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Chapter 10

Launching the New Ship of State, 1789–1800

0Chapter Themes

Theme: Led by Washington and Hamilton, the first administration under the Constitution overcame various difficulties and firmly established the political and economic foundations of the new federal government. The first Congress under the Constitution, led by James Madison, also contributed to the new republic by adding the Bill of Rights.

Theme: The cabinet debate over Hamilton’s financial measure expanded into a wider political conflict between Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans—the first political parties in America. Federalists supported a strong central government, a "loose" interpretation of the Constitution, and commerce (business). (Democratic) Republicans supported states' rights, a "strict" interpretation of the Constitution, and agriculture (farmers).

Theme: The French Revolution created a severe ideological and political division over foreign policy between Federalists and Republicans. The foreign-policy crisis coincided with domestic political divisions that culminated in the bitter election of 1800, but in the end power passed peacefully from Federalists to Republicans. American isolationist tradition emerges as a result of Washington's strong neutrality stance and his farewell warnings about foreign alliances.

0chapter summary

The fledgling government faced considerable difficulties and skepticism about its durability, especially since traditional political theory held that large-scale republics were bound to fail. But President Washington brought credibility to the new government, while his cabinet, led by Alexander Hamilton, strengthened its political and economic foundations.

The government’s first achievements were the Bill of Rights and Hamilton’s financial system. Through effective leadership, Hamilton carried out his program of funding the national debt, assuming state debts, imposing customs and excise taxes, and establishing a Bank of the United States.

The bank was the most controversial part of Hamilton’s program because it raised basic constitutional issues. Opposition to the bank from Jefferson and his followers reflected more fundamental political disagreements about republicanism, economics, federal power, and foreign policy. As the French Revolution evolved from moderation to radicalism, it intensified the ideological divisions between the pro-French Jeffersonians and the pro-British Hamiltonians.

Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation angered Republicans, who wanted America to aid Revolutionary France. Washington’s policy was sorely tested by the British, who routinely violated American neutrality. In order to avoid war, Washington endorsed the conciliatory Jay’s Treaty, further outraging the Republicans and France.

After the humiliating XYZ affair, the United States came to the brink of war with France, but Adams sacrificed his political popularity and divided his party by negotiating peace.

These foreign-policy disagreements embittered domestic politics: Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, to which Jefferson and Madison responded with the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions.

Note Card Terms:
  1. George Washington

  2. Cabinet

  3. Bill of Rights

  4. Judiciary Act of 1789

  5. Alexander Hamilton

  6. Customs Duties

  7. Tarrif of 1789

  8. Excise Tax of 1791

  9. Bank of the United States

  10. Whisky Rebellion

  11. Democratic -Republicans

  12. Federalists

  13. French Revolution

  14. Neutrality Proclamation of 1793

  15. Miami Confederacy

  16. Treaty of Greenville

  17. Jay’s Treaty

  18. Pinckney’s Treaty

  19. Washington’s Farewell Address

  20. John Adams

  21. Convention of 1800

  22. Alen & Sedition Acts

  23. VA & KY Resolutions

  24. Election of 1800

Homework Directions: Read the chapter and complete the following:

1. Complete American Pageant Study Guide.

2. Complete one Analysis Question.

Chapter 10 Study Guide

Growing Pains

1. Did America appear to have a bright future in 1789? Explain.

Washington for President

2. Was Washington an important president? Explain.

The Bill of Rights

3. What important steps were taken by the first congress?

Hamilton Revives the Corpse of Public Credit

4. How did Alexander Hamilton's economic plans lead to the District of Columbia?

Customs Duties and Excise Taxes

5. Explain Hamilton's overall economic plan for America.

Hamilton Battles Jefferson for a Bank

6. How did the issue of the Bank of the United States reveal a difference in understanding about the Constitution between Jefferson and Hamilton?

Mutinous Moonshiners in Pennsylvania

7. Was the Whiskey Rebellion a victory for freedom, order, or both? Explain.

The Emergence of Political Parties

8. Why did political parties develop during George Washington's presidency? Were they good or bad?

The Impact of the French Revolution
9. In what way did the French Revolution expose the differing views of Democratic-Republicans and Federalists?

Washington's Neutrality Proclamation
10. Explain the reasoning for and against Washington's Neutrality Proclamation.

Embroilments with Britain
11. How did British actions towards Native Americans and American merchant ships incite many Americans?

Jay's Treaty and Washington's Farewell

12. Did John Jay betray American interests in Jay's Treaty.

John Adams Becomes President

13. What handicaps did John Adams face as he became president?

Unofficial Fighting with France

14. What French actions brought America close to war in the closing years of the 18th century?

Adams Puts Patriotism above Party

15. How did avoiding war with France hurt John Adams' political career?

The Federalist Witch Hunt

16. Explain the reasons for the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

The Virginia (Madison) and Kentucky (Jefferson) Resolutions

17. Which was more dangerous to the US Constitution: the Alien and Sedition Acts or the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions? Explain.

Federalists versus Democratic-Republicans

18. What were some key differences between Federalists and Democratic Republicans?

0great debates in american history

0Great Debate (1791–1801):

Whose political theories and programs are more conducive to creating a strong, free Republic: Hamilton’s or Jefferson’s?

For Hamilton: The Federalists—led by Hamilton, Adams, Jay, Marshall, and Pickering; including merchants, urban upper classes and conservative clergy.


For Jefferson: The Republicans—led by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Burr; including farmers, westerners, and urban craft workers and tradespeople.

19. ISSUE #1: Loose or strict construction. Should the Constitution be interpreted loosely to grant implied powers to the federal government?

Yes: Federalist Hamilton: “The means by which national exigencies are to be provided for, national inconveniences obviated, national prosperity promoted are of such infinite variety, extent, and complexity, that there must of necessity be great latitude of discretion in the selection and application of these means. If the end be clearly comprehended within any of the specified powers, and if the measure have an obvious relation to the end, and it is not forbidden by any particular provision of the constitution, it may safely be deemed to come within the compass of the national authority.”



No: Republican Jefferson: “I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground—that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

20. ISSUE #2: Manufacturing versus agriculture. Should urban commerce and manufacturing be promoted as much as agriculture?

Yes: Federalist Hamilton: “The spirit of enterprise, useful and prolific as it is, must necessarily be contracted or expanded, in proportion to the simplicity or variety of the occupations and productions which are to be found in a society. It must be less in a nation of mere cultivators, than in a nation of cultivators and merchants; less in a nation of cultivators and merchants, than in a nation of cultivators, artificers, and merchants.”


No: Republican Jefferson: “Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.…Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.… Generally speaking the proportion which the aggregate of the other classes of citizens bears in any state to that of its husbandmen, is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts.…The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.”

21. ISSUE #3: Should the common people be trusted with government?

No: Federalist Hamilton: “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born; the other, the mass of the people. The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second; and as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government.”


Yes: Republican Jefferson: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; wherever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.

“I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom.

“The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”

22. ISSUE #4: The French Revolution. Should the United States view the French Revolution with sympathy and approval?

No: Federalist Hamilton: “The cause of France is compared with that of America during its late revolution. Would to heaven that the comparison were just. Would to heaven that we could discern in the mirror of French affairs the same humanity, the same decorum, the same gravity, the same order, the same dignity, the same solemnity, which distinguished the cause of the American Revolution. Clouds and darkness would not then rest upon the issue as they now do. I own I do not like the comparison.”


Yes: Republican Jefferson: “I still hope the French Revolution will end happily. I feel that the permanence of our own leans in some degree on that; and that a failure there would be a powerful argument to prove there must be a failure here.

“My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated; were there but an Adam and Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than it now is.”

REFERENCES: Richard Buel, Jr., Securing the Revolution: Ideology in American Politics, 1789–1815 (1972); Daniel Lang, Foreign Policy in the New Republic (1985).

0expanding the “varying viewpoints”

  • John Fiske, Essays Historical and Literary (1902).

A view of the Hamiltonian-Jeffersonian conflict as fundamentally philosophical:

“It may be said that in American politics all men must be disciples either of Jefferson or of Hamilton. These two statesmen represented principles that go beyond American history, principles that have found their application in the history of all countries and will continue to do so.…The question always is how much authority shall the governing portion of the community be allowed to exercise, to how great an extent shall it be permitted to interfere with private affairs, to take people’s money in the shape of taxes, whether direct or indirect, and in other ways to curb or restrict the freedom of individuals.…Now if we compare parties in America with parties in England, unquestionably the Jeffersonians correspond to the Liberals and Hamiltonians to the Tories. It is, on the whole, the latter who wish to enlarge the powers of government.”

  • Charles Beard, Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915).

A view of the Hamilton-Jefferson dispute as fundamentally economic:

“The spokesmen of the Federalist and Republican parties, Hamilton and Jefferson, were respectively the spokesmen of capitalistic and agrarian interests.…The party of opposition to the administration charged the Federalists with building up an aristocracy of wealth by the measures of government and appealed to the mass of the people, that is, the farmers, to resist the exactions of a ‘moneyed aristocracy.’ By the ten years’ campaign against the ruling class, they were able to arouse the vast mass of the hitherto indifferent voters and in the end swamp the compact minority which had dominated the country.”

0questions about the “varying viewpoints”

230. What does each of these views see as the basic issue between the Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians?

240. How does each of them explain the extension of the Hamilton-Jefferson dispute into a sustained party conflict?

250. How would each of them explain the conflict over Hamilton’s Bank and governmental support for business?

Analysis 0Questions

  1. 0Did the Bill of Rights satisfy the Anti-Federalists concerns? Was individual liberty and state sovereignty protected by the new amendments? What about assaults on the new Bill of Rights such as the national bank and the Alien and Sedition Acts?

  2. 0Why did Hamilton move so rapidly to create large financial commitments by the federal government? Since we normally think of the “federal debt” as something bad, why did Hamilton think of it as something good and necessary for the national welfare?

The love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds, prompts a man to plan and undertake extensive and arduous enterprises for the public benefit, requiring considerable time to mature and perfect them.” 0Alexander Hamilton (1757–1804) (Federalist No. 72, 1788)

  1. 0How sympathetic should Revolutionary Americans have been to the king-killing French Revolution?

  2. 0Why were political parties viewed as so dangerous by the Founding Fathers? Why did parties come into being at all, and why did they come to be accepted as legitimate ways to express political disagreement?

  3. 0How wise was Washington's insistence on neutrality? What about the fact that, while this foreign policy stance may not have violated the letter of the alliance with France, it did violate the spirit of the alliance? Do you agree that, as the authors contend, "self-interest is the basic cement of alliances"? Does a nation have an obligation to maintain alliances previously established even when it is no longer in that nation's self-interest?

  4. 0What role did domestic politics and economic realities play in establishing an American foreign policy? How should American diplomats interact with European governments? Consider the fact that some Americans do not want diplomats to follow standard European protocol (like kissing the Queen's hand or paying bribes to speak to public officials).

Further concessions on the part of Great Britain cannot, in my opinion, be attained. If this treaty fails, I despair of another.…If I entirely escape censure, I shall be agreeably disappointed.” 0John Jay (1754–1829) (Letter, 1795)

  1. 0Contrast the Hamiltonian Federalist belief that the “wealthy and well educated” ought to run the government with the Jeffersonian Republican belief that the common person, if educated, could be trusted to manage public affairs.

  2. Was George Washington uniquely suited to be a successful first President under the Constitution? How might the United States be different if Alexander Hamilton were the first President? Thomas Jefferson? Benjamin Franklin? Consider political ideas, economic issues, and foreign policy.

My movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to his place of execution.” 0George Washington (1732–1799) (1788)

  1. Compare the American political dilemmas presented by the French Revolution with those in the twentieth century caused by the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian revolutions.

  2. “ Our prevailing passions are ambition and interest; and it will be the duty of a wise government to avail itself of those passions, in order to make them subservient to the public good.” - Alexander Hamilton, 1787 How was this viewpoint manifested in Hamilton’s financial program as Secretary of the Treasury? (71)

  3. There is no American history separate from the history of Europe. Test this generalization by examining the impact of European events on the domestic policies of the U.S. from 1789 to 1815. (72)

  4. Between 1783 and 1800, the new government of the United States faced the same political, economic, and constitutional issues that troubled the British government’s relations with the colonies prior to the Revolution. Assess the validity of this generalization. (80)

  5. Early United States foreign policy was primarily a defensive reaction to perceived or actual threats from Europe. Assess the validity of this generalization with reference to United States foreign policy on TWO major issues during the period from 1789 – 1825. (83)

  6. Evaluate the relative importance of domestic and foreign affairs in shaping American politics in the 1790’s. (94)

  7. 18. Analyze the impact of the American Revolution on both slavery and the status of women in the period from 1775 to 1800. (04)

  8. To what extent was the election of 1800 aptly named the “Revolution of 1800?” Respond with references to TWO of the following areas:

Economics Foreign Policy Judiciary Politics (04B)
17. Settlers in the eighteenth century backcountry sometimes resorted to violent protest to express their grievances. Analyze the causes and significance of TWO of the following.

March of the Paxton Boys Regulator Movement

Shays’ Rebellion Whiskey Rebellion (07)

My reputation has been so much the sport of the public, for fifty years, and will be with posterity, that I hold it a bubble, a gossamer, that idles in the wanton summer air.” 0John Adams (1735–1826) (Letter to Jefferson, 1813)

Political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from a rigid adherence to the laws of honor.…You have indulged in the use of language derogatory to my honor as a gentleman.…To this I expect a definite reply which must lead to an accommodation, or the only alternative which the circumstances of the case will justify.” 0Aaron Burr (1756–1836) (Dueling challenge to Alexander Hamilton, 1804)


  • In 1794, an uprising in PA over a federal tax on whisky is suppressed by militia on orders from President Washington

  • As secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton has a profound impact on establishing policies that will determine the nation’s economic direction and growth. Deficit spending, initiated in large part by Hamilton, endures as an economic and political tool.

  • Politically opposed to Hamilton is Washington’s secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, a staunch opponent of Hamilton’s brainchild, the Bank of the U.S.

  • Despite Washington’s concerns about political party affiliations, the period witnesses the emergence of two political parties: the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.

  • Washington warns the new nation about establishing alliances with foreign nations; the key to America’s future, according to the first president, lies in a policy of neutrality.

  • After Washington’s administration, the Federalists passed legislation that restricted civil and political rights. A response in the form of the VA and KY Resolutions offers a states’ rights challenge to questionable federal laws.

  • Debate continues over the distinction made by most historians that Jefferson and Hamilton represented opposing views: Hamilton as an advocate of a strong central government, commerce, and manufacturing; Jefferson as a supporter of states’ rights and an agrarian future for the nation. Some historians contend, however, that the two adversaries simply represented two types of wealth and class: manufacturers and planter-slaveholders.

    Advanced Placement United States History Topic Outline

5. The Early Republic, 1789-1815

A. Washington, Hamilton, and shaping of the national government

B. Emergence of political parties: Federalists and Republicans

C. Republican Motherhood and education for women

D. Beginnings of the Second Great Awakening

E. Significance of Jefferson's presidency

F. Expansion into the trans-Appalachian West; American Indian resistance

G. Growth of slavery and free Black communities

H. The War of 1812 and its consequences
7. The Transformation of Politics in Antebellum America

A. Emergence of the second party system

B. Federal authority and its opponents: judicial federalism, the Bank War, tariff controversy, and states' rights debates

C. Jacksonian democracy and its successes and limitations

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