Chapter 8 The Federalist Era
We left getting ready for the first election under the new Constitution. In January, 1789, the states held that first election with the people voting for presidential electors and the people voting for the first House of Representatives & the upper houses of the state legislatures’ choosing the first Senate.
The results showed that the Federalists would be firmly in control of the new government. The period from 1789 to 1801 would be called the Federalist Era. It would be made up of the two Washington terms & John Adams’ one term.
Every elector placed George Washington’s name on their ballot, making him the only unanimous choice in the history of the Electoral College. They believed only his presence would give the new government its best chance for success.
Washington was 57 when he was chosen. He really did not want the job, but answered his country’s call one more time. It took him eight days to get from Mount Vernon to New York City to be sworn in. It was like a triumphant victory tour with banquets & parades in every town along the way. Everyone wanted to see the great hero of the Revolution.
Washington’s popularity at that time is something very unique in American history. No other American has ever had anything close to the popularity that he had then.
The electors chose John Adams to be vice-president at Washington’s suggestion.
When Washington took the oath of office as the first president, he would preside over a very weak nation. The army had less than 1,000 men, which was 1,000 more than were in the navy. There was no navy. Britain still had forces in the Northwest Territory. The British & French were ready to swoop in & pick up the pieces when the experiment failed.
Indians (at the urging of the British) attacked American settlers along the frontier. The nation was in debt at home & abroad. Pirates raided American merchant ships & the American people were far from united.
There were a lot of responsibilities to go along with the rather substantial problems. The first Congress met before Washington took office. They had three major tasks ahead of them:
1. The most urgent was to provide enough revenue to cover the day-to-day expenses of the government. Even before Washington arrived in New York, Madison was pushing through Congress a tariff bill to raise revenue & to provide a level of protection for the nation’s manufacturers. This would be the first time in American history that the central government had a steady source of income. (Remember the Articles & the Second Continental Congress)
2. The second major task of the new Congress was to complete the organization of the executive branch. During the summer of 1789, the new Congress created the State Department, the Treasury Department & the War Department. In September, 1789, they began discussions that would result in the Judiciary Act of 1789 which would create the office of Attorney General. Today the Attorney General heads the Justice Department, but Congress did not create it until 1870. In 1795, Congress permanently created the Post Office Department.
3. The third task facing the first Congress was to fulfill the promise Madison made to Sam Adams in order to get his support for ratification of the Constitution. Washington urged the Congress to do this in inaugural speech.
Largely due to the efforts of Madison, Congress proposed 12 amendments by the end of 1791. Three-fourths of the states ratified ten of these proposed amendments & they became the Bill of Rights.
The two that were not ratified were the first two proposed. One set a rather complicated procedure for determining representation in the House. The other said that the salaries of members of Congress could not be raised or lowered during the session in which the change was made.
The salary amendment was 202 years later ratified as the 27th amendment.
After the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which set the Supreme Court to be six members, Washington nominated his friend John Jay to be the first Chief Justice. Jay set an important precedent by shunning the ways of English judges. American judges would not wear powdered wigs.
Of the three co-equal branches of government, the Judicial branch was the least equal in the beginning. The Supreme Court acquired power slowly. During the first decade it heard very few cases & most of them were not very important. In fact, Jay himself resigned to run for governor of New York.
The First Cabinet While the first Congress was creating the executive departments, Washington was trying to decide who to appoint to head them. He wanted to surround himself with men of integrity, but that was not all that he was looking for in those appointments. He realized the importance of picking men who were well-known & who had supported ratification. He also wanted men whose appointments would not arouse opposition in any state.
As Secretary of War, he appointed his former chief of artillery from the Revolution, Henry Knox. To be Attorney General, he nominated his fellow Virginian, Edmund Randolph. The two most important positions to fill would be Secretary of State & Secretary of the Treasury.
To Treasury he nominated a former aid from the Revolution, Alexander Hamilton. For State the choice was Thomas Jefferson. Both were among the most intelligent men in the nation. They would later become bitter political enemies as leaders of the first two political parties in American history.
At first Washington talked to each cabinet member separately, mosy often in writing. He would get their advice on matters pertaining to their department. It was during 1793 that he began to have joint cabinet meetings. He would have about 50 during the course of his presidency. Since that time, all presidents have held joint cabinet meetings, although there is no constitutional requirement that they do so. In fact, there is no constitutional requirement that the president even talk to or communicate with the heads of the executive departments.
Hamilton & Jefferson stand like two giants astride American history. Knowledge of their views is essential to the understanding of the Federalist Era. Actually, their opposing viewpoints still make up much of the political discourse in the United States today. Their characters added so much ot the drama of the early decades of American history.
Hamilton was handsome with deep blue eyes & light red hair. He had a terrible temper, was brilliant & had no patience with those less brilliant or less hard working than he. He had great ambition to rise above his status in life. He was born in the West Indies & there were rumors that his mother was a prostitute.
Although he was not high born, he did not trust the masses & respected only the rich & high born & intelligent (which he attributed to the rich & high born). After the Revolution, he proved himself to be an excellent writer, thinker & speaker. He was a man able to use those skills to influence others.
Jefferson was unlike Hamilton in many ways. He was tall, skinny, shy, probably spoke with a stutter. Like Hamilton, he had red hair & blue eyes & was super intelligent. But there the similarities ended.
Jefferson’s interests covered such a wide range. He was the best architect in America. He was also one of the top scientists in America. Jefferson wrote on many widely disparate issues, such as education, history, agriculture, politics, religion & many others. He wrote a version of the Bible in which he included only those things said by Jesus.
He had been a successful lawyer, a member of the House of Burgesses, the Continental Congress, author of the Declaration, & governor of Virginia. He was a founder of the University of Virginia. After the Revolution he was U. S. ambassador to France.
Maybe as much as any man, he helped to mold the American spirit & the American mind. Liberals of every generation have looked to Thomas Jefferson for inspiration.
Hamilton & Jefferson were opponents on almost every economic & social issue.
1. Hamilton favored a government by the able & wellborn.
Jefferson favored government by the will of the people.
2. Hamilton did not trust the masses.
Jefferson was a great believer in the masses.
3. Hamilton felt they should build America by enlarging its commercial & manufacturing sectors.
Jefferson preferred that the U.S. remain a nation of small farmers. "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people."
4. Hamilton felt that the U.S. should copy Britain’s strong government & rigid society.
Jefferson felt that the best government governed least.
5. Hamilton wanted an Industrial Revolution in the U. S.
Jefferson wanted the U. S. to remain a nation of small independent farmers.6. Hamilton wanted a strong central government. He felt men needed to be governed.
Jefferson felt that men could govern themselves. He was afraid that a strong central government would lead to tyranny. He supported the idea of strong state governments.
These opposing views led to clashes during Washington’s presidency & have been used to support opposing views even today.
Hamilton was a passionate supporter of the new Constitution & the new government it established. He believed it would succeed only if the able & the rich supported it. Therefore, he tried to restore the
government’s credit both at home & abroad. He also wanted the federal government to manufacturing & commerce as the means of strengthening the nation’s economy.
To achieve those goals, Hamilton proposed a series of financial measures which included four principle features:
a. Funding the national debt at face value & assuming the state debts from the Revolution.
2. Establishing a national bank.
3. Pass a federal excise tax.
4. Enact a protective tariff.
Funding the National Debt & Assuming the State Debts
The nation had a total foreign & domestic debt of over $89 million. Now, today that does not seem like much, but realize that the nation’s population at the time was about 4 million people.
Hamilton wanted the federal debt paid, or funded, at face value & the national government to assume the state debts still owed from the Revolution. Hamilton wanted to exchange the old Continental or Confederation bonds for new bonds issued bny the new government at face value. He also wanted to start paying interest immediately.
Hamilton said that was necessary to convince foreign & domestic investors that it was safe to buy U. S. bonds.
Funding the foreign debt met little resistance in Congress or in the nation. By 1796, the United States had paid off its foreign debt.
However, funding the domestic debt at face value aroused huge opposition. Madison led the opposition in Congress while Jefferson opposed it in the cabinet. Their argument was that speculators had bought up much of the bonds from their original holders at pennies on the dollar.
Many of these original holders were small farmers and/or Revolutionary veterans who had sold their bonds at much less than face value during the tough economic times of the Confederation period. The speculators were gambling that the bonds would be paid at face value & they would make a killing.
To Madison, Jefferson & many others, it seemed as if the speculators had taken advantage of the economic problems of the original holders.
OT the speculators, they were gambling and there was a chance that the bonds would never be paid off at all & they would lose their investment.
Washington & others had urged the original holders to hold onto their bonds. He promised that they would be paid off.
Adding another dimension was the fact that many Congressmen bought up a lot of bonds even as they were debating the issue. This was definitely conflict of interest.
Madison wanted the government to pay the bonds at face value to both the original holders & the current holders. Not only would that have been very expensive, it alos would have been impossible to trace the original holders. Congress rejected Madison’s plan & passed Hamilton’s suggestion.
There was also a lot of opposition to Hamilton’s plan to assume the unpaid state debts. The problem was that several southern states had already taxed their citizens to pay off their state debts.
It seemed unfair to the Congressmen from these states for their citizens to be taxed again to pay the debts of northern states who had neglected to meet their obligations.
Hamilton (& Washington) felt that since the Revolution was fought to benefit all, all should help pay off the debt from the Revolution. Hamilton also thought this would make the states more dependent on the central government.
For awhile it looked as if Hamilton’s state assumption plan would go down to defeat. The House of Representatives actually voted it down 29 to 31. But Alexander Hamilton hated to lose. He was about to make a very smart political move to get his plan through.
Jefferson had just returned from Europe. He said that reasonable men ought to be able to come up with a reasonable solution. Jefferson recognized the importance of a sound financial policy for the new government. to keep the good credit of the nation in Europe.
There are two versions (at least) of what happened next. One is that Hamilton & Jefferson met at Philadelphia to discuss the situation. There Hamilton was able to get Jefferson’s support for the assumption plan. In exchange, Hamilton agreed to support the idea of a southern site for a permanent national capital. The site would be in a district ten miles square to be donated by Virginia & Maryland along the banks of the Potomac.
Tell other version about the rowboat.
Later, Jefferson would say that he was tricked by Hamilton even though, at the time, he told friends that he had hoodwinked Hamilton.
Later, Jefferson would say that it was the biggest mistake of his political life.
The House passed the assumption bill & the Senate followed suit in August of 1789.
In December, 1790, Hamilton submitted a plan to Congress to establish a national bank using the Bank of England as an example.
Jefferson supported the assumption act, even if only temporarily, & the funding plan, but bitterly opposed the national bank proposal. Madison led the opposition in Congress. In spite of the opposition, the National Bank bill passed through Congress & was sent to the president’s desk.
Washington’s cabinet was split down the middle on the issue. Hamilton & Knox supported it while Jefferson & Randolph opposed it. Washington asked Jefferson & Hamilton to submit their opinions in writing.
Jefferson argued for strict interpretation of the Constitution., If the Constitution did not specifically mention a National Bank, it could not be established. Congress had no power except what was specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore, Congress could not establish a National Bank.
Jefferson said, yes, the Constitution does grant Congress the power to pass laws "necessary & proper" to carry out the powers given to it by the Constitution. However, Congress must be careful in the exercise of that necessary & proper clause. Jefferson argued that "necessary & proper" meant essential. He emphasized the necessary part over the proper part. Jefferson wrote that the National Bank was not essential to carry out the enumerated powers of Congress & was, therefore, unconstitutional.
It seemed as if Hamilton could read Jefferson’s mind since his response ticked off Jefferson’s arguments one by one. Actually, Hamilton did not read Jefferson’s mind. Washington showed him Jefferson’s response.
Hamilton believed that a strong central government was the only hope of preserving the new government. He wrote that the Constitution must be interpreted loosely. Hamilton wanted to extend the scope of government.
Hamilton insisted that Jefferson was wrong in writing that the bank was not necessary to carry out the enumerated powers of Congress to collect taxes, to borrow money, & to regulate commerce. To Hamilton it was obvious that the bank was necessary for the government to carry out those enumerated powers.
Hamilton was a loose constructionist. He felt thatsince there was no clause in the Constitution to prohibit a National Bank, it was constitutional.
President Washington favored the bank from the beginning. Therefore, it was up to Jefferson to convince him otherwise. Jefferson did not do that. Therefore, Washington signed the National Bank bill.
Federal Excise Tax: To supplement the inadequate income from the tariff, Hamilton proposed an excise tax on the manufacture of distilled spirits. This was not the only motive of Hamilton. He also wanted to remind the remote frontiersmen & farmers of the authority of the federal government. These people often felt they were outside of the reach of the federal government, especially when it came to taxes.
Hamilton’s excise tax especially affected the frontier farmers of western Pennsylvania. The cost to transport their bulky grain across the Appalachian Mountains was huge. It was cheaper for them to distill the grain into whiskey & ship it to the markets in the east.
These farmers did not want that source of their income taxed. They threatened federal tax agents & destroyed the stills of farmers who paid the excise tax.
Hamilton felt that the government had to show these farmers that federal law would be enforced, even on the frontier. He convinced Washington to call to federal service 15,000 militiamen from Virginia, Pennsylvania & Maryland. In 1794, with Washington in his old Revolutionary uniform riding at the head of this U. S. "Army" marched into western Pennsylvania to crush what had been called the Whiskey Rebellion.
The very size of the force was enough to intimidate most of the farmers into obeying. After the first confrontation, Washington rode back to Philadelphia & the army marched on. Jefferson thought that the whole thing was overkill. He wrote that it was like using a "meataxe to kill a spider".
This did demonstrate the strength of the central government in dealing with individuals but it also convinced many that Hamilton had acted rashly. The views of Madison & Jefferson gained more support from many Americans who felt that Hamilton was a closet monarchist who had cast a spell on Washington. By this time Jefferson was completely disenchanted as he seemed to have no influence with Washington & Hamilton had the president’s ear.
The Results of Hamilton’s Financial Programs: Alexander Hamilton’s policies did provide the new government with a sound financial foundation, encouraged business confidence & promoted economic activity.
But his policies also gave rise to much opposition & influenced political thinking & activity that resulted in a polarization in the country. These differences of opinion would lead to the first political parties in our history.
It is not possible to give the exact date on which these political parties were born. We saw the Federalists & Anti-Federalists during the battle for & against ratification of the Constitution.
Many of the founding fathers believed that political parties, or, factions, as they called them, were divisive & dangerous. On the other hand, Madison & others believed that they were inevitable. People would want different things from their government, usually on economic grounds. It would be only natural for those with like views to join to try to accomplish their goals.
Debtors & creditors would not want the same things. Nor would farmers & city dwellers have the same objectives. Madison wrote that different groups would each do everything in their power to achieve their goals & would realize that organization would make it more likely.
During Washington’s presidency, the sharp issues raised by Hamilton’s economic policies seemed to leave little room for compromise. Jefferson & Madison worked against almost all of Hamilton’s programs.
They felt that Hamilton was an Anglophile who wanted to establish, at the very least, a government similar to Britain’s & at the most, establish a monarchy. They would take the name Republicans.
Their thinking was that they were the ones who really wanted a republic.
Republicans tended to be small farmers & frontiersmen. They feared a strong central government.
On the other side were the supporters of Hamilton. They did admire the British system. They were more likely to be from the business or merchant class. They were for a strong central government & agreed with Hamilton’s loose construction of the Constitution. They took the name Federalists & supported closer relations with Britain.
Most of Hamilton’s proposals were adopted by Congress & signed into law by Washington. Jefferson was convinced that Washington was under Hamilton’s indluence & that the republic was in jeopardy from the closet monarchists.
To better work against Hamilton & also to return to Monticello to look after his dwindling fortune, Jefferson decided to resign as Secretary of State. Washington persuaded him to stay until after the election of 1792.
Washington had wanted to leave at the end of his first term, but Hamilton & Jefferson convinced him he needed to stay. They told him that the unity of the country required his serving another term, that the country would fall apart with political bickering. The President pointed out that they were responsible for so much of that political bickering. Now when Jefferson wants to resign claiming economic hardships, Washington pointed out that his situation was even worse.
Still, they persuaded Washington to allow himself to be elected again. Again he was named on every elector’s ballot. It marked his fourth consecutive unanimous pick for something. The Republicans vented their anger on the Vice-President.
John Adams was accused of being a monarchist, an enemy of democracy. Adams received 77 electoral votes, but Governor Clinton of New York had 50. Jefferson, as a non-candidate got 4 votes. Adams was still v-p, but his feelings were hurt. This also cast a shadow over the future of the Federalist party. What could the Republicans do if they really organized for an election & did not have Washington to run against?
Foreign Policy Under George Washington: In 1789, revolution broke out in France. From 1792 until 1815, war would embroil Europe. In the beginning a lot of Americans felt sympathy toward the French. Many Americans looked at the French Revolutrion as a continuation of the American Revolution. America’s favorite Frenchman was involved in the French Revolution, Lafayette.
It was a Revolution begun by middle class moderates. But then the moderates lost control & the Revolution turned radical. Then came the Reign of Terror. Lafayette had to flee France to avoid the guillotine. Danto & Robespierre set up a dictatorship. They beheaded Louis XVI in 1793. Even American liberals were beginning to question whether the Revolution had gone too far. Americans would be divided over Federalist/Republican lines when France declared war on Britain, Spain, the Netherlands & Austria Federalists believed the U. S. should back Britain. Republicans wanted to back France. After all, France had helped the Americans in their Revolution.
The French Revolution & the wars associated with it brought many problems for Washington. Many Republicans actually wanted the U. S. to actively support the French. They pointed to the Alliance signed with the French government during the American Revolution.
The Federalists argued that the U. S. should not help the French. That would anger the British who were America’s main trading partner. The revenue from the tariff was essential for Hamilton’s financial program.
Washington was not sure what to do about the treaty issue so he asked Hamilton & Jefferson to submit thie opinions in writing.
Hamilton wrote that the treaty was made with the French king. Since the king was dead & France was no longer a monarchy, the treaty was invalid.
Jefferson wrote that the treaty was made with the French nation. France was still a nation & therefore, the treaty was still in effect. Jefferson did write that although the treaty was still in effect, for practical reasons maybe we should not go to war with Britain.
There was also a technicality in the treaty. It was a defensive treaty. The U. S. was obligated to help France if she were attacked. France was the one that declared war. Technically, the treaty would not kick in.
Washington decided neutrality was the onlu option. The United States needed peace. It could not stand a war with anyone at that point. He felt that if the country could make it 20 years without war, then no one could hurt it.
Therefore, the President issued the Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793. In it he wrote that the United States was at peace with all the belligerents & would take hostile action against none of them. Interestingly, in the Proclamation, the word neutral was not used at all.
The Republicans were not happy with neutrality. Then France sent a new ambassador to the U. S., Citizen Genet. Instead of coming straight to Philadelphia & presenting himself to the President, Genet landed in the South, where pro-French feelings were the strongest & proceeded to give many speeches trying to raise money & even volunteers for the French war with the British.
He continued even after he got to Philadelphia & announced that he was going to appeal to the people of the United States over the head of the President. Finally, even Jefferson thought he had gone too far. Washington told the French government that he was no longer welcome. However, they had already sent a new ambassador with orders to send Genet back to France to stand trial for crines against the Revolution.
Washington wanted him out, but would not send him back to his death, so he allowed him to stay in the U. S. as a private citizem.
The President was the object of tremendous abuse from the Republicans for what they saw as his pro-British position. Jefferson & Madison were behind much of the criticism, but did so from the shadows.
Problems With Britain: Not surprisingly, there had been problems between the United States & Britain ever since the American Revolution ended. The British government refused to even discuss matters with American diplomats.
After war began with France & Washington issued his Proclamation, the British began to change their attitude a bit. When Washington noticed this change, he sent Chief Justice John Jay to London as a special envoy to try to negotiate a treaty solving the problems with Britain.
What were the problems? The British said the United States was not following through with the provisions of the Peace of Paris 1783.
Americans said they were not because the British were not following through with what they had promised. The British said they would when the Americans did.
The British said the Americans had not paid Tories for lost property during the Revolution. They said that Americans had not paid their debts owed to British citizens from before the Revolution/
Americans said that Britain had not removed all of her troops from the Northwest Territory & were inciting Indian attacks on American settlements.
There were also problems resulting from the British war with France. Americans insisted on being able to trade with any belligerent nation as long as it was not in war goods. The British did not agree & had seized hundreds of American ships on their way to France.
The British navy was also always short of sailors. Many British sailors had deserted & signed on with American merchant ships. The pay was better and the treatment was much better.
British naval ships would stop U. S. merchant ships on the high seas to look for deserters & take them if they found them. The British captains were not overly careful to make certain they were taking deserters. If they needed crewmen, they would take anyone.
This was called impressments & it angered Americans & wounded American national pride. The British claimed they were within their rights as long as the men they took were born before the Peace of Paris. By
British law, a naval captain had the right to impress any British citizen into service. By British law, once a person was a British citizen, they were always a British citizen.
It looked as if the U.S. & Britain were drifting toward war.
Jay’s mission was to get a treaty that would solve the problems left over from the Peace of Paris, get compensation for lost cargoes, get the British to stop impressments of Americans, & get them to open the British West Indies to American merchant ships.
The treaty that Jay negotiated with the British showed just how weak the United States was at that time.
1. The British agreed to vacate their forts in the Northwest by June 1, 1796.
2. U. S. ships less than 70 yons could enter the British West Indies.
3. The British would grant some other trading rights in the British East Indies.
What was really telling about the Jay Treaty was what was NOT in it. There was no promise to stop seizing American ships on the high seas trading with the French. There was no mention of impressments.
The Republicans had been against even sending Jay to Britain. In fact, they were against sending anyone, but especially the pro-British Jay. When they saw the treaty, they went nuts. Mobs burned Jay in effigy. A crowd stoned Hamilton when he gave a speech in support of the treaty in New York City.
The Republican-dominated House of Representatives demanded that Washington turn over all communications between the president & Jay & also Jay’s journals & notes from the negotiations. They were certain that Jay & the British had made separate deals benefitting Jay & Washington.
Washington angrily reminded the House that the Constitution gave treaty-making power to the President & the Senate. He reminded them that the only time the House could demand papers from the President was in the case of impeachment. This was the first use of executive privilege by a president.
The Senate ratified the treaty only due to Washington’s throwing his full support behind it. He admitted it was not a particularly good treaty, but it was the best the U. S. could get under the circumstances & it avoided war with Britain. The Senate ratified in 1795.
The Jay Treaty did have one good result. It convinced the Spanish government to start talking. The Spanish were afraid that the Jay Treaty was a forerunner to the U. S. & Britain coming together to attack Spanish territories in the New World.
All of a sudden the Spanish were very eager to give the U. S. a favorable treaty. Washington sent the U. S. minister to Britain over to Madrid. Pinckney found the Spanish to be very receptive.\
1. Americans would have navigation rights on Mississippi
2. Americans get rt of deposit at New Orleans
3. Spain recognized the boundaries of the U. S. as set in Peace of Paris 1783 (31 degrees in the south & Mississippi R)
Everyone loved this treaty & Senate approved unanimously.
Now it seemd much safer to cross the Appalachians. It had been very dangerous with the British arming the Indians. In 1791, Indians had defeated ixed army of militia & U. S. regular troops under the governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair.
In 1794, General Anthony Wayne led a better trained & armed force against the Indians. They were ambushed by the Indians at Fallen Timbers. Wayne held them off & ordered a counter-attack. When his officers told him their men were short of ammunition, he ordered an attack with fixed bayonets. Wayne won. Ordering his men to attack when so many had no ammunition is one reason he was called "Mad Anthony" Wayne. He won the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
That caused the 12 Indian tribes of the area to sign the Treaty of Greenville, setting a boundary between land reserved for the Indians & land open to white settlers. The frontier was pacified for the time being.
It is now near the end of Washington’s second term as president. He was being subjected to something he had a hard time dealing with. He was being attacked over the Jay Treaty. He was being attacked by the Jeffersonians for supposedly trying to set up a monarchy or at least a government like the British. He had never been subject to such personal attacks. He had a hard time handling it. Some called him a dictator, others a tyrant. Some even called him an imposter, a monarchist, or a closet monarchist. Franklin’s grandson wrote, "Of ever a nation was raped & molested by a man, the American nation was by Washington."
To Washington the irony was that he had wanted to step down after his first two years & after his first term. Jefferson had been one of those who had told him he owed it to the nation to stay on & now the Jeffersonians were attacking him.
With every intention of resigning, near the end of his first term, Washington had Madison draft a farewell address for him. He did not use it, but did keep it. Now he dusts it off & sends to Hamilton for revision. Hamilton’s ego would not allow him to revise Madison’s work. He composed a whole new address & sent it back to Washington. Washington then sent it to Jay for editing. Then, the President himself reshaped it to the final draft.
On the 29th of September, 1796, only a few weeks before the election, it was printed in papers across the nation. Washington never delivered what came to be called his Farewell Address as a speech.
In it he stated principles he hoped would guide the future of the nation. Washington warned of the things he felt would hurt the young nation.
1. He warned that political factions would divide & disrupt the nation
2. He warned Americans to stay clear of "permanent alliances with any part of the foreign world". In stating this, he stressed the need for an independent foreign policy designed fulfill America’s needs, not to reflect European problems. Although he said that temporary alliances might be necessary from time to time for "extraordinary emergencies".
3. He also warned about "regionalism" & sectionalism, which he thought would divide the country based on geography.
The Republicans quickly labeled the address as a campaign document. They said it was a "signal like the dropping of a hat for the party races to start". Actually, there was little doubt sabout who the successor was going to be. The President felt it should be his vice-president, John Adams.
Adams was a man of many faults, but also many virtues. He was tempermental, stubborn, envious, but also a great patriot. He was totally above party politics. He also had the strongest support among the Federalists.
Neither Hamilton nor Jay could challenge him. He had been elected vice-president twice & was a nationally known figure.
Neither party made an official choice for their candidates. It was just understood that Adams would get the votes of the Federalist electors. They decided on the negotiator of the popular treaty with Spain as the vice-president – Thomas Pinckney.
The Republicans rallied behind Jefferson & Aaron Burr. Jefferson was a reluctant candidate. He wrote, "I have no dsire to lead men". There was no organized campaign. The candidates themselves stayed home & left the campaigning to surrogates & newspapers & pamphlets. Letters were also sent to electors.
Issues were ignored during the campaign. The character assassination & mudslinging of today’s campaigns were born in the campaign in 1796. The Republicans called Adams an enemy of democracy & an advocate of hereditary power. The Republicans called the Federalists the "Monarchist Party".
The Federalists said that Jefferson was an atheist & was immoral. The Federalists said the Republicans were "fire-eating salamanders." The Republicans said the Federalists were "poison-sucking toads". The Federalists said the Federalist would bring a Reign of Terror to the United States.
The Republicans attacked Washington’s handling of the Whiskey Rebellion & tried to make an issue of Jay’s Treaty.
Now Hamilton got into the act. He hated both Adams & Jefferson. He thought he could prevent wither from becoming president. He "suggested" to several Federalist electors that they mark pinckney’s name on their ballots but leave the other spot blank. He knew that all the other Federalist electors would vote for both Adams & Pinckney. Hamilton was certain that their would be more Federalist electors than Republicans. Hamilton’s scheme would make Pinckney President & Adams vice-president.
Of course, word leaked of what Hamilton was trying to do. The New England electors were furious. They all put Adams’ name on their ballots but scattered their other choices.
Adams feared the worst. He wrote Abigail that he was prepared to be back in Massachusetts in February, 1797.
When the votes were counted, 71 electors had voted for Adams, 68 for Jefferson, 59 for Pinckney & 30 for Burr. Hamilton’s scheme resulted in the one & only time in American history that there was a president of one party & a vice-president of another.
Before the votes were counted, Jefferson wrote to Madison, "There is nothing I hope for more than for my name to come out second or third. If it is third, I can stay home the entire year. If it is second, two-thirds of the year". He seems to at least have given the impression that he wanted Adams to win. He told his supporters in the House of Representatives that in case of a tie, he wanted them to vote for Adams. After all, he said, He has always been my senior".
Before Washington left office, the Republican grandson of Franklin could not resist one more jab. "This day ought to be a jubilee in the United States. For the man who is the source of all the misfortunes of our country is this day reduced to the level of his fellow citizens."
Actually, Washington was only too glad to surrender power. Remember, he wanted to do it after only two years in office. Washington did not feel as if he were being demoted. He had the highest regard for his fellow citizens, although he could not for the life of him understand the criticism. He could not see why those who disliked him could not just let him go away in peace.
Actually, the country was very lucky to have had George Washington as its first president. He gave dignity to the office. He kept the opposing factions from tearing the country apart. He kept the states as unified as possible. George Washington became the yardstick by which all future presidents would be measured. Everything he did would be a precedent for future presidents, but he had nothing to guide him but his dignity, his integrity, his character & his honor. It was not just that there had never been an American president before Washington, there had never in the history of the world an office like his.
He did leave office at a good time. Relations with Britain & France were at the breaking point. Jefferson wrote, "The President is fortunate to get off just as the bubble is about to burst, leaving others to hold the bag. The President has his usual good fortune of getting credit for the good acts of others & leaving his errors for others to take the blame." It was a very accurate prophecy.
For the first time the office of president would change hands. It was done smoothly. Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth administered the oath to John Adams. As the new and old president & new vice-president prepared to go out to greet the crowds, Jefferson & Adams hung back to allow Washington to go first. Washington said they were now the ones to go first. He followed them out into the street, an ordinary citizen.
Adams would later write that he never felt so lonely as at the moment he took the oath of office. "All the Federalists are afraid to approve of anyone but Washington. The Jacobins (Republicans) damn me with faint praise, while trying to undermine our work. If the Federalist try playing games, I will resign & let Jefferson lead them."
What of the new president? John Adams was not an easy man to get along with. He had a bad temper, was stubborn, quarrelsome, tactless, petty, envious, & a poor administrator. He would not be able to get along with Congress. However, he was a true patriot. He was an honest public servant & a political philosopher of the highest order.
He had a great single-mindedness of purpose. Once he set his mind on something, he would not let anything deter him. Jefferson described him as being "vain & irritable, but that is about all ill that can be said of him". Jefferson said that those who take the time to get to know him would end up loving him. The problem was that Hamilton& his followers would not give Adams a chance. His cabinet would look to Hamilton for leadership & orders, not to the President.
The unsolved problems with France caused the most problems for Adams’ administration. Peace hung by a thread. The French people & government looked at the Jay Treaty as a repudiation of the Franco-American treaty from the Revolution. The French government ordered its navy to seize American ships heading for Britain.
By the time Adams was sworn in on March 4, 1797, the French navy had seized over 300 American ships. Talleyrand had ordered the U. S. ambassador, Charles Pinckney, to leave France or be arrested. It looked as if by avoiding war with Britain, the United States would end up going to war with France.
President Adams was determined to avoid such a war. Like Washington before him, he realized that the U. S> was in no condition to fight anybody. The U. S. army had fewer than 3500 men & the navy was almost nonexistent. A war at that time would ruin the nation.
Still, many Americans were calling for war with France as a matter of national honor & pride. Adams sent a special commission of John Jay, Elbridge Gerry & Charles Pinckney to negotiate with the French government.
They arrived in Paris in October, 1797. The war between Britain & France was at a temporary lull. The Commissioners were told that the Directory was so upset with the United States that money would have to be paid to the Directory & to the Foreign minister & also an American loan to France to even get a chance to talk with the French government.
Three men came to tell the Commisison about the demands. They introduced themselves as Mr X, Mr Y & Mr Z. The episode came to be known in the U. S. as the "X, Y, Z Affair.
Adams told the Congress about the attempt to get a bnribe from the U. S. & said that he would never send another ambassador to France unless he was promised that he would be given the respect & honor due him as the representative of a free, powerful & independent nation.
When the XYZ Affair became public, war fever swept the country. Adams was also angry. He was building up the army & navy, but he knew the nation was still far from ready for war.
In spite of the President’s efforts to keep the peace, the two nations fought an undeclared naval war between 1798 & 1800. American ships captured several French ships & harassed French commerce in the West Indies.
The Federalists were happy with the naval war, urging the President to ask Congress for an official declaration of war. Adams realized that doing so would give him probably his only chance at being popular & to be reelected. It would probably also lead to a Federalist majority in Congress in 1800.
The American people were in a war mood. "Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute" was a popular slogan. Congress revoked the treaty with France. It was a moot point by that time anyway. Congress voted more money for new warships. The size of the army was increased & the Marine Corps was revived. George Washington was called out of retirement to be commanding general of the revitalized army.
Adams knew the political & personal; advantages to asking Congress for a declaration of war. But he had never been one to take the easy road. He could not use war for personal or political gain.
Therefore, when Talleyrand let it be known that he would give a new American ambassador proper respect, Adams sent a commission to Paris. A treaty was made. The Convention of 1800 formally released the U. S. from all former treaties. It also restored peace between the two nations & avoided a formal declaration of war. Washington went home to Mount Vernon & the buildup of the army stopped.
During the height of the war fever, many Republican newspaper editors & writers, many of whom were recent immigrants, heaped all kinds of abuse on Adams & other Federalist officials & officeholders. Many Federalists felt that these people were dangerous in a time of crisis.
These Federalists felt that the foundations of the new nation were still shaky & the new government could not withstand such division. Therefore, in the summer of 1798, Congress passed the Alien & Sedition Acts to deal with what they thought was dangerous subversive activity.
Basically, under the acts, anyone who spoke out against the president or other government officials (who were specifically listed) could be fined or sent to jail. The Alien Act was never enforced but it offended many Irish & Franco-Americans.
The Alien Act allowed the president to order deportation of immigrants who he deemed dangerous & made it more difficult for immigrants to become citizens.
Adams ordered the prosecution of one New York editor for writing that the president should be shot in the rear with a cannonball.
Jefferson (the v-p) wrote that the next step would be to pass a law making the presidency a lifetime appointment & then one to make it hereditary & allowing the President to pick the Senate.
Without question, the laws violated the principles of the Bill of Rights & had no place in America.
Jefferson wrote a set of resolutions against the Alien & Sedition Acts. He wrote that they were not authorized by the Constitution & therefore had no force. He wrote that the states had existed before the Constitution & the national government & that it was the states that formed the national government. The federal government was, therefore, the agent of the states & therefore the states could nullify laws of Congress. This writing of Jefferson established a precedent for southern states to in 1832 declare tariff laws unconstitutional. In the late winter & spring of 1861, they would expand Jefferson’s theorey to justify secession.
Jefferson sent his resolutions to Republican legislators in Kentucky. The Kentucky legislature actually passed them. Jefferson sent a copy to Madison who revised them & sent them to the Virginia House of Burgesses. They would come to be known as the Virginia & Kentucky Resolutions. Jefferson hoped every state would pass them. No others did.
It was in this atmosphere that the young republic’s first decade came to an end. Franklin’s warning (If you can keep it) was looking prophetic. The founders’ hope of a united enduring nation seemed in peril.
Bitter arguments over domestic policy seemed to put the American experiment in democracy on very shaky ground. As the presidential election of 1800 approached the American ship of state, fragile & nattered, like many before & since, appeared to be heading for dangerous rocks that threatened to destroy it.
The shores of history are littered with the wreckage of young nations torn apart before they could grow to a stable maturity. Why should the United States expect a happier fate?
By the time of the Convention of 1800, the presidential candidates had already been chosen. They were picked by the Congressmen of each party.
The Federalists were divided. Adams was being attacked almost as much by the Federalists as by the Republicans. People said he was too old & infirm to be president. They said his health was failing, he had terrible eyesight & his hands trembled with palsy. And it was the Federalists who said this. Their attacks ruined whatever chance he had to win a second term.
The Federalists were still angry at Adams for not giving them their war with France. They had whipped the people into a war frenzy, They had pushed additional taxes through Congress, including a stamp tax. They were all dressed up for war, but the president did not give it to them. Many Americans felt they had been taxed unfairly.
The Republicans picked Jefferson & Aaron Burr. Burr agreed to take the second spot on the condition that every Republican elector would put his name on the ballot. He did not want a repeat of 1796. This actually was very short-sighted & almost cost the Republicans the election.
The Federalists called Jefferson a Deist & an atheist. They said he was unfaithful to his wife. They did not come out in public, but in one of the first whispering campaigns in American political history, they talked about his having fathered children with some of his female slaves. One in particular was Sally Hemmings.
They said he denied that seashells found on mountain-tops proved that the Great Flood happened. They said he would rather teach children Greek & Latin classics than the Bible. They brought out an old letter. Someone wrote him asking him his opinion of people who did not believe in God. His response was, "It does me no harm if my neighbor says there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg". This was proof he was an atheist!
Federalist warned that if Jefferson were elected, "religion would be destroyed, immorality would flourish, & the very bonds of civilization would be broken".
Republicans made their usual attacks on Adams. He was a monarchist. He hated the people & the Constitution. They said he sent Pinckney to England to bring back four beautiful young women to be mistresses, two for Pinckney & two for Adams. Now, remember, John Adams was known as one of the most Puritanical men in America. His response was unusually good-natured & humorous. He said, "I do declare upon my honor, if this be true, General Pinckney has kept them all for himself & cheated me of my two".
Hamilton tried to get the Federalists to rally behind Pinckney, but was unsuccessful. He even wrote in a newspaper article the John Adams was totally unfit to be president. The Republicans made great use of that in their campaign.
The division among the Republicans resulted in the Republicans getting the most electoral votes. The short-sidedness of the Republicans making certain every elector put both Jefferson & Burr on their ballots almost wrecked their victory.
Jefferson & Burr were named on every Republican ballot. They each got 73 electoral votes. Adams got 65, which was more than was expected. What came to be called the "defect" of the Constitution" caused a tie. The House of Representatives would have to decide the election.
The Republicans now had new hope. They thought about prolonging the deliberations in the House until after March 4, when the old term ended & the new one was to begin. N o one was certain what would happen then. Some said a new election. Some Federalists considered supporting Burr as the lesser of the evils. At least one member wrote that the feeling in the House was that Burr would be chosen.
Here, Alexander Hamilton entered the picture. He had a tremendous hatred of Thomas Jefferson, but he urged his supporters in the House to think of the country first. He said that Aaron Burr was the most unfit manin the country to be president.
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 1801 was the day for the counting of the electoral votes. The Constitution says that the state electors shall send their ballots to the President of the Senate, who shall, in the presence of the Senate & House of Representatives open the ballots & they shall be counted. When they were counted, the President of the Senate declared that there had been a tie.
The members of the House returned to their chamber to vote. Each state would have one vote. All but two Representatives were there. One was almost dead. The other was dead. They brought the almost dead one, in his bed, to sit in the hall outside the chamber. They would bring the bed in each time they cast a vote.
There were sixteen states in the Union at that time. Each had one vote. Nine was the magic number. On the first ballot, Eight voted for Jefferson, six for Burr & two were divided. The members sent out for pillows & blankets & slept in between votes all night long. By noon of the next day, they had voted 28 times with no change in the numbers. At noon on Saturday, the House voted to adjourn until Monday.
If Burr had allied himself with the Federalists & promised not to undo their financial package, he most likely would have been chosen president. One member wrote in his diary, "If Burr had done anything for himself, he would have been chosen".
But, even before the election, Burr had said if there were a tie, he would not try to win. Now that there had been a tie, he remained silent. True, he did nothing to help himself, but he also did not tell the members to vote for Jefferson even though it was very clear that the Republican electors had fully intended for him to be number two on their ballots. He seems to have been biten by the presidential bug.
The lone member of the House from Delaware turned out to be the key figure in the House. His name was James Bayard. Since he was the sole representative from Delaware, he was as powerful as the entire delegation from Virginia or any other state. Jefferson was one vote short. Bayard, by himself, could deliver the election to Jefferson. One vote Delaware counted as much as the 19 members from Virginia. He could swing the election.
When it became obvious that Burr would not make a deal with the Federalists, Bayard approached a friend of a friend of Jefferson’s & said that if Jefferson would agree to four points, Bayard & two other states would go for Jefferson & he would become president.
1. Jefferson would preserve the Federalist’s financial system.
2. Jefferson would continue the neutrality between Britain & France.
3. Jefferson would preserve the navy.
4. Jefferson would not remove Federalist appointed office-holders
Through his friends (although he would always deny it), Jefferson agreed to the points & the die was cast. Thomas Jefferson was chosen on the 36th ballot. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, author of the Declaration of Independence, had received the votes of ten states & was pronounced the third President of the United States. The Federalist Era was over. What would happen now?