Federalist Era Dbq Essay Images

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Washington On His Way Toward Presidential Inauguration @ Federal Hall in NYC, 1936 WPA Wallpaper @ John Brown House, Providence, RI, Photo By Author

The first decade after the Constitution kicked in was more tumultuous than modern Americans realize.  The Early Republic of the 1790s verged on collapse or civil war as it faced internal rebellion and challenging policy questions over diplomacy, slavery, sectionalism, Indian wars, and finance (trade, taxation, and debt).  How powerful would the new national government really be in relation to the states?  Would it be a true nation or a coalition of smaller state republics?  How would it defend itself militarily?  How would the U.S. cope with European wars and revolutions?  Could the republic sustain peaceful transitions of power between rival factions amidst backstabbing and partisan skulduggery?  How strongly — with words or weapons — could Americans protest against their own government?

The new national government confronting these questions started in New York (painting above), then moved to Philadelphia for most of the decade before relocating to Washington, D.C. in 1800.  Congress met in a courthouse adjacent to Independence Hall (then still Pennsylvania’s statehouse) while George Washington lived at the President’s House on Market Street (right).  Washington was the only president voted into office without really running or campaigning.  He cultivated an image based on Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who virtuously returned to Rome for a second stint as emperor in 439 BCE after having retired to his farm.  Washington, likewise, had “laid down his sword” after the Revolutionary War, only to be (reluctantly?) beckoned back into the messy game of politics.  His first term began in 1789 and his second in 1792, in order to get future elections set on even years.  The Constitution doesn’t flesh out the president’s administration clearly in Article II but gave Congress the power to create officers for presidents to delegate power to.  Congress established the departments of State, Treasury, War (now Defense), and Post Office (later dropped) and the fourth president, James Madison, coined the term cabinet to describe the departmental heads, of which there are now fifteen.  This was key because, today, (unelected) agencies pass far more rules than Congress does laws.  With the Judiciary Act (1789), the First Congress and Washington also established an attorney general under which the Justice Department emerged in 1870 to fight the Ku Klux Klan and the FBI started in 1908 to track anarchists of the sort that assassinated William McKinley in 1901.  This, too, was key as modern presidents Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump tried to fend off investigations by their own Justice Departments, raising thorny questions over executive privilege and checks-and-balances within a single branch.

Washington was more “hands-off” than modern presidents, insofar as he did not see it as his place to lead with particular policies or platforms.  As Madison explained in the Federalist Papers, the Constitution’s framers intentionally created a relatively weak executive branch to avoid an overbearing king-like leader.  At first, Washington just expected to oversee a congress that would lead and get along without bickering.  However, the presidency and national government as a whole strengthened during the Federalist Eraof the 1790s.  Washington’s cabinet members were the policy wonks who set the agenda, though, more than the president himself.  It’s safe to say that the framers likely underestimated the power of the president’s lieutenants.

Washington’s Unofficial Inauguration (at Congress Hall, Philadelphia), Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Washington assumed greater executive power as he went along and even usurped his constitutional power by spending money and forming his own militia without Congressional approval.  He wasn’t averse to confrontation and had long since established his alpha male credibility during the Revolutionary War, but Washington found the day-to-day squabbling of politics irritating.  He was among those Founders who deplored political parties and hoped they would never make their way to American shores.  Yet, Washington and the country as a whole discovered that factionalism is inherent in republicanism.

As in biology, war, or sports, there’s a natural tendency in politics to seek advantage by teaming up.  In Washington’s case, factions formed right away around members of his own cabinet.  Congressmen, voters, and journalists coalesced around either Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson or Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.  The State Department manages foreign relations while the Treasury collects taxes and manages the national budget.  The strong-willed statesmen had divergent views as to how the young republic should develop and neither secretary stayed purely on his own turf of diplomacy or the domestic economy.  Because their realms overlapped, Jefferson concerned himself plenty with the domestic economy and Hamilton with foreign policy.  Jefferson wanted states to retain most of the power in an expansive agricultural empire while Hamilton thought America’s survival depended on thriving industry and a strong central government.  The country was lucky to have two of the smartest statesmen in its history at this formative juncture, but also lucky to survive as it teetered on civil war between Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans and Hamilton’s Federalists.  Meanwhile, unable to swim on its own economically, the U.S. dog-paddled to avoid getting sucked into the whirlpool of European conflicts.

Alexander Hamilton in the Uniform of the New York Artillery, Alonzo Chappel

Hamilton & the Federalists
It’s easy to characterize Hamilton as an elitist because he thought most white males were too uneducated to vote, but he was a founding member of a manumission society in New York (despite owning one slave) and the only Founder not born into favorable circumstances.  He was a bastard child, an old-fashioned term for children born out of wedlock, from the small Caribbean island of Nevis — the only Founder born outside the original thirteen colonies.  He grew up in St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands.  He wrote such an eloquent account of a hurricane that destroyed St. Croix in 1772 that townspeople pitched in to send him to the mainland colonies for an education.  He attended Columbia University in New York (then King’s College) and converted to the patriot cause under the tutelage of tailor-haberdasher Hercules Mulligan, later an important spy who helped save Washington from being kidnapped (Chapter 9).  While living with Mulligan, Hamilton joined the Sons of Liberty and the precocious teenager published two anonymous essays supporting Continental Congress in its stance against British oppression.  He fought heroically in the Revolution at White Plains, Long Island, and Trenton, and led a bayonet charge at Yorktown.  Hamilton attracted Washington’s attention, eventually becoming his aide-de-camp (right-hand man) and, in effect, his surrogate son since the Washingtons had no children.  While not the most famous of the Founders, the “dude on the ten” reemerged onto the American stage in the Broadway hip-hop musical Hamilton (2015) by Grammy- and Tony-Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda.  The first run starred minority actors portraying principal roles as Hamilton, Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Marquis de Lafayette, and Aaron Burr.

Hamilton didn’t believe in European aristocracy, where mediocrity inherited power by birthright, but he believed in meritocracy, whereby deserving people could work their way up into power, much as he did.  He’d pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, even if the saying wasn’t around yet.  His up-and-coming status likely contributed to other Founders’ wariness.  Speaking more of Hamilton’s professional ambition than love life, John Adams said that the Treasury Secretary “had a superabundance of secretions that he could not find enough whores to draw off…the same vapors produced his lies and slanders by which he totally destroyed his [Federalist] party forever and finally lost his life in the field of honor [his duel with Aaron Burr in 1804 – next chapter].”

Hamilton had some monumental tasks before him. He was tasked not just with running, but really creating the Treasury, drafting the first budget, starting the Coast Guard and Customs Service, and setting monetary policy.  He, in effect, started America’s financial system from scratch.  Hamilton had a creative financial mind and didn’t want the Constitution stifling the young country, keeping it from developing into an economic power.  He thought the fragile young republic needed leadership from the central government and that a diverse economy, including both farming and industry, would provide the best foundation.  For Hamilton, the U.S. could only survive by competing on European terms, with the national government overseeing a self-sufficient manufacturing base, protected by a strong military, central bank, solid patent office, and tariffs (import duties) to discourage foreign competition.  Hamilton predated the association of pro-business with free markets and weak government.  In the Early Republic, to be pro-business was to favor a stronger central government and oppose free trade.

Great Falls of the Passaic River, Paterson, New Jersey

As Treasury Secretary, Hamilton jump-started a planned industrial village at Paterson, New Jersey below the Great Falls of the Passaic River northwest of Manhattan.  In the 19th century, this Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.) grew into a source for firearms, locomotives, paper, and cotton/silk industries — an early and important positive example of public/private cooperation.  Samuel Colt later manufactured rifles and revolvers there.  If Hamilton were alive in our time, he would unapologetically embrace the idea of a military-industrial complex.  That’s what strong countries like Britain had, where a central bank facilitated an expansionary government working cooperatively with munitions manufacturers and shipbuilders.  Hamilton’s bank idea was based on the Bank of England, established in 1694 to fund England’s war against France.  With an empire “on which the Sun never set,” the Brits didn’t dither around babbling about states’ rights or strict constitutional principles.

America needed protection not only from European powers but also frontier Indians.  Early in Washington’s presidency, a coalition of Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware Indians led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle routed a small, ill-equipped, insufficiently trained and disorganized army in the Indiana Territory at the Battle of the Wabash (aka St. Clair’s Defeat).  Camp followers ate through too many provisions and Commander Arthur St. Clair II was so overweight he had to be carted through the woods.  Proportionally, Wabash was America’s worst defeat ever at the hands of Indians and the president blew a gasket when he found out.  His private secretary reported that, uncharacteristically, Washington was screaming down curses on St. Clair, who, of course, wasn’t there and whom Washington had warned against surprise attacks.  This was when Washington usurped his Constitutional authority by calling up a national militia without Congressional approval — laying the foundation for future Executive Orders — and the Wabash defeat led to calls for a more substantial multi-regiment standing army.  General “Mad” Anthony Wayne strengthened the new Legion of the U.S. and they won control of the Ohio Territory from combined Indian-British forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.

The Legion’s strengthening and expansion is an easy-to-overlook but key point in America’s history because, as we learned in the previous chapter’s section on the Second Amendment, the idea of the government having a permanent army was controversial.  Whigs and republicans saw standing armies as tilting too much power toward a central government (monarchies in Europe’s case) and such armies tended to recruit unsavory, mercenaries as soldiers — the sort that colonials didn’t like living in their cities and homes prior to the Revolution.  Militias, conversely, drew from regular, dependable men with a stake in society.  Washington, though, saw the U.S. winning the Revolution not because of militias, as was and is commonly thought, but in spite of undisciplined militias.  While Washington was angry about the Wabash fiasco, it conveniently helped enlarge and strengthen the army he’d been promoting since the Revolution.  In 1796, the Legion of the U.S. (now 1st and 3rd Infantry) was renamed the U.S. Army.

Federalist Cockade

Internationally, Hamilton thought of the U.S. as a potential player in the Atlantic world in relation to other European powers, even while avoiding alliances and unnecessary entanglements.  Once, when speaking about the need for a stronger military, he started a sentence, “With Canada on our left, and Latin America on our right…”  What’s telling is his perspective looking east across the Atlantic.  Jefferson undoubtedly would have started the sentence, “With Canada on our right, and Latin America on our left” because his idea was to leave Europe in the rearview mirror and look west.   Had Jefferson lived into the 1830s, he would’ve fist-bumped Horace Greeley when the New York Tribune editor advised, “Go west, young man. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.”

Hamilton was a broad, or loose constructionist, meaning that he thought that if the Constitution didn’t expressly prohibit the national government from doing something necessary and proper to conduct its affairs, then it could.  The “Elastic Clause” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18) was one of his favorites because it gives Congress all the powers “necessary and proper” to carry out its business, along with the “Supremacy Clause” (Article 6, Clause 2) that gives the national government precedence over conflicting state laws or constitutions.  In Miranda’s Hamilton, his character tells Jefferson, “The Union needs a boost; you’d rather give it a sedative.”  Hamilton hoped to promote manufacturing, make the U.S. self-sufficient, and create a bank more substantial and public than the Revolutionary-era Bank of North America that the government could run its business through and lead the economy.  He advocated revenue-raising tariffs (import taxes) as a source of income for the government but also wanted to foster healthy trading partnerships abroad.  Hamilton also wanted to foster some less healthy trading relationships, insofar as he and his assistant Trench Coxe encouraged smuggling as much pirated technology out of England as possible, especially in textiles.  Hamilton’s interpretation of the Elastic Clause was itself elastic, as earlier when he was arguing for Constitutional ratification in Federalist No. 33, he implied that the clause only meant that the national government could conduct business it was expressly tasked with elsewhere in the Constitution — nothing more.

With his Assumption Plan, Hamilton advised the national government to provide stability and credibility to the young country by assuming, or taking over, all the state debts.  The national government was $50 million in debt from the war and the states collectively owed another $25 million, mostly to French and Spanish banks.  Hamilton’s idea was to consolidate debt at the national level and the government would then finance its debt by selling new bonds that would, in turn, give the wealthiest American bond-buyers a stake in its survival.  It was a similar concept to paying Washington’s officers in war bonds during the Revolution.  In that case, it made the officers want to win more to collect; in this case, it made bond investors hope the U.S. would survive.  States that had already paid off some of their debt, like Virginia, understandably didn’t think their citizens should have to help pay off other less responsible states’ full debt at the national level.

This was a turning point in the country’s history as Hamilton consolidated a truly national economy with a centralized, government-led bank and currency.  As mentioned in the previous chapter, this unified approach strengthened the American economy over the long term in comparison to looser federations like modern Europe.  American workers can move freely between states with higher or lower unemployment, unhampered by discrepancies between separate state currencies.  A dollar in Texas is a dollar in California.  American credit has remained strong, whereas who knows what would’ve happened if individual states had been running separate monetary systems.  Even with Hamilton’s system, it was another 80 years before the U.S. truly standardized its currency.  The way Hamilton’s plans played out in the short term was controversial, leaving some people justifiably angry and embroiling his faction in a major political rivalry with Jefferson’s.

Here’s why.  To make good on their credit, the government also redeemed bonds paid to Continental soldiers at full value, including those that soldiers pawned off at steep discounts because they were unsure of whether the new nation would remain solvent.  As we saw in the previous chapter with Daniel Shay’s Rebellion, speculators that gambled it would and bought the bonds cheap were seen as ripping off veterans, especially if they were connected to Hamilton’s circle and were privy to the Assumption Plan.  One of Hamilton’s lieutenants in the Treasury, William Duer, personally stood to make a fortune if he converted the discounted notes at full face value.

This controversy over how to clean up America’s books led to a split between Hamilton and James Madison, co-author along with Hamilton of the Federalist Papers that had helped get the Constitution explained and ratified a few years prior.  When he returned from his work as Minister to France in late 1789 to start his work as Secretary of State, Jefferson sided with his neighbor Madison.  They were understandably upset that congressmen who supported the bank got shares before its initial public offering.  The resulting factions became the Federalist-Republican split that divided Washington’s cabinet, led by the Federalist Hamilton and the Republican Jefferson.  They say, “Money is the root of all evil.”  If a bit of an overstatement, it was, in this case, at least the root of America’s first two-party system.  Jefferson and Madison called investors in the Bank of the United States (B.U.S.) “dabblers in federal filth.”

Thomas Jefferson, by Charles Willson Peale, 1791

Jefferson & the Republicans
The Jeffersonians saw no need for a national bank or any elaborate debt refinancing.  The Constitution puts the House of Representatives in charge of raising revenue (Article I, Section 7, Clause 1), but Congress was in recess in 1789 when Washington instructed Hamilton to raise necessary funds.  During an excursion on the Hudson River with their colleague Robert Livingston, Jefferson and his allies formed a group they called the Republicans to fight Hamilton’s bank.  But their concerns went beyond the national bank and the corruption surrounding it.

Jefferson and Madison didn’t want to mimic Europe or import the nascent industrial revolution to American shores – quite the contrary.  For one, they saw farmers and landowners as more dependable patriots than businessmen.  Jefferson wrote: “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.” (TJ to Horatio Spafford, 3.17.1814).  The Virginians saw manufacturing as a source of pollution and urban squalor and viewed big cities, in the Enlightenment natural man tradition, as hastening the decline of civilization (the largest cities in America at the time were only around 10k people).  Jefferson hoped America would remain a predominantly rural country, with honest yeoman farmers and small craftsmen forming the backbone of the economy.  The U.S. would avoid the historical evolution of civilizations from this idealized state of innocence toward decadent urbanization, instead expanding geographically toward the Pacific Ocean.  There would be no need for strong national government or a large standing military in Jefferson’s scenario.  He wasn’t anti-government; he believed in strong, participatory government at the local or state level.  More local yet, he viewed almost all decision-making occurring in wards (small counties) among an active, well-educated citizenry.  If Jefferson were alive today, the part of our government he’d most appreciate would likely be city councils and school boards.

In the Jeffersonian scenario, America would avoid European wars and, if someone attacked, it would simply embargo some of the agricultural exports it would depend on trading to others in exchange for manufactured items (you may already pick up on a flaw in this plan…stay tuned).  When it came to factories, you could think of Jefferson as a neo-NIMBY (Not-In-My-Backyard).  Britain and Europe’s working classes could live in squalor under the soot.  As for his romantic view of farming, Jefferson didn’t have to bust his own sod at Monticello as he had a small army of slaves for that.

Constitutionally, Jefferson was a strict constructionist believing that, unless the text expressly authorized the national government to do something, it could not.  Of course, no one at the time could envision a national government that would finance railroads and interstate highway systems, fight titanic global wars, build hydrogen bombs, go to the moon, invent the Internet, build water systems, conduct medical research, prevent the spread of disease, provide a public pension system for the elderly and a safety net for the unemployed, and make all the kids go to school where they’d be fed a meal and do pull-ups.  But, if they had, the strict constructionists would have opposed it.

As Jefferson supposedly said in his famous (if undocumented) peon to minimalism, “That which governs least governs best.”  The phrase belies Jefferson’s passion for strong local government but is true to his vision for a minimalist national tier.  However, he never said it in the first place; Henry David Thoreau picked it up from a magazine, attributed it to Jefferson in the 1850s, and it’s been with him ever since.  Along with his support of slavery, this states’ rights commitment made Jefferson popular in the South and West, where he endorsed spreading the vote to all white males, including the property-less.  He helped bring such universal white manhood suffrage about in the Old Northwest, too, by authoring the territorial ordinance in 1787 (previous chapter).  States’ rights ideology also appealed to masters concerned that the national government might someday abolish slavery.

Dinner Deal
As Hamilton and Jefferson’s allies fought these conflicting ideas out in the newly formed Congress, things ground to a virtual halt.  Nothing passed.  Contrary to popular opinion, gridlock is not always bad.  Rather, it’s part of how our branches of government and political parties check and balance each other.  Congress, after all, isn’t a factory whose goal is to produce as many laws as possible.  If the parties are balanced, then it’s perfectly within their right to block each other over genuine policy disagreements.  Having said that, total gridlock is bad and the framers envisioned some compromise.  It was especially bad for the new U.S. government to stumble out of the gate into gridlock, accomplishing nothing while skeptical Europeans looked on bemused.  Would this new constitution work?

It was best for all concerned, in this case, to compromise.  Jefferson brought together Hamilton and the Republicans’ congressional leader, James Madison.  Over food and wine, the principals agreed to what became known as the Dinner Deal.  Really, the actual dinner is partly a symbolic legend for a compromise they hammered out in various negotiations and in Congress.  Jefferson and Madison consented to Hamiltonian finance in exchange for Federalists agreeing to move the capital away from the “stinking sewer of New York City” to a more Southerly locale – specifically a new city in the Virginians’ backyard, just south of Washington’s plantation at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.  There’s no official record of how many glasses of wine Jefferson had before calling Hamilton’s hometown a stinking sewer, or what Hamilton muttered under his breath as he agreed to turn the nation’s capital into a southern plantation.  Philadelphia, more central than NYC, would be used as temporary capital in the 1790s.  That, at least, is the common interpretation of the Dinner Deal, drawn from Jefferson’s writings.  In truth, Madison already had the necessary votes to move the capital, but what he and Jefferson coaxed out of Hamilton on the night of June 20, 1790, was a $1.5 million reduction in the amount their home state of Virginia contributed toward national debt assumption.

Plan of the City of Washington, Engraving on Paper, Andrew Ellicott, Revised From Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant, Thackara & Vallance sc., Philadelphia 1792, Library of Congress

Thereafter Southerners hoped to keep a closer eye on things in the new District of Columbia, nestled between the existing ports and slave auctions of Alexandria, Virginia and Georgetown, Maryland.  Jefferson and Washington helped oversee construction of the new “Washington City,” aka the Federal City.  Jefferson named the legislative building the capitol, Latin for city on a hill.  Above is French engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s original design from 1792.  African American Benjamin Banneker, an important astronomer and almanac author from Maryland, also contributed to D.C.’s design (Banneker’s cabin burned the day of his funeral in 1806, destroying all his records regarding the Federal City and other research).

In return for the southern capital and reduction in Virginia’s contribution to debt reduction, Jefferson and Madison called off the Republican dogs in Congress and Hamilton got his way with debt assumption.  Moreover, Hamilton later secured passage of the First Bank of the United States and the establishment of a national currency, along with keeping the military at the national level, as Charles Pinckney and George Mason suggested in the previous chapter.  Madison didn’t openly endorse Hamilton’s ideas, but neither did he strenuously oppose them.  Later, Jefferson and Madison came to regret the bargain, claiming they’d been duped.  Implicit in the legislation was the idea that Congress would have to raise taxes somehow or another (beyond selling bonds) to help finance debt assumption.  That came the following year with the Whiskey Tax, as we’ll see below.

1804 Silver Dollar, U.S. Mint Specimen Obverse

In 1794, the U.S. minted its first silver dollar coin in Philadelphia, while Jefferson lobbied successfully for the continuation of other local and private currencies and for the decimal system: dollar portions equaled an even one hundred cents.  The government didn’t begin to monopolize paper money greenbacks until the Civil War (1862) and some local and private currency continued until 1913, when Congress created the Federal Reserve to manage cash.  Although Andrew Jackson terminated the public/private National Bank in the 1830s, a non-profit, public, centralized “banker’s bank” emerged with the Federal Reserve.  U.S. Bonds came into existence as part of Hamilton’s financial plans and, so far, their default rate is 0% since 1791.  They got off to a good start in the 1790s because Europeans, skittish over the Napoleonic Wars, saw the young U.S. as the safest place to put their money despite its unproven reputation.  In the minds of modern Chinese, Japanese, and Saudi Arabians, American bonds are still the safest money in the world, outside of perhaps gold (or, maybe in the near future, some decentralized cryptocurrency).

First Bank of the United States, 1791-1811, Philadelphia, National Park Service

Investors started buying and selling U.S. Bonds, along with stocks, at 68 Wall Street in lower Manhattan, under a Buttonwood tree to be precise.  In time, they institutionalized themselves as the New York Stock Exchange and moved indoors.  The first shares on the exchange were the treasuries (bonds) and those of the North American Bank, the government’s First National Bank, and then Hamilton’s own Bank of New York, now BNY Mellon.  Foreigners sometimes comment on how strange it is that America’s financial capital of New York and political capital of Washington are in separate spots, but the government actually started near the Stock Exchange before it moved to Philadelphia (the original Federal Hall, below, burned in 1812).  Since Hamilton is the “godfather of Wall Street,” his reputation has risen and fallen in lockstep with markets.  His name was dirt in the Great Depression of the 1930s, but favorable biographies started popping up as last-minute Father’s Day presents at Barnes & Noble during the bull run of the 1980s-90’s, and he’s found a fresh audience with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical.

French Revolution
European politics complicated this already divisive political atmosphere, compounding partisanship between Federalists and Republicans.  The brief English Commonwealth of the 17th century notwithstanding, the French Revolution was the first lasting overthrow of a monarch, leading to the decapitation of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette in 1793 and the wholesale, if temporary, overhaul of France into a republic.

Storming of the Tuileries on 10. Aug. 1792 During the French Revolution, Jean Duplessis-Bertaux, 1793

As we saw in Chapter 9, the French Revolution was connected to the American Revolution, since King Louis XVI was so intent on defeating Britain that he ran the Crown into debt.  In 1781, the year French helped Americans defeat Brits at Yorktown, the French Navy was running a budget 5x its normal amount.  While focusing French support on Americans, the king inadvertently helped popularize republican ideas among France’s middle and upper classes, who now sought to overthrow him.  In the meantime, drought caused several bad harvests in a row, emboldening the hungry lower classes that were already upset about a new salt tax.  French aristocracy (~ top 2%) and the Catholic Church exempted themselves from taxes, pushing all the burden on the poor, farmers, tradesmen, and bourgeoisie (merchant class).

The resulting revolution inspired abolition in French colonies, called for racial equality at home (tearing down ghetto walls to integrate Jews), established a modern legal system, created a non-Christian/Roman calendar, and endorsed a rational metric measuring system.  Christian cathedrals, including Notre Dame, were refashioned as Temples of Reason and some priests were killed, thrown in the Seine River tied to rocks.  Revolutionaries converted the famous Mont Saint-Michel abbey/monastery into a state prison and converted monks into guards.  Opponents and suspected opponents of the Revolutionary Reign of Terror died by the thousands, including the king and queen, virtue of Joseph-Ignace Guillotine’s new humane tool of capital punishment (see Robespierre’s head displayed below).  It was a full-blown Civilization 2.0 reset.  Oddly, the otherwise liberated revolutionaries outlawed smiling in portraits, which had recently come into fashion due to improved dentistry.

Thomas Jefferson enthusiastically supported the French Revolution despite its excesses.  In fact, he was an important participant: as American Minister to France, he helped his old friend Marquis de Lafayette draft the French Declaration of the Rights of Man & of the Citizen, the French counterpart to the Declaration of Independence (Lafayette fought with Washington in the Revolutionary War).  Jefferson didn’t always approve of the Revolution’s more violent and chaotic aspects but when challenged to defend the uprising in 1787 — its first year, before heads literally started to roll — he said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”  How, after all, did monarchs come to power in the first place?  Did they peacefully ask for their thrones without harming anyone?

Bastille Key Presented to George Washington From Lafayette via Thomas Paine, Mount Vernon Collection

President Washington didn’t share Jefferson’s enthusiasm for the upheaval in France.  His administration was cool toward a revolution that it saw moving too far, too fast.  Washington also felt some loyalty to the French Crown from the Revolutionary War and even had a life-sized portrait of Louis XVI at his plantation in Mt. Vernon.  Washington politely accepted France’s gift of the main Bastille key to the state prison rebels stormed to release prisoners in one of the revolution’s iconic moments.  His old compatriot from the Revolutionary War, Lafayette, sent it after all, even if Washington wasn’t exactly a let’s-free-prisoners kind of guy.  And there was another complication.  Britain went to war to quash the French Revolution and Washington was hesitant to stir up the British hornet’s nest.  As pro-British and pro-French mobs clashed in American streets, Washington issued a formal Neutrality Proclamation.  Such a proclamation was not really a Constitutional privilege of the executive branch, but it at least stated the president’s position.

Edmond-Charles “Citizen” Genet

French revolutionaries sent an ambassador to America named Edmond-Charles Genêt to curry favor with Washington and hire privateers to seize British ships.  This is when Washington, to put it in modern urban slang, “gave France the Heisman,” meaning that he distanced himself like the football player stiff-arming an opponent on the famous trophy.  “Citizen Genêt,” as he was known to the revolutionary government, wanted the U.S. to abandon its neutrality in an ongoing war between Britain and France and support the French Revolution, but Washington wouldn’t budge.  The first president denounced Genêt’s crimes against British shipping and promotion of what historians call Democratic-Republican societies.  In a rare case where the Anglophile Hamilton and Francophile Jefferson agreed (albeit for different reasons), they supported Washington demanding that Genêt take it back a notch.  The “Citizen Genêt Affair” was an early indicator that the U.S. was hesitant to stray too far from its British roots and that President Washington was not radically inclined, defined here as democratic.  When the more radical and bloodthirsty Jacobin Club took power in Paris, they issued an arrest warrant for Genêt.  Realizing that he’d be sent to the guillotine, Hamilton (his most vocal critic) convinced Washington to grant the enthusiastic democrat asylum in America.

Meanwhile, other European monarchs didn’t sit by idly hoping a democratic revolution wouldn’t happen to them.  You need look no further than the Arab Spring of 2011 to see that such movements are contagious.  Kings wanted to nip the French Revolution in the bud to discourage such developments elsewhere.  Consequently, the French Revolutionary governments — a series of governments that violently displaced each other in rapid succession — didn’t just have their hands full at home; they were at war with the rest of Europe and Britain.

The Jay Treaty

The Washington Administration was hesitant to alienate the British, in particular, since American shipping was susceptible to British attacks in the Atlantic and the U.S. relied on trade with their former colonizers.  The U.S. traded with France, as well, but it was hard to say how things would play out there.  Britain was a more proven entity and more important to the American economy.  Washington chose the lesser of two evils, signing the Jay Treaty (1794-95), whereby the U.S. sided with Britain and the British made empty promises to evacuate the forts of the Old Northwest and ceased attacking American shipping, but the U.S. got virtually nothing else in return.  In fact, the British had already agreed to evacuate their western forts in the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War and never left.  Nor did they even leave after Jay’s Treaty, and didn’t until 1815.  Worse, with the U.S.-British treaty, the French Navy — the same one that helped the U.S. gain its independence fifteen years earlier — started attacking American shipping on its way to Britain.

For Jeffersonians, the Jay Treaty was coddling up to the enemy when they should have been embracing the spread of democracy in Europe by siding with France.  Hadn’t France helped the Americans defeat Britain?  Whose side were we on in the upcoming historical struggle between monarchy and freedom?  The new Constitution gave the president treaty-making powers (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2), but only with approval by two-thirds of the Senate.  Republicans demanded to see confidential documents related to the treaty, but Washington refused, declaring executive privilege.

Newspaper War
Foreign relations drove the wedge deeper between America’s political factions, fueling the Newspaper War.  The Federalists and Republicans each had newspapers in Philadelphia cranking out partisan combinations of propaganda and facts on a daily basis.  Sound familiar?  Breitbart and the Huffington Post weren’t around yet, so Jefferson’s henchman fulminated in the Philadelphia Aurora (edited by Franklin’s grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache) and Philip Freneau’s National Gazette while Hamilton smeared the opposition through the Gazette of the United States.  Jefferson’s men excoriated Washington behind his back even as Jefferson served in his administration, but in print they mostly trashed Hamilton.  Around this time, Federalists started insulting Jefferson’s Republicans by calling them the Democratic-Republicans, to ridicule their support of the French Revolution and white male suffrage at home.  No one called themselves Democratic-Republicans at the time, though, preferring Republican, or a Madison or Franklin, indicating that Republicans identified themselves not just with Jefferson.  Later some started to call their group the Democracy, sounding more like a cabal than a political faction.

An aside that we’ll return to in future chapters:
Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans (originally just Republicans) are the historical precursor to today’s Democratic Party.  After 1824, a branch forked off calling themselves the National Republicans.  They held views more similar to the Federalists of the 1790s and, by the early 1830s, were calling themselves Whigs.  The Whigs formed the primary trunk of the anti-slavery Republican Party formed in the mid-1850s — direct precursor to today’s Republican Party.  The first president for today’s Republican Party was Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860.

Jefferson encouraged his followers to “take up [their] pen[s]…and cut [Hamilton] to pieces in the face of the public.”  But, in this heated partisan environment, the red-headed Virginian blinked first.  Jefferson quit on President Washington and moved home to his Monticello plantation outside Charlottesville, Virginia, from where he licked his wounds and rallied his rank-and-file supporters.Meanwhile, Republican presses in Philadelphia still hammered Federalists mercilessly at every turn.  But with Jefferson gone, Hamilton had Washington’s ear and could commence building a military the Republicans thought was aimed at them rather than foreign adversaries.  As it turns out, they had some reason to fear just that.  Sometimes, as the saying goes, even paranoids have [real] enemies.

Whiskey Rebellion
Militaries, however necessary, aren’t cheap and Congress still needed to subsidize Hamilton’s Assumption Plan.  The U.S. was already almost $80 million in debt.  One irony of the Revolution was that, after fighting a war over taxes, Americans were soon paying more than they ever had as colonists in the British Empire.  How could it be otherwise?  They now had to run their own country.  At least they had greater representation, for those genuinely concerned with that principle.  But for some, it seemed that the source of evil had merely migrated from London to Philadelphia.  Tax offenders in southwestern Pennsylvania were sent to a federal courthouse in Philadelphia, hundreds of miles away while, meanwhile, the government wasn’t doing as much as westerners hoped to fight Indians and secure trading rights from the Spanish on the Mississippi River, key tributaries of which drained from the Ohio Valley.

Whiskey Tax Receipt, Source: Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau

Hamilton convinced Washington to pay off Revolutionary War debt by taxing distilled spirits.  In some respects, this tax was more unfair than anything the British enacted earlier.  Congress went along with the idea partly because they preferred an excise tax on consumption to a traditional land tax because most of them were big landowners.  Congress also liked the fact that the federal government would collect the tax since citizens could intimidate and resist state collectors.  Hamilton even produced a letter from the Philadelphia College of Physicians showing the ill effects of alcohol, especially the low-grade spirits distilled on the frontier.  Here, Hamilton was actually in agreement with Jefferson, who favored wine over whiskey and lobbied for lowering wine import duties to combat drunkenness (yes, you read that correctly).

Most Americans preferred bartering to using currency for everyday transactions and whiskey barrels were virtually a currency in their own right in the backcountry.  Settlers traded whiskey for salt, sugar, iron, powder, and shot.  They even paid ministers in barrels.  Whiskey made from leftover grain had the additional advantage of keeping, so it was an ideal way to preserve wealth and guard against inflation.  The barrels were an agreed-upon size and their content was reasonably consistent.  Western farmers who couldn’t readily ship large quantities of grain across the Alleghany Mountains distilled surplus grain into more transportable whiskey.  One in six farmers had a small pot still as whiskey had replaced rum as the drink of choice by the late 18th century.  While rum made sense in colonial port cities since it depended on the Caribbean molasses trade, frontiersmen were familiar with whiskey from Scotland and Ireland and grew the ingredient cereal grains like barley, wheat, and rye.  Many of the settlers around the Forks-of-the-Ohio region of western Pennsylvania (modern Pittsburgh) were rough-hewn Scotch-Irish who’d resisted similar English liquor taxes back in the Old Country.  As was the case there, the American showdown pitted smaller, artisanal distillers against bigger professionals because the more one distilled, the less one paid proportionally.

Famous Whiskey Insurrection In Pennsylvania, R. M. Devens, 1882, New York Public Library Digital Collection. Note Tarred Tax Collector

In the ensuing Whiskey Rebellion (1791-1794), frontiersmen from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Virginia reacted to the tax the same way colonials had reacted to the Stamp Tax a quarter-century earlier: by threatening bodily harm toward anyone who, by God, dared collect it.  Whiskey Tax collectors were tarred and feathered, robbed, and beaten at gunpoint.  Distillers burned their houses down.  If collectors were federal rather than local, all the better.  Many of the rebels were in Democratic-Republican societies opposed to Washington’s administration and many were veterans of the Revolutionary War, fighting for the same principles of local representation they had before.  In that way, the Whiskey Rebellion was an early test of whether the new national congress really had power over the states and the people.

However, the rebels weren’t just angry hillbillies opposing all taxes, or even a national government; they opposed Hamilton’s insistence on consolidating the industry by favoring bigger distillers with regressive taxes that went toward paying interest to wealthy federal bondholders.  They expressed as much in well-reasoned editorials and pamphlets.  Rather than an equal or progressive tax, rates were based on a complicated ratio formula regarding the gallons of wash (fermented grain and water) a distiller’s pot could hold.  There was an option to pay a flat fee instead, but only larger distillers could afford the higher flat fee, and they could better pass the cost onto customers.  The government was taxing as whiskey left the still instead of at the point-of-sale, costing even those who made it for their own consumption.  Taxing whiskey stills as each batch was prepared punished those who made smaller batches because bigger stills made more whiskey per batch.  Had they taxed the overall amount of whiskey made or sold (point-of-sale), they would’ve taxed large distillers at the same rate as small distillers.  The upshot is that the regressive tax favored larger, year-round distillers and punished less efficient, seasonal one-pot farmers and frontiersmen.

It was no accident.  Hamilton knew how Parliament colluded with big distillers to wipe out one-pot operations in the British Isles.  He was a rare man of broad vision and microscopic attention to detail.  That’s what made Hamilton so effective and/or dangerous, depending on one’s perspective.  Distilleries were just one example of how Hamilton wanted to consolidate and gain efficiency of scale across agriculture and industry that would help fund the government’s budget in the meantime.  Today, Hamilton likely would’ve granted concessions to Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, and Pabst at the expense of local craft brewers, perhaps requiring the use of wholesale distributors that smaller brewers couldn’t afford.

Adding insult to injury, each barrel taxed had to be registered with a representative from the Treasury Department, but frontier distillers couldn’t afford to pay for the registration in currency.  Rebels would’ve burned Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) to the ground if authorities hadn’t bribed them with, you guessed it, alcohol.  Other well-lubricated rebels talked of forming a western state named Westsylvania and seceding from the U.S., and even had a flag.  In response, the national government passed a law making it a capital offense to discuss secession and made raising freedom-symbolizing liberty poles seditious.

First, Washington sent peace commissioners to resolve the matter.  Then, he took matters into his own hands in 1794 and resolved to collect the tax himself at the head of a larger army, at 13k, than most of those he led in the war.  The Whiskey Rebellion occasioned the first draft in American history and was the first and only time the sitting president ever led an army in the field as Commander-in-chief, though Abraham Lincoln occasionally visited battlefields around Washington, D.C. during the Civil War.  Washington compelled area governors to nationalize their state militias to gather his force.

General Henry “Lighthouse Harry” Lee assumed command as the militia approached Pittsburgh, while Hamilton stayed on as a civilian advisor and President Washington returned to Philadelphia.  The militia used up its own whiskey on the way over mountains and when they bought more from the rebels it conveniently gave the rebels enough extra money to pay their taxes.  They arrested several rebels illegally (violating their Fourth Amendment rights with unlawful search and seizure) but released them due to insufficient evidence after they signed loyalty oaths.

Today, historians and students often view the Whiskey Rebellion through the prism of America’s post-9/11 revived police state, with its increased powers of domestic surveillance and imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay and abroad.  Sympathetic to the rebels, historian William Hogeland writes: “hundreds of ordinary citizens were rousted from beds by pumped-up dragoons, marched through the snow to holding pens, detained indefinitely on no charge, harshly interrogated, physically and mentally abused, and made to open their homes to search and property to seizure — all without warrants and on the basis of no evidence.”  Yet, despite these initial transgressions and abuse of power, the government only convicted a few rebels and Washington ultimately pardoned them.

This Painting From the Whiskey Rebellion Showed Europeans That Washington Could Lead His Country by Enforcing Taxes.

The Whiskey Rebellion was the first time the American national government ever used force against its own citizens — in contrast with Shay’s Rebellion when the Confederation Congress was powerless to do so.  That was one of the reasons some advocated creating a national government in the first place.  With Hamilton, Lee, and Washington bearing down on them most of the distillers gave up or fled into the hills or west to Tennessee and Kentucky, beyond the reach of the national government.  Those in Bourbon County, Kentucky distilled primarily corn mash, leading to the famous whiskey of that name (an etymology disputed by those on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street).  Rebel leader David Bradford accepted a land grant in Spanish West Florida (Louisiana) and built the Myrtles Plantation.  Westylvania never materialized.  In 1798, George Washington opened the largest whiskey distillery in America on his own plantation in Mount Vernon, servicing drinkers of nearby Alexandria, Virginia.

The remaining rebels agreed to pay the tax, but the Whiskey Rebellion was a notch in Jefferson’s belt as it played into the Democratic-Republicans’ portrayal of the Federalist regime as over-bearing.  It was a notch in Washington’s belt, too, because he’d shown Americans and Europeans that he and his government were in charge of the country and had ways of raising revenue; and he managed to do it with little bloodshed.  After Jefferson became president, his administration repealed the Whiskey Tax in 1802.  However, that was only after Jefferson lost his first bid for the presidency in 1796.

John Adams, by John Trumbull, 1792-93, White House Blue Room

Adams Caught In The Middle
Jefferson ran for president in 1796 against his old friend John Adams, with whom he’d served in Continental Congress twenty years earlier.  Washington could have served a third term (the 22nd Amendment prohibiting that wasn’t added until 1951), but he’d had enough and was ready to retire to his plantation at Mt. Vernon.  There was much whiskey to be distilled and he was ready for some quality time with Martha.  Washington probably wouldn’t have run even for a second term if the intense partisanship of the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans hadn’t threatened to destabilize the young nation.

The 1796 election was critical to American history because it was the first test of opposing factions running against each other and it established a precedent of non-violence.  The threat was there, at least in the minds of some but, fortunately, nasty politics and mudslinging won out over civil war.  Washington also helped establish the precedent of peaceful transitions of power by stepping down after two terms.  However, the election also revealed an important glitch in the Constitution.  Not foreseeing political parties, it awarded the vice-presidency to the candidate with the second-most electoral votes.  In other words, the candidates didn’t run on “tickets” with pairs of presidents and vice-presidents.  The 12th Amendment of 1804 solved the problem, combining electoral tickets with a president and vice-president.

When Adams won, Jefferson was thus serving as VP under the man he’d just run against.  He wasn’t much interested in aiding Adams, so he concentrated on defining the vice-president’s role as president of the Senate, writing procedural manuals still used in Congress today.  Adams reached out to his old friend Jefferson hoping for bipartisan reconciliation, but the red-haired Virginian chose to mobilize against Adams as leader of the Democratic-Republicans in hopes of defeating him in 1800.

Adams struggled with his own Federalist faction, as well.  The High Federalists, as they were called, were more militant in their views than the moderate Adams and wanted him to attack the Democratic-Republicans and France more aggressively, stopping democracy in its tracks.  Alexander Hamilton really did consider using the army against “the Virginians;” that wasn’t just paranoia on the Jeffersonians’ part.

The Federalist Era in American history ran from roughly 1788-1800, a time when the Federalist Party and its predecessors were dominant in American politics. During this period, Federalists generally controlled Congress and enjoyed the support of President George Washington and President John Adams. The era saw the creation of a new, stronger federal government under the United States Constitution. The era began with the ratification of the United States Constitution and ended with the Democratic-Republican Party's victory in the 1800 elections.

During the 1780s, an era sometimes known as the "Critical Period" of United States history, the United States had functioned under the Articles of Confederation, which provided for a loose confederation of states. At the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, delegates from most of the states wrote a new constitution that created a more powerful federal government. After the convention, this constitution was submitted to the states for ratification. Those who advocated ratification became known as Federalists, while those opposed to ratification became known as anti-Federalists. After the Federalists won the ratification debate in all but two states, the new constitution took effect and new elections were held for Congress and the presidency. The first elections returned large Federalist majorities in both houses and elected George Washington, who had taken part in the Philadelphia Convention, as president. The Washington administration and the 1st United States Congress established numerous precedents and much of the structure of the new government. Congress shaped the federal judiciary with the Judiciary Act of 1789 while Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's economic policies fostered a strong central government. The first Congress also passed the United States Bill of Rights to constitutionally limit the powers of the federal government. During the Federalist Era, U.S. foreign policy was dominated by concerns regarding Britain, France, and Spain. Washington and Adams sought to avoid war with each of these countries while ensuring continued trade and settlement of the American frontier.

Hamilton's policies divided the United States along factional lines, creating voter-based political parties for the first time. Hamilton mobilized urban elites who favored his financial and economic policies. His opponents coalesced around Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Jefferson feared that Hamilton's policies would lead to an aristocratic, and potentially monarchical, society that clashed with his vision of a republic built on yeomen farmers. This economic policy debate was further roiled by the French Revolutionary Wars, as Jeffersonians tended to sympathize with France and Hamiltonians with Britain. The Jay Treaty established peaceful commercial relations with Britain, but outraged the Jeffersonians and damaged relations with France. Hamilton's followers organized into the Federalist Party while the Jeffersonians organized into the Democratic-Republican Party. Though many who had sought ratification of the Constitution joined the Federalist Party, some advocates of the Constitution, led by Madison, became members of the Democratic-Republicans. The Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party contested the 1796 presidential election, with the Federalist Adams emerging triumphant. From 1798 to 1800, the United States engaged in the Quasi-War with France, and many Americans rallied to Adams. In the wake of these foreign policy tensions, the Federalists imposed the Alien and Sedition Acts to crack down on dissidents and make it more difficult for immigrants to become citizens.

The Federalists embraced a quasi-aristocratic, elitist vision that was unpopular with most Americans outside of the middle class. Jefferson's egalitarian vision appealed to farmers and middle-class urbanites alike and the party embraced campaign tactics that mobilized all classes of society. Although the Federalists retained strength in New England and other parts of the Northeast, the Democratic-Republicans dominated the South and West and became the more successful party in much of the Northeast. In the 1800 elections, Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency and the Democratic-Republicans took control of Congress. Jefferson accurately referred to the election as the "Revolution of 1800," as Jeffersonian democracy came to dominate the country in the succeeding decades. The Federalists experienced a brief resurgence during the War of 1812 but collapsed after the war. Despite the Federalist Party's demise, many of the institutions and structures established by the party would endure, and Hamilton's economic policies would influence generations of American political leaders.

Federalist Era begins[edit]

Main article: America's Critical Period

The United States Constitution was written at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention and ratified by the states in 1788, taking effect in 1789. During the 1780s, the United States had operated under the Articles of Confederation, which was essentially a treaty of thirteen sovereign states.[1] Domestic and foreign policy challenges convinced many in the United States of the need for a new constitution that provided for a stronger national government. The supporters of ratification of the Constitution were called Federalists while the opponents were called Anti-Federalists. The immediate problem faced by the Federalists was not simply one of acceptance of the Constitution but the more fundamental concern of legitimacy for the government of the new republic.[2] With this challenge in mind, the new national government needed to act with the idea that every act was being carried out for the first time and would therefore have great significance and be viewed along the lines of the symbolic as well as practical implications. The first elections to the new United States Congress returned heavy Federalist majorities.[3]George Washington, who had presided over the Philadelphia Convention, was unanimously chosen as the first President of the United States by the Electoral College.

The Anti-Federalist movement opposed the draft Constitution primarily because it lacked a bill of rights. They also objected to the new powerful central government, the loss of prestige for the states, and saw the Constitution as a potential threat to personal liberties.[4] During the ratification process the Anti-Federalists presented a significant opposition in all but three states. The major stumbling block for the Anti-Federalists, according to Elkins and McKitrick's The Age of Federalism, was that the supporters of the Constitution had been more deeply committed, had cared more, and had outmaneuvered the less energetic opposition. The Anti-Federalists did temporarily prevent ratification in two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island, but both states would ratify the Constitution after 1788.

Establishing a new government[edit]

The Constitution had established the basic layout of the federal government, but much of the structure of the government was established during the Federalist Era. The Constitution empowers the president to appoint the heads of the federal executive departments with the advice and consent of the Senate. President Washington and the Senate established a precedent whereby the president alone would make executive and judicial nominations, but these nominees would not hold their positions in a permanent capacity until they won Senate confirmation. President Washington organized his principal officers into the Cabinet of the United States, which served as a major advisory body to the president. The heads of the Department of War, the Department of State, and the Department of the Treasury each served in the Cabinet. After the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Attorney General also served in the Cabinet as the president's chief legal adviser.

In addition creating the office of the Attorney General, the Judiciary Act of 1789 also established the federal judiciary. Article Three of the United States Constitution had created the judicial branch of the federal government and invested powers in it, but had left it to Congress and the president to determine the number of Supreme Court Justices, establish courts below the Supreme Court, and appoint individuals to serve in the judicial branch. Written primarily by Senator Oliver Ellsworth, the Judiciary Act of 1789 established a six-member Supreme Court and created circuit courts and district courts in thirteen judicial districts. The ensuing Crimes Act of 1790 defined several statutory federal crimes and the punishment for those crimes, but the state court systems handled the vast majority of civil and criminal cases. Washington nominated the first group of federal judges in September 1789 and appointed several judges in the following years. John Jay served as the first Chief Justice of the United States and he would be succeeded in turn by John Rutledge, Oliver Ellsworth, and John Marshall.

Proponents of the Constitution had won the ratification debate in several states in part by promising that they would introduce a bill of rights to the Constitution via the amendment process. Congressman James Madison, who had been a prominent advocate of the Constitution's ratification, introduced a series of amendments that would become known as the United States Bill of Rights. Congress passed twelve articles of amendment, and ten were ratified before the end of 1791. The Bill of Rights codified the protection of individual liberties against the federal government, with those liberties including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to a jury trial in all criminal cases.

At the start of the Federalist Era, New York City was the nation's capital, but the Constitution had provided for the establishment of a permanent national capital under federal authority. Article One of the Constitution permits the establishment of a "District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States".[6] In what is now known as the Compromise of 1790, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson came to an agreement that the federal government would pay each state's remaining Revolutionary War debts in exchange for establishing the new national capital in the Southern United States.[7] In July 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington. Maryland and Virginia donated land to the federal government that collectively formed a square measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side.[8] The Residence Act also established Philadelphia as the federal capital until the government moved to the federal district. Congress adjourned its last meeting in Philadelphia on May 15, 1800, and the city officially ceased to be the nation's seat of government as of June 1800.[9] President John Adams moved into the White House later that year.

Economic policy[edit]

Raising revenue[edit]

Among the many contentious issues facing the First Congress during its inaugural session was the issue of how to raise revenue for the federal government. There were both domestic and foreign Revolutionary War-related debts, as well as a trade imbalance with Great Britain that was crippling American industries and draining the nation of its currency. The first effort to begin addressing these issues resulted in the Tariff of 1789, authorizing the collection of duties on imported goods.[10]

Various other plans were considered to address the debt issues during the first session of Congress, but none were able to generate widespread support. In September 1789, with no resolution in sight and the close of that session drawing near, Congress directed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton to prepare a report on credit.[11] In his Report on the Public Credit, Hamilton called for the federal assumption of state debt and the mass issuance of federal bonds. Hamilton believed that these measures would restore the ailing economy, ensure a stable and adequate money stock, and make it easier for the federal government to borrow during emergencies such as wars.[12]

Despite the additional import duties imposed by the Tariff of 1790, a substantial federal deficit remained – chiefly due to the federal assumption of stated debts.[13] By December 1790, Hamilton believed import duties, which were the government's primary source of revenue, had been raised as high as was feasible.[14] He therefore promoted passage of an excise tax on domestically distilled spirits. This was to be the first tax levied by the national government on a domestic product.[15] Although taxes were politically unpopular, Hamilton believed the whiskey excise was a luxury tax that would be the least objectionable tax the government could levy.[16][17] The tax also had the support of some social reformers, who hoped a "sin tax" would raise public awareness about the harmful effects of alcohol.[18] The Distilled Spirits Duties Act, commonly known as the "Whiskey Act" went into effect on June 1791.[19][20]

Assumption of state debts[edit]

Hamilton also proposed the federal assumption of state debts, many of which were heavy burdens on the states. Congressional delegations from the Southern states, which had lower or no debts, and whose citizens would effectively pay a portion of the debt of other states if the federal government assumed it, were disinclined to accept the proposal. Additionally, many in Congress argued that the plan was beyond the constitutional power of the new government. James Madison led the effort to block the provision and prevent the plan from gaining approval.[21] Jefferson approved payment of the domestic and foreign debt at par, but not the assumption of state debts.[22] After Hamilton and Jefferson reached the Compromise of 1790, Hamilton's assumption plan was adopted as the Funding Act of 1790.

Other Hamiltonian proposals[edit]

Later in 1790, Hamilton issued another set of recommendations in his Second Report on Public Credit. The report called for the establishment of a national bank and an excise tax on distilled spirits. Hamilton's proposed national bank would provide credit to fledgling industries, serve as a depository for government funds, and oversee one nationwide currency. In response to Hamilton's proposal, Congress passed the Bank Bill of 1791, establishing the First Bank of the United States.[23] The following year, it passed the Coinage Act of 1792, establishing the United States Mint, and the United States dollar, and regulating the coinage of the United States.[24]

In December 1791, Hamilton published the Report on Manufactures, which recommended numerous policies designed to protect U.S. merchants and industries in order to increase national wealth, induce artisans to immigrate, cause machinery to be invented, and employ women and children.[25] Hamilton called for federally-funded infrastructure projects, the establishment of state-owned munitions factories and subsidies for privately owned factories, and the imposition of a protective tariff.[26] Though Congress had adopted much of Hamilton's earlier proposals, his manufacturing proposals fell flat, even in the more-industrialized North, as merchant-shipowners had a stake in free trade.[25] These opponents also raised questions regarding the constitutionality of Hamilton's proposals. Jefferson and others feared that Hamilton's expansive interpretation of the Taxing and Spending Clause would grant Congress the power to legislate on any subject. Opponents of Hamilton won several seats in the 1792 Congressional elections, and Hamilton was unable to win Congressional approval of his ambitious economic proposals after 1792.[26] Federalists would not pass further major economic until after John Adams took office as president in 1797.

Quasi-War taxation[edit]

To pay for the military buildup of the Quasi-War, Adams and his Federalist allies enacted the Direct Tax of 1798. Direct taxation by the federal government was widely unpopular, and the government's revenue under Washington had mostly come from excise taxes and tariffs. Though Washington had maintained a balanced budget with the help of a growing economy, increased military expenditures threatened to cause major budget deficits, and Hamilton, Wolcott, and Adams developed a taxation plan to meet the need for increased government revenue. The Direct Tax of 1798 instituted a progressiveland value tax of up to 1% of the value of a property. Taxpayers in eastern Pennsylvania resisted federal tax collectors, and in March 1799 the bloodless Fries's Rebellion broke out. Led by Revolutionary War veteran John Fries, rural German-speaking farmers protested what they saw as a threat to their republican liberties and to their churches.[27] The tax revolt raised the specter of class warfare, and Hamilton led the army into the area to put down the revolt. The subsequent trial of Fries gained wide national attention, and Adams pardoned Fries and two others after they were sentenced to be executed for treason. The rebellion, the deployment of the army, and the results of the trials alienated many in Pennsylvania and other states from the Federalist Party, damaging Adams's re-election hopes.[28]

Rise of political parties[edit]



Realizing the need for broad political support for his programs, Hamilton formed connections with like-minded nationalists throughout the country. He used his network of treasury agents to link together friends of the government, especially merchants and bankers, in the new nation's major cities. What had begun as a faction in Congress supportive of Hamilton's economic policies emerged into a national faction and then, finally, as the Federalist Party.[30] The Federalist Party supported Hamilton's vision of a strong centralized government, and agreed with his proposals for a national bank and government subsidies for industries. In foreign affairs, they supported neutrality in the war between France and Great Britain.[31]

The Democratic-Republican Party was founded in 1792 by Jefferson and James Madison. The party was created in order to oppose the policies of Hamilton and his Federalist Party. It also opposed the Jay Treaty of 1794 with Britain and supported good relations with France. The Democratic-Republicans espoused a strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution, and denounced many of Hamilton's proposals, especially the national bank, as unconstitutional. The party promoted states' rights and the primacy of the yeoman farmer over bankers, industrialists, merchants, and other monied interests. The party supported states' rights as a measure against the tyrannical nature of a large centralized government that they feared the Federal government could have easily become.[32]

Nationwide parties[edit]

The state networks of both parties began to operate in 1794 or 1795 and patronage became a major factor in party-building. The winner-takes-all election system opened a wide gap between winners, who got all the patronage, and losers, who got none. Hamilton had many lucrative Treasury jobs to dispense—there were 1,700 of them by 1801.[33] Jefferson had one part-time job in the State Department, which he gave to journalist Philip Freneau to attack the Federalists. In New York, however, George Clinton won the election for governor and used the vast state patronage fund to help the Republican cause.

The Federalist Party became popular with businessmen and New Englanders; Republicans were mostly farmers who opposed a strong central government. Cities were usually Federalist strongholds; frontier regions were heavily Republican. These are generalizations; there are special cases: the Presbyterians of upland North Carolina, who had immigrated just before the Revolution, and often been Tories, became Federalists.[34] The Congregationalists of New England and the Episcopalians in the larger cities supported the Federalists, while other minority denominations tended toward the Republican camp. Catholics in Maryland were generally Federalists.[35]

The Federalists derided democracy as equivalent to mob rule and believed that government should be guided by the political and economic elite.[36] Many Federalists saw themselves less as a political party than as a collection of the elite who were the rightful leaders of the country.[37] Federalists thought that American society would become more hierarchical and less egalitarian in the decades following the ratification of the Constitution.[38] As the 1790s progressed, the Federalists increasingly lost touch with the beliefs and ideologies of average Americans, who tended to prefer the ideology espoused by the Democratic-Republicans.[38] Their strength as a party was largely based on Washington's popularity and good judgment, which deflected many public attacks, and his death in 1799 damaged the party.[39]

The Democratic-Republicans embraced the republican ideology that had emerged during the American Revolution.[38] Jefferson sought to build a republic centering around the yeoman farmer, and he despised the influence of Northern business interests.[40] As the 1790s progressed, Democratic-Republicans increasingly embraced political participation by all free white men.[36] In contrast to the Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans argued that each individual in society, regardless of their standing, had the right hold and express their own opinion. While individual opinions could be poorly informed or outright wrong, Democratic-Republicans believed that these individuals views would aggregate into a public opinion that could be trusted as representative of the broad American interest.[41]

Western frontier[edit]

Whiskey Rebellion[edit]

The excise tax of 1791 aroused major opposition on the American frontier, particularly in Western Pennsylvania. Corn, the chief crop on the frontier, was too bulky to ship over the mountains to market, unless it was first distilled into whiskey. After the imposition of the excise tax, the backwoodsmen complained the tax fell on them rather than on the consumers. Cash poor, they were outraged that they had been singled for taxation, especially since they felt this money went to Eastern moneyed interests and the federal revenue officers who began to swarm the hills looking for illegal stills.[42]

Insurgents in Western Pennsylvania shut the courts and hounded federal officials, but Jeffersonian leader Albert Gallatin mobilized the western moderates, and thus forestalled a serious outbreak of violence. Washington, seeing the need to assert federal supremacy, called out 13,000 state militia, and marched toward Washington, Pennsylvania, to suppress what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion. The rebellion evaporated in late 1794 as the army approached. The rebels dispersed before any major fighting occurred. Federalists were relieved that the new government proved capable of overcoming rebellion, while Republicans, with Gallatin their new hero, argued there never was a real rebellion and the whole episode was manipulated in order to accustom Americans to a standing army.

The Northwest Indian War[edit]

Main article: Northwest Indian War

Britain had ceded land extending to the Mississippi River in the Treaty of Paris. Following adoption of the Land Ordinance of 1785, American settlers began freely moving west across the Allegheny Mountains and into the Native American-occupied lands beyond. As they did, they encountered unyielding and often violent resistance from a confederation of tribes. After taking office, Washington directed the United States Army to enforce U.S. sovereignty over the region. Brigadier General Josiah Harmar launched a major offensive against the Shawnee and Miami Indians in the Harmar Campaign, but was repulsed by the Native Americans.[43] Determined to avenge the defeat, the president ordered Major General Arthur St. Clair to mount a more vigorous effort. St. Clair's poorly trained force was almost annihilated by a force of 2,000 warriors led by Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and Tecumseh.[44]

British officials in Upper Canada were delighted and encouraged by the success of the Indians, whom they had been supporting and arming for years, and in 1792 Lieutenant GovernorJohn Graves Simcoe proposed that the entire territory be erected into an Indian barrier state. The British government did not pursue this idea, but it refused to relinquish control its forts on the U.S. frontier.[45][46]

Outraged by news of the defeat, Washington urged Congress to raise an army capable of conducting a successful offense against the Indian confederacy, which it did in March 1792 – establishing additional Army regiments (the Legion of the United States), adding three-year enlistments, and increasing military pay.[47] Congress passed also two Militia Acts empowering the president to call out the militias of the several states and requiring every free able-bodied white male citizen of between the ages of 18 and 45 to enroll in the state militia.[48] Washington ordered General Anthony Wayne to lead a new expedition against Western Confederacy. Wayne's soldiers encountered Indian confederacy forces led by Blue Jacket, in what has become known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Wayne's cavalry outflanked and routed Blue Jacket's warriors, who fled towards Fort Miami. Unwilling to start a war with the United States, the British commander of Fort Miami refused to assist the Indians. Wayne's soldiers spent several days destroying the nearby Indian villages and crops, before withdrawing.[49]

Native American resistance to Wayne's army quickly collapsed following the battle,[49] and delegates from the various confederation tribes gathered for a peace conference at Fort Greene Ville in June 1795. The conference re in the Treaty of Greenville between the assembled tribes and the United States.[45] Under its terms, the tribes ceded most of what is now Ohio for American settlement and recognized the United States as the ruling power in the region. The Treaty of Greenville, along with the recently signed Jay Treaty, solidified U.S. sovereignty over the Northwest Territory.[50]

Foreign Affairs[edit]


International affairs, especially the French Revolution and the subsequent war between Britain and France, decisively shaped American politics in 1793–1800, and threatened to entangle the nation in potentially devastating wars.[51] Britain joined the War of the First Coalition after the 1793 execution of King Louis XVI of France. The Louis VXI had been decisive in helping America achieve independence, and his death horrified many in the United States. Federalists warned that American republicans threatened to replicate the excesses of the French Revolution, and successfully mobilized most conservatives and many clergymen. The Democratic-Republicans, many of whom were strong Francophiles, largely supported the French Revolution. Some of these leaders began backing away from support of the Revolution during the Reign of Terror, but they continued to favor the French over the British.[52] The Republicans denounced Hamilton, Adams, and even Washington as friends of Britain, as secret monarchists, and as enemies of the republican values.[53][54]

In 1793, French ambassador Edmond Charles Genêt (known as Citizen Genêt) arrived in the United States. He systematically mobilized pro-French sentiment and encouraged Americans to support France's war against Britain and Spain. Genêt funded local Democratic-Republican Societies that attacked Federalists.[55] He hoped for a favorable new treaty and for repayment of the debts owed to France. Acting aggressively, Genêt outfitted privateers that sailed with American crews under a French flag and attacked British shipping. He tried to organize expeditions of Americans to invade Spanish Louisiana and Spanish Florida. When Secretary of State Jefferson told Genêt he was pushing American friendship past the limit, Genêt threatened to go over the government's head and rouse public opinion on behalf of France. Even Jefferson agreed this was blatant foreign interference in domestic politics. Genêt's extremism seriously embarrassed the Jeffersonians and cooled popular support for promoting the French Revolution and getting involved in its wars. Recalled to Paris for execution, Genêt kept his head and instead went to New York, where he became a citizen and married the daughter of Governor Clinton.[56] Jefferson left office, ending the coalition cabinet and allowing the Federalists to dominate.[57]

Jay Treaty[edit]

Washington sent John Jay to Britain to resolve numerous difficulties, some left over from the Treaty of Paris and some having arisen during the French Revolutionary Wars. These issues included boundary disputes, debts owed in each direction, and the continued presence of British forts in the Northwest Territory. In addition America hoped to open markets in the British Caribbean and end disputes stemming from the naval war between Britain and France. As a neutral party, the United States argued, it had the right to carry goods anywhere it wanted, but the British seized American ships that traded with the French.[58] In the Jay Treaty, the British agreed to evacuate the western forts, open their West Indies ports to American ships, allow small vessels to trade with the French West Indies, and set up a commission that would adjudicate American claims against Britain for seized ships, and British claims against Americans for debts incurred before 1775.[59]

The Democratic-Republicans wanted to pressure Britain to the brink of war, assuming that United States could defeat a weak Britain).[60] They denounced the Jay Treaty as an insult to American prestige, a repudiation of the French alliance of 1777, and a severe shock to Southern planters who owed those old debts, and who were never to collect for the lost slaves the British captured. Republicans protested against the treaty, and organized their supporters. The Federalists realized they had to mobilize their popular vote, so they mobilized their newspapers, held rallies, counted votes, and especially relied on the prestige of President Washington. The contest over the Jay Treaty marked the first flowering of grassroots political activism in America, directed and coordinated by two national parties. Politics was no longer the domain of politicians; every voter was called on to participate. The new strategy of appealing directly to the public worked for the Federalists; public opinion shifted to support the Jay Treaty.[61] The Federalists controlled the Senate and they ratified it by exactly the necessary ⅔ vote, 20–10, in 1795.[62]

Treaty of San Lorenzo[edit]

During the 1780s, Spain had sought to slow the expansion of the U.S. and lure American settlers into secession from the United States.[63] Washington feared that Spain (as well as Britain) might successfully incite insurrection against the U.S. if he failed to open trade on the Mississippi, and he sent envoy Thomas Pinckney to Spain with that goal in mind.[64] Fearing that the United States and Great Britain might unite to take Spanish territory, Spain decided to seek accommodation with the United States.[65] The two parties signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo in 1795, establishing intentions of friendship between the United States and Spain.[66] The United States and Spain agreed not to incite native tribes to warfare. The western boundary of the United States was established along the Mississippi River from the northern boundary of the United States to the 31st degree north latitude,[66] while the southern boundary of the United States was established on the 31st parallel north.[67] The disputed territory that Spain dropped its claims to would be organized into the Mississippi Territory in 1798.[68]

Perhaps most importantly, Pinckney's Treaty conceded unrestricted access of the entire Mississippi River to Americans, opening much of the Ohio River Valley for settlement and trade. Agricultural produce could now flow on flatboats down the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers to the Mississippi River and on to New Orleans and Europe. Spain and the United States also agreed to protect the vessels of the other party anywhere within their jurisdictions and to not detain or embargo the other's citizens or vessels. The treaty also guaranteed navigation of the entire length of the river for both the United States and Spain.[68] The treaty represented a major victory for Washington's western policy, and placated many of the critics of the Jay Treaty.[69]

XYZ Affair and Quasi-War[edit]

President Adams hoped to maintain friendly relations with France, and after taking office he sent a delegation to Paris asking for compensation for the French attacks on American shipping. Adams appointed a three-member commission to represent the United States to negotiate with France. When the envoys arrived in October 1797, they were kept waiting for several days, and then granted only a 15-minute meeting with French Foreign Minister Talleyrand. After this, the diplomats were met by three of Talleyrand's agents. Each refused to conduct diplomatic negotiations unless the United States paid enormous bribes, one to Talleyrand personally, and another to the Republic of France.[70] The Americans refused to negotiate on such terms.[71] Marshall and Pinckney returned home, while Gerry remained.[72]

In an April 1798 speech to Congress, Adams publicly revealed Talleyrand's machinations, sparking public outrage at the French.[73] Democratic-Republicans were skeptical of the administration's account of what became known as the XYZ affair, and many of Jefferson's supporters undermined and opposed Adams's efforts to defend against the French.[74] The Democratic-Republicans feared that war with France would lead to an alliance with England, which in turn could allow the allegedly monarchist Adams to further his domestic agenda.[75]

Following the affair, the United States and France fought a series of naval engagements in an undeclared war known as the Quasi-War. In light of the threat of invasion from the more powerful French forces, Adams asked Congress to authorize the creation of a twenty-five thousand man army and a major expansion of the navy. Congress authorized a ten-thousand man army and an expansion of the navy, which at the time consisted of one unarmed custom boat.[76][77] Washington was commissioned as senior officer of the army, and Adams reluctantly agreed to Washington's request that Hamilton serve as his second-in-command.[78] The United States engaged

In February 1799, Adams surprised many by announcing that he would send diplomat William Vans Murray on a peace mission to France.[79] Adams's peace initiative divided his own party between moderate Federalists and the "High Federalists," including Hamilton, who wanted to continue the undeclared war.[80] The prospects for peace were bolstered by the ascent of Napoleon November 1799, as Napoleon viewed the Quasi-War as a distraction from the ongoing war in Europe. In the spring of 1800, the delegation sent by Adams began negotiating with the French delegation.[81] The war came to a close when both parties signed the Convention of 1800 in September, but the French refused to recognize the abdication of the Treaty of Alliance of 1778, which had created a Franco-American alliance.[82] The United States gained little from the settlement other than the suspension of hostilities with the French, but this proved fortunate for the U.S. as the French would gain a temporary reprieve from war with Britain in the 1802 Treaty of Amiens.[83] News of the signing of the convention did not arrive in the United States until after the 1800 election, but Adams was able to win Senate ratification of the convention in the lame duck session of Congress.[84] Having concluded the war, Adams demobilized the emergency army.[85]

Alien and Sedition Acts[edit]

The Alien and Sedition Acts were among the most controversial acts established by the Federalist Party. These acts were four bills passed in 1798 by the Federalist Congress and signed into law by Adams. Defenders claimed the acts were designed to protect against alien citizens and to guard against seditious attacks from weakening the government. Opponents of the acts attacked on the grounds of being both unconstitutional and as way to stifle criticism of the administration. The Democratic-Republicans also asserted that the acts violated the rights of the states to act in accordance with the Tenth Amendment. None of the four acts did anything to promote national unity against the French or any other country and in fact did a great deal to erode away what unity there already was in the country. The acts in general and the popular opposition to them were all bad luck for John Adams.[86] A key factor in the uproar surrounding the Alien and Sedition Acts was that the very concept of seditious libel was flatly incompatible with party politics. The Republicans, it appears had some understanding of this and realized that the ability to pass judgment on officeholders was essential to party survival. The Federalist Party seemed to have no inkling of this and in some sense seem to be lashing out at the concepts of party in general.[87] What was clear was that the Republicans were becoming more focused in their opposition and more popular with the general population.

The fall of the Federalists[edit]

Election of 1800[edit]

Main article: U.S. presidential election, 1800

With the Federalist Party deeply split over his negotiations with France, and the opposition Democratic-Republicans enraged over the Alien and Sedition Acts and the expansion of the military, Adams faced a daunting reelection campaign in 1800.[88] Even so, his position within the party was strong, bolstered by his enduring popularity in New England, a key region for any Federalist presidential victory.[89] Federalist members of Congress caucused in the spring of 1800 and, without indicating a preference, nominated Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney for the presidency.[90] After winning the Federalist nomination, Adams dismissed Hamilton's supporters in the Cabinet. In response, Hamilton publicly attacked the president and schemed to elect Pinckney as president.[91]

The election hinged on New York: its electors were selected by the legislature, and given the balance of north and south, they would decide the presidential election. Aaron Burr brilliantly organized his forces in New York City in the spring elections for the state legislature. By a few hundred votes he carried the city—and thus the state legislature—and guaranteed the election of a Democratic-Republican President. As a reward he was selected by the Republican caucus in Congress as their vice presidential candidate, with Jefferson as the party's presidential candidate.[92]

Members of the Republican party planned to vote evenly for Jefferson and Burr because they did not want for it to seem as if their party was divided. The party took the meaning literally and Jefferson and Burr tied in the election with 73 electoral votes. This sent the election to the House of Representatives for a contingent election. The Federalists had enough weight in the House to swing the election in either direction. Many would rather have seen Burr in the office over Jefferson, but Hamilton, who had a strong dislike of Burr, threw his political weight behind Jefferson.[93]

Historian John E. Ferling attributes Adams' defeat to five factors: the stronger organization of the Democratic-Republicans; Federalist disunity; the controversy surrounding the Alien and Sedition Acts; the popularity of Jefferson in the south; and, the effective politicking of Aaron Burr in New York.[90] Analyzing the causes of the party's trouncing, Adams wrote, "No party that ever existed knew itself so little or so vainly overrated its own influence and popularity as ours. None ever understood so ill the causes of its own power, or so wantonly destroyed them."[94]

Jefferson in power[edit]

The transfer of presidential power between Adams and Jefferson represented the first such transfer between two different political parties in U.S. history, and set the precedent for all subsequent presidents from all political parties.[95] The complications arising out of the 1796 and 1800 elections prompted Congress and the states to refine the process whereby the Electoral College elects a president and a vice president. The new procedure was enacted through the 12th Amendment, which became a part of the Constitution in June 1804, and was first followed in that year's presidential election.

Though there had been strong words and disagreements, contrary to the Federalists fears, there was no war and no ending of one government system to let in a new one. Jefferson pursued a patronage policy designed to let the Federalists disappear through attrition. Federalists such as John Quincy Adams and Rufus King were rewarded with senior diplomatic posts, and there was no punishment of the opposition.[96] As president, Jefferson had the power of appointment to fill many government positions that had long been held by Federalists, and he replaced most of the top-level Federalist officials. For other offices, settled on a policy of replacing any Federalist appointee who engaged in misconduct or partisan behavior, with all new appointees being members of the Democratic-Republican Party. Jefferson's refusal to call for a complete replacement of federal appointees under the spoils system was followed by his successors until the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828.[97]

Jefferson had a very successful first term, typified by the Louisiana Purchase, which was supported by Hamilton but opposed by most Federalists at the time as unconstitutional. Some Federalist leaders (see Essex Junto) began courting Burr in an attempt to swing New York into an independent confederation with the New England states, which along with New York were supposed to secede from the United States after Burr's election to Governor. However, Hamilton's influence cost Burr the governorship of New York, a key in the Essex Junto's plan, just as Hamilton's influence had cost Burr the presidency nearly 4 years before. Hamilton's thwarting of Aaron Burr's ambitions for the second time was too much for Burr to bear. Hamilton had known of the Essex Junto (whom Hamilton now regarded as apostate Federalists), and Burr's plans and opposed them vehemently. Hamilton and Burr engaged in a duel in 1804 that ended with Hamilton's death.[98]

The thoroughly disorganized Federalists hardly offered any opposition to Jefferson's reelection in 1804.[99] In New England and in some districts in the middle states the Federalists clung to power, but the tendency from 1800 to 1812 was steady slippage almost everywhere. Some younger Federalist leaders tried to emulate the Democratic-Republican tactics, but their overall disdain of democracy along with the upper class bias of the party leadership eroded public support. In the South, the Federalists steadily lost ground everywhere.[100]

Enduring Federalist judiciary[edit]

After being swept out of power in 1800 by Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party, Federalists focused their hopes for the survival of the republic upon the federal judiciary. The lame-duck session of the 6th Congress approved the 1801 Judiciary Act, which created a set of federal appeals courts between the district courts and the Supreme Court. As Adams filled these new positions during the final days of his presidency, opposition newspapers and politicians soon began referring to the appointees as "midnight judges." Most of these judges lost their posts when the Democratic-Republican dominated 7th Congress approved the Judiciary Act of 1802, abolishing the newly created courts, and returning the federal courts to its earlier structure.[90][101] Still unhappy with Federalist power on the bench, the Democratic-Republicans impeached district court Judge John Pickering and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Criticizing the impeachment proceedings an attack on judicial independence, Federalist congressmen strongly opposed both impeachments. Pickering, who frequently presided over cases while drunk, was convicted by the Senate in 1804. However, the impeachment proceedings of Chase proved more difficult. Chase had frequently expressed his skepticism of democracy, predicting that the nation would "sink into mobocracy," but he had not shown himself to be incompetent in the same way that Pickering had. Several Democratic-Republican Senators joined the Federalists in opposing Chase's removal, and Chase would remain on the court until his death in 1811. Though Federalists would never regain the political power they had held during the 1790s, the Marshall Court continued to reflect Federalist ideals until the 1830s.[102] After leaving office, John Adams reflected, "My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life."[103]

See also[edit]


Founding Father John Adams, a Federalist, was elected to the vice-presidency and then the presidency.
  1. ^Wood, pp. 7-8
  2. ^Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (1993), 32-33.
  3. ^Elkins and McKitrick, 33-34.
  4. ^Elkins and McKitrick, 32-
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