George Washington was elected the first President of the United States in 1789. John Adams became his vice-president.Washington was the head of the newly created Executive Branch of the new government. He created departments in his branch to help govern and make decisions. Thomas Jefferson became the Secretary of State, and dealt with relationships with other countries.Alexander Hamilton became Secretary of the Treasury, and dealt with the country’s finances. Henry Knox became the Secretary of War, and dealt with the nation’s defenses.Edmund Randolph became the Attorney General, and dealt with legal issues involving the U.S. These men became Washington’s advisors, or cabinet. These men served at the pleasure of the President, meaning he could remove them if he wished.
George Washington knew that history would remember his presidency.He set many precedents, or traditions that were followed by presidents long after him. Washington gave a speech after his inauguration (swearing in). He created and used the cabinet and its officers. He also began the tradition of American neutrality in foreign affairs.Finally, after two terms as President he stepped down and allowed another to take his place.He also added the phrase “So Help Me God” to the Oath of Office, which all Presidents have added since.
The first few years of the new government saw some major actions taken by the new U.S. government.The Judiciary Act of 1789 set up a federal court system that was under the U.S. Supreme Court. John Jay became the first Supreme Court Chief Justice.The Bill of Rights was proposed and ratified by the states, becoming a part of the Constitution. Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton suggested that the U.S. should pay off all the debts of the states from the war in order to establish American credit.Paying the states’ debts would also make the states want the new government to be successful, or they would again have to pay them themselves. Southern states had less debt and didn’t think they were getting a fair share in the deal. Hamilton proposed that the newly built federal capital city be located in the South, centering more power there and making the South feel more important.
George Washington had several issues to deal with while he was President. A tax passed on making and selling whiskey angered Pennsylvania farmers into a revolt. The Whiskey Rebellion was put down by George Washington, who led the federal troops himself after the farmers burnt down the buildings of tax collectors. Washington signed treaties with the Native Americans in hopes of strengthening relationships so the Spanish and British could not turn the Native Americans against the Americans. Native Americans did fight the Americans as they spreadout, leading to General Anthony Wayne killing 1,000 Native Americans in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Ohio.The Treaty of Greenville forced Native Americans to give uptheir lands in Ohio for the Americans to move into the land.
The French and British continued their rivalry after the American Revolution. Hoping to have the favor returned tothem, the French asked Americans for help in attacking British ships. The Americans had supported the early course of the French Revolution in 1789, but the bloodshed got to a point that could no longer be accepted in America.French official Edmond Genet was sent toAmerica to recruit volunteers to come to France and fight the British. President Washington issued aproclamation of neutrality, forbidding U.S.citizens from fighting and refusing British and French ship in American ports.
George Washington sent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay toGreat Britain to negotiate a treaty to keep peace with the British. Jay’s Treaty was an agreementbetween the British and Americans to ensure the British left American soil. American citizens would no longerattack British ships to help the French.British ships were capturing ships and forcing the crews to join the British Navy. This was called impressment. Jay’s Treaty did not deal with impressment, and it angered many Americans.
Thomas Pinckney was sent to Spain to negotiate a treaty to smooth out relations.To make sure the British and the Americans would not gang up on the Spanish in North America, Pinckney’s Treaty allowed the Americans to use the Mississippi River for trade again. It also gave the Americans the right to use the port of New Orleans for trade.
George Washington waselected President twice andchose not to run for a third term. Most people believed hecould have been President as long as he wanted. Washington set anotherprecedent by giving a Farwell Address. In it he urged the UnitedStates to stay out of foreignaffairs and to avoid political parties.
Political parties formed after Washington left office.The split began with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton within Washington’s cabinet.Those who supported Washington became known as the Federalists. They wanted a strong national government and usually had more support for the British. Those who disagreed were called Democratic-Republicans. They wanted stronger state governments and had more sympathy for the French.
Democratic -Republicans believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution.Only things actually mentioned in the Constitution should be allowed according to Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans. Federalists like Hamilton believed that the government had implied powers, or powers that were not forbidden but not mentioned in the Constitution.The Federalists also didn’t want the people to participate in the government. The Democratic- Republicans thought the people should participate.
Each political party held a meeting called a caucus to pick a nominee for President. Federalist John Adams and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson were chosen to run against each other.Adams was elected by getting only 3 more votes than Jefferson. Jefferson was the runner-up and became Vice- President.This meant that the two most important people in the executive branch would be of different parties.
Mad that the Americans had made peace with the British, theFrench began to attack and capture American ships going to Great Britain. President Adams sent people to talk to the French, who demanded a bribe in order to even discuss smoothing out relations.Calling the French officials who asked for the bribe X, Y, and Z, the incident became known as the XYZ Affair. President Adams also signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts.These were passed to control the many people who lived in the U.S. who were not citizens. Many of them supported the French in their revolution and war against the British even though the U.S. was neutral.These laws allowed the President to imprison or deport anyone who seemed dangerous to the United States or its interests.
Some states didn’t think theU.S. government could get rid of people for saying or believing in certain things. Virginia and Kentuckydecided they would not listen to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and also said laws that they felt violated the Constitution could be nullified, or overturned. The ability of the states to have authority and makedecisions about the power of the national government is known as states’ rights.