ rights. The rivalry between Jefferson and Hamilton would evolve into two factional parties near the end of GW’s first term in 1793- the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Originally, as was thought in the Constitution, any opposition to government was treasonous and disloyal. We have benefited greatly from the two-party system as it keeps power in check.
Soon after Washington was inaugurated for his first term, the French Revolution broke out, greatly inspired by Americans. Then in 1792, France declared war on invading Austria and soon repelled them back. We were overjoyed, seeing it as an extension of our own freedoms until 1793, when King Louie XVI was beheaded and the Reign of Terror began. The Federalists backed away from celebration while the Jeffersonians persisted, claiming that revolution was nothing without bloodshed. But suddenly, France declared war on Great Britain. Here we go again…
Back in 1778, we had secured a military alliance with France in order to win the Revolutionary War. Guess what? We were still technically obligated to help our fellow Frenchmen. Jeffersonians were quick to jump behind France, while Washington wanted to employ a strategy of delay and stall war for as long as possible. Washington epitomized these views in 1793 with his Neutrality Proclamation, which held America as impartial and neutral. If the French war with Britain somehow benefited the US, they would join.
French diplomat Edmond Genet landed at Charleston, SC and began to rally troops to invade Spanish-held Florida and Louisiana and British-held Canada. If the US had honored the alliance [which France, surprisingly, never demanded we do], Britain would have likely blockaded the supply lines in the French West Indies. Neutrality was awesome!
Britain still hung on to many fur trading posts around the Great Lakes and regularly traded with Indians, especially the American-hating Miami Confederacy. As the US continued to move farther west in the early 1790s, the Miami Confederacy, led by Little Turtle, handed them defeat after defeat. It was only after General Mad Anthony Wayne defeated the Confederacy in 1794 at Fallen Timbers that the Indians sued for peace. The redcoats had deserted the Indians at their greatest time of need.
The Treaty of Greenville in 1795 gave up the Indian lands of Ohio and Indiana, while the Native Americans would get money in return. Meanwhile, the British had planned to blockade the West Indies to no avail and instead seized 300 merchant ships and impressed American men into the British army. Jeffersonians cried out for another war with Britain or at least an embargo, both of which would’ve killed Hamilton’s economic plans for the future.
Washington’s plan to avert war involved sending Chief Justice John Jay to London in 1794 to negotiate peace. Hamilton purposely leaked Jay’s bargaining strategies to the Brits and Jay won few concessions. The Brits agreed to leave all US trading posts behind and pay for the recent ship seizure damages as long as the US repaid all of its pre-Revolutionary War debts. The Jeffersonians were PO’d with the selection of Jay and that southern farmers, the most prosperous Americans, would now have to shoulder most of the debts owed to Britain.
Spain, also trying to avert war, signed Pickney’s Treaty in 1795, which let Americans freely roam the Mississippi and northern Florida. Washington would retire after the end of his second term in 1797 and set a model for all Presidents to serve only two terms, save for FDR. In his farewell address, Washington insisted that temporary alliances were the way to go. All in all, GW had set the US on track with a solid fiscal foundation and no military entanglements overseas. Finally he was gone! Ya hear that, textbook?! No more G-Dub.
After Washington, Hamilton was the next best choice, though his policies had made him unpopular, and hence, unelectable. The Federalists ended up picking John Adams while the Democrat-Republicans of course chose Thomas Jefferson. Adams edged out Jefferson, who would become VP. John Adams almost perfectly filled Washington’s shoes, but his inherited situation with France, which could evolve into war, nearly derailed any hope of prominence.
John Jay’s Treaty with Britain had greatly upset the French, as they insisted it was a stepping stone to an alliance between the US and the Brits. In return, the French began to seize merchant ships. John Adams employed GW’s policy of averting war at all costs and sent three diplomats, namely John Marshall, over to France to settle the matter. But when the men arrived in Paris to see the Foreign Minister Talleyrand, they were headed by X, Y, and Z, all of whom demanded tribute in order for the Americans to meet with the French foreign minister.
Bribes were commonplace in Europe, but they usually came with an assurance of reaching a settlement. France had demanded $250,000 for a simple conversation. The diplomats returned as heroes after they refused. Most Americans now called for Adams to declare war on France, but he wouldn’t budge from his Washington-inspired doctrine of neutrality. But, just in case, the Navy was expanded and the Marine Corps. was established. Americans now could defend their merchant ships in the West Indies in a Quasi-War.
France realized that war with America might not be the best idea and when a last-ditch peace envoy arrived in Paris, they were greeted graciously by Napoleon, who was eager to work with the Americans. At the Convention of 1800, a treaty was signed that ended the alliance but made the Americans pay for their own damaged ships. John Adams lost much popularity over this, but war once again was averted and the path for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was paved.
Poor immigrants quickly became the base of the Jeffersonians and to bypass this, the Federalist Congress extended the property-owning requirements for voting from five to fourteen years. The President was also given the power to deport or imprison dangerous foreigners. Thankfully, most of these Alien Laws went unenforced. The Sedition Act was the worst of all and clamped down on any speech that impeded government policies. The Jeffersonians won many converts, though the Federalists enjoyed more wins in the election of 1798.
Jefferson and Madison drew up resolutions in Kentucky and Virginia, respectively, which insisted that the national government had exceeded its constitutional powers. The resolutions also held that the states were the final judges of any law passed by the feds. Forming the basis of the resolution was the compact theory– a compact of states, not the people, had come to establish the Constitution. No other states would adopt similar plans, though the resolutions did lead to growing dissent against the Federalists.
The Federalists had come to represent the wealthy people, who advocated a strong government run by those who own the country. They were mostly pro-British and wanted to expand foreign trade. The Democrat-Republicans appealed to the middle class, were pro-French, and advocated a smaller central government with states getting most of the power. Jeffersonians wanted the national debt to be paid off immediately and central authority shrunk.
In addition, Jefferson and his supporters didn’t want there to be any special treatment for the upper class and wanted non-ignorant people to rule. Jefferson himself believed that small rural farms were the backbone of America and would maintain liberty. He also liked slavery because it allowed poor white guys to make something of their lives.
Domestic politics and foreign policy had come to divide the nation into two parties. With the Presidential election of 1800 on the horizon, it wasn’t clear how the nation would evolve and deal in the New World.