Members of the ELECTORAL COLLEGE—a group of
presidential electors chosen by the states--- chose
GEORGE WASHINGTON as the nation’s first
President. He took the oath of office in APRIL 1789.
The new nation faced many challenges. Its army was
SMALL and it had no NAVY. NATIVE AMERICANS
were continually attacking frontier settlements.
Meanwhile, PIRATES constantly threatened American
WASHINGTON was a cautious President. He proved
to be a capable leader who made sound decisions.
Much of what WASHINGTON did during his first term
in office established a MODEL that later Presidents
The U.S. CONGRESS met for the first time in NEW YORK
CITY in March 1789. During its first session, CONGRESS
passed the BILL OF RIGHTS---the first 10 amendments to the
Early in his tenure, President WASHINGTON chose people to
head the various executive departments. These directors
became known as the President’s CABINET.
CONGRESS organized the FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM with
the passage of the JUDICIARY ACT of 1789. This act stated
that the SUPREME COURT should be made up of one CHIEF
JUSTICE and five ASSOCIATE judges. Today, the SUPREME
COURT has NINE members---one CHIEF JUSTICE and eight
The most serious financial challenge the new United States
faced was a large debt from the REVOLUTIONARY WAR. The
total amount a government owes on money it has borrowed is
called the NATIONAL DEBT.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON was the nation’s first SECRETARY
OF THE TREASURY. He called for the federal government to
pay the debts owed by the nation and the states.
Many SOUTHERNERS opposed HAMILTON’S plan. They did
not want to see the power of STATE governments weakened
by being dependent on the FEDERAL government.
A compromise was reached when SOUTHERN leaders
agreed to HAMILTON’S plan in return for the nation’s capital
being located in the SOUTH---on the POTOMAC RIVER
between MARYLAND and VIRGINIA.
HAMILTON also called for the creation of a national bank. He proposed four
duties for the bank: HANDLE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S MONEY;
HELP COLLECT TAX MONEY; ISSUE PAPER MONEY; GIVE OUT LOANS
TO HELP THE GROWTH OF BUSINESSES.
Many people opposed the idea of a NATIONAL BANK. SOUTHERNERS
argued that the bank would help wealthy NORTHERN merchants at the
expense of SOUTHERN farmers.
LEGISLATORS however, favored HAMILTON’S plan. In 1791, Congress
passed a bill creating the BANK OF THE UNITED STATES.
HAMILTON also convinced Congress to place a tax on numerous goods in
order to raise money for the government.
FARMERS on the WESTERN frontier opposed a new tax on WHISKEY,
which they used almost like cash when trading among each other. In 1794,
farmers and government agents clashed in what became known as the
WHISKEY REBELLION. President WASHINGTON sent in the militia and the
revolt was quickly put down.