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Main article: "United States presidential election, 1788–89

Washington had established himself as one of the preeminent American political figures in the 1770s and 1780s, and his leadership during and after the 1787 "Constitutional Convention was instrumental in the adoption of a new constitution that supplanted the "Articles of Confederation. Washington was widely expected to become the first President of the United States, but he expressed some reluctance about returning to public life. Washington finally declared his willingness to serve in January 1789, one month before the "presidential electors met in each state. Under the original system devised by the constitution, each state chose presidential electors who cast two votes for the presidency; the individual who won the most electoral votes would become president while the individual with the second-most electoral votes would become vice president. When the inaugural session of the Senate met in April 1789 to count the "electoral votes, they found that Washington had won one of the two votes of each of the sixty-nine electors. "John Adams of Massachusetts won 34 electoral votes, edging out several other candidates for the vice presidency. After being informed of his election on April 14, Washington set out for "New York City for his inauguration.[3]


First inauguration of George Washington and "Second inauguration of George Washington
Washington's first inauguration; April 30, 1789

Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789, near New York City's "Wall Street, at "Federal Hall. He was sworn in by "Robert Livingston who administered the "presidential oath of office. Borrowing a British robe in which the "British monarch would address "Parliament annually, Washington gave a brief speech following his inauguration.[4] He insisted on having Barbados Rum served after the swearing in ceremony.[5]

Washington's second inauguration occurred in the "Senate Chamber of "Congress Hall in "Philadelphia, "Pennsylvania on March 4, 1793. He was sworn in by "Associate Justice "William Cushing, who also administered the oath of office. Washington's inaugural address was incredibly brief (the shortest ever) at just 135 words.[6]


The "1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789, valued at about $340,000 in 2015 dollars.[a][b] Washington faced financial troubles then, yet he initially declined the salary. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary.[8]

Taking office[edit]

Upon taking office, Washington initially focused on the establishment of the federal judiciary and executive departments.

Establishment of judiciary[edit]

The first page of the Judiciary Act of 1789

When Washington assumed office, the government of the United States (especially the executive and "judicial branches) had not yet been developed. Aside from the constitutionally established offices, no other agencies existed and no courts had yet been established. Instead of focusing on the executive branch, Washington's first acts were to establish the judiciary.

Through the "Judiciary Act of 1789, Washington established a six-member "Supreme Court. The court was composed of one "Chief Justice and five "Associate Justices. The Supreme Court was given exclusive "original jurisdiction over all "civil actions between states, or between a state and the United States, as well as over all suits and proceedings brought against ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel; and original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction over all other cases in which a state was a party and any cases brought by an ambassador. The Court was given "appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the federal circuit courts as well as decisions by state courts holding invalid any statute or treaty of the United States; or holding valid any state law or practice that was challenged as being inconsistent with the federal constitution, treaties, or laws; or rejecting any claim made by a party under a provision of the federal constitution, treaties, or laws.[9]

Under the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Act created 13 judicial districts[10] within the 11 states[c] that had then ratified the Constitution ("North Carolina and "Rhode Island were added as judicial districts in 1790, and other states as they were admitted to the Union). Within these judicial districts were "circuit courts and "district courts. The circuit courts, which were composed of a district judge and (initially) two Supreme Court justices "riding circuit," had jurisdiction over more serious crimes and civil cases and appellate jurisdiction over the district courts, while the single-judge district courts had jurisdiction primarily over admiralty cases, along with petty crimes and lawsuits involving smaller claims. The circuit courts were grouped into three geographic circuits to which justices were assigned on a rotating basis.[11]


The Washington Cabinet
Office Name Term
"President George Washington 1789–1797
"Vice President "John Adams 1789–1797
"Secretary of State "Thomas Jefferson 1790–1793
"Edmund Randolph 1794–1795
"Timothy Pickering 1795–1797
"Secretary of Treasury "Alexander Hamilton 1789–1795
"Oliver Wolcott, Jr. 1795–1797
"Secretary of War "Henry Knox 1789–1794
"Timothy Pickering 1794–1795
"James McHenry 1796–1797
"Attorney General "Edmund Randolph 1789–1794
"William Bradford 1794–1795
"Charles Lee 1795–1797

Three departments had existed under the Articles of Confederation: the "Department of War, the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the "Finance Office. The latter two departments became the "Department of State and the "Department of the Treasury, respectively. The leaders of these three departments constituted the initial positions in Washington's "cabinet. The "Judiciary Act of 1789 established the position of "Attorney General to serve as the chief legal adviser to the president. Though the Attorney General did not oversee a department (the "United States Department of Justice would be established in 1870), the Attorney General nonetheless became a part of the cabinet. "Edmund Randolph became the first Attorney General, while "Henry Knox retained his position as head of the Department of War and "Thomas Jefferson served as the first "Secretary of State. For the key post of "Secretary of the Treasury, which would oversee economic policy, Washington chose "Alexander Hamilton. While Washington kept a close eye on the departments of war and state, he would delegate much of his administration's economic policy to Hamilton. Washington's initial cabinet consisted of one individual from New England (Knox), one individual from the mid-Atlantic (Hamilton), and two Southerners (Jefferson and Randolph).[12]

""BEP engraved portrait of Washington as President.
"BEP engraved portrait of Washington as President.

Jefferson left the Cabinet at the end of 1793, frustrated by Washington's willingness to support Hamilton's economic policies. He was replaced by Randolph, while "William Bradford took over as Attorney General. With the exit of Jefferson, Hamilton came to dominate the cabinet.[13] Knox left the cabinet in 1794, replaced by "Timothy Pickering. In 1795, after the signing of the Jay Treaty and the conclusion of the Whiskey Rebellion, Hamilton retired from the cabinet, confident that federal policy would continue to follow the course he had laid.[14] He was replaced by "Oliver Wolcott, an ally of Hamilton's, while Pickering succeeded Randolph as Secretary of State in 1795 after the latter opposed the Jay Treaty. "James McHenry replaced Pickering as Secretary of War, while "Charles Lee became Attorney General after the departure of Bradford.[15]

Executive mansions and the District of Columbia[edit]

Washington occupied two executive mansions during the 16 months he lived and worked in New York City: 3 Cherry Street and 39–41 Broadway.[16][17] He chose the location of the permanent national capital in the District of Columbia.[18]

"President's House, "Philadelphia. This served as the third "Executive Mansion of the United States, 1790–1800.

In accordance with the "Residence Act of 1790, "Philadelphia, Pennsylvania served as temporary national capital for 10 years while the "Federal City was under construction.[19] Beginning in November 1790, Washington and John Adams spent the lion's share of their presidencies in Philadelphia, but resisted efforts to make the city the permanent national capital.["citation needed] In an emergency, the federal government convened in "Germantown, Pennsylvania in from November 16–30, 1793, when a "yellow fever epidemic swept the city.[20] Pennsylvania's "Gradual Abolition Act made the state inhospitable to slaveholders, and Washington circumvented the state law by rotating the nine "Mount Vernon slaves in his presidential household in and out of Pennsylvania.[21]

The Residence Act of 1790 authorized the President to select the specific location of the permanent seat of the government, which would be located along the Potomac River. The Act authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for this seat. Washington personally oversaw this effort throughout his term in office. In 1791, the commissioners named the permanent seat of government "The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia" to honor him. Washington retired from the presidency in March 1797, attending Adams's inauguration in "Congress Hall. In 1800, the Territory of Columbia became the District of Columbia when the federal government moved to the site in accordance with the provisions of the Residence Act;[22][23] President Adams moved to the "White House in November 1800.[24]

The Northwest Indian War[edit]

Northwest Indian War
The "Treaty of Greenville ended the "Northwest Indian War, with victory for the United States.

When Washington assumed the presidency, he was faced with the ongoing challenge of the Northwest Indian War. The Indian "Western Lakes Confederacy had been making raids in the "Northwest Territory on both sides of the "Ohio River and, in the years before Washington's presidency, had grown increasingly dangerous. By the late 1780s, the United States had suffered over 1,500 casualties in ongoing hostilities. Finally, in 1790, Washington and Secretary of War "Henry Knox ordered Brigadier General "Josiah Harmar to launch a major western offensive into the Shawnee and Miami Indian country. In October 1790, his force of 1,453 men was assembled near present-day "Fort Wayne, Indiana. Harmar committed only 400 of his men under Colonel "John Hardin to attack an Indian force of some 1,100 warriors who easily "defeated them. At least 129 soldiers were killed.[25]

Determined to avenge the defeat, Washington ordered Major General "Arthur St. Clair, who was serving as the governor of the "Northwest Territory, to mount a more vigorous effort by summer 1791. After considerable trouble finding men and supplies, St. Clair was finally ready. At dawn on November 4, 1791, his poorly trained force, accompanied by about 200 camp followers, was camped near the present-day location of "Fort Recovery, Ohio, with poor defenses set up around their camp. An Indian force consisting of around 2,000 warriors led by "Little Turtle, "Blue Jacket, and "Tecumseh, struck quickly and, surprising the Americans, soon overran their poorly prepared perimeter. The barely trained recruits "panicked and were killed along with many of their officers who attempted to restore some kind of order and stop the rout. The American casualty rate included 632 of 920 soldiers and officers killed (69%) and 264 wounded. Nearly all of the 200 camp followers were slaughtered, for a total of about 832 — the highest casualty rate in any United States Indian war.[26]

After this disaster, Washington ordered the Revolutionary War veteran General "Mad" "Anthony Wayne to launch a new expedition of well trained troops against a coalition of tribes led by Miami Chief "Little Turtle. Wayne was given command of the new "Legion of the United States late in 1793. Wayne spent months training his troops to fight using forest warfare in the style of the Indians before marching boldly into the region. After entering Indian country, Wayne constructed a chain of forts, with "Fort Recovery on the site of St. Clair's defeat. In June 1794, Little Turtle again led the attack on the Americans at Fort Recovery without success, and Wayne's well-trained Legion advanced deeper into the territory of the Wabash Confederacy.[27]

After Little Turtle's defeat, "Blue Jacket assumed overall command of the Indian forces and engaged Wayne and his troops in the "Battle of Fallen Timbers in the summer of 1794. The Americans force of 3,000 outnumbered the Indians two to one. The Indians were quickly routed, and fell back. Fleeing from the battlefield to regroup at the British-held "Fort Miami (Ohio), Blue Jacket's forces found that the British had locked them out of the fort. The American troops decimated Indian villages and crops in the area, and then withdrew. Defeated, the seven tribes—the Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, Iroquois, Sauk, and Fox—ceded large portions of Indian lands to the United States and then moved west. With the American victory, major hostilities in the area came to an end.[28]

Two treaties in 1795 sealed the new state of affairs between the Indians and the United States. The "Treaty of Greenville required the tribes to cede most of Ohio and a slice of "Indiana to the United States, to recognize the United States (rather than Great Britain) as the ruling power in the Northwest Territory, and to give ten chiefs to the United States as hostages until all white prisoners were returned in guarantee. "Jay's Treaty, which had already been signed, provided for the British withdrawal from the western forts and granted the United States supreme command of the territory.[29]

Economic policy[edit]

"Secretary of the Treasury "Alexander Hamilton would propose much of economic policy during Washington's term as President.

At the start of Washington's presidency, the United States faced severe financial problems. There were both domestic and foreign debts from the war, and the issue of how to raise revenue for government was hotly debated.[30] After taking office as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton began preparing his economic policy recommendations. In a series of reports, beginning with the "First 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.[31]

"Thomas Jefferson, Washington's "Secretary of State, would oppose Hamilton on many economic matters.

In the "Compromise of 1790, Jefferson and Congressman "James Madison agreed to support the assumption of state debt, while Hamilton agreed to support a permanent federal capital on the "Potomac River. The "Residence Act established that a federal territory on the Potomac would serve as the nation's capital, while the "Funding Act of 1790 enacted Hamilton's recommendations. 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.[32]

Along with Hamilton's plan, the "United States Mint and the "United States Revenue Cutter Service were established.[33] The Cutter Service's responsibility was to enforce tariffs and all other maritime laws. Later, the Cutter Service would become the "United States Coast Guard.[34]

The Whiskey Rebellion[edit]

Whiskey Rebellion

A source of government revenue was needed to pay the "bond holders to whom the national debt was owed. By December 1790, Hamilton believed import duties, which were the government's primary source of revenue, had been raised as high as was feasible.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37] 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.[38] The whiskey excise act, sometimes known as the "Whiskey Act", became law in March 1791.[39] Washington defined the revenue districts, appointed the revenue supervisors and inspectors, and set their pay in November 1791.[40]

The tax on whiskey was bitterly and fiercely opposed on the frontier from the day it was passed. Western farmers considered it to be both unfair and discriminatory, since they had traditionally converted their excess grain into liquor. By the summer of 1794, tensions reached a fevered pitch all along the western frontier as the settlers' primary marketable commodity was threatened by the federal taxation measures.[41]

Finally the protesters became an armed rebellion. The first shots were fired at the Oliver Miller Homestead in present-day "South Park Township, Pennsylvania, about ten miles south of "Pittsburgh.[42] As word of the rebellion spread across the frontier, a whole series of loosely organized resistance measures were taken, including robbing the mail, stopping court proceedings, and the threat of an assault on Pittsburgh. One group disguised as women assaulted a tax collector, cropped his hair, "coated him with tar and feathers, and stole his horse. Another group bombarded the estate of the tax collector John Neville, a friend of George Washington.[43]

Washington was alarmed by the Whiskey Rebellion, viewing it as a threat to the nation's existence. Washington and Hamilton, remembering "Shays' Rebellion from just eight years before, decided to make Pennsylvania a testing ground for federal authority. Washington ordered the "federal marshals to serve court orders requiring the tax protesters to appear in "federal district court. Due to the small size of the federal army and in an extraordinary move designed to demonstrate the federal government's power, on August 7, 1794, Washington invoked the "Militia Law of 1792 to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia and several other states. The Governors sent the troops and Washington took command as "Commander-in-Chief, marching into the rebellious districts.[44]

Washington would be one of only two sitting Presidents to exercise battlefield authority by leading the militia against the "Whiskey Rebellion.

Washington commanded a militia force of 13,000 men, roughly the same size of the "Continental Army he previously commanded during the Revolutionary War. Under the personal command of Washington, Hamilton and Revolutionary War hero General "Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, the army assembled in Harrisburg and marched into "Western Pennsylvania (to what is now "Monongahela, Pennsylvania) in October 1794. The insurrection collapsed quickly with little violence, and the resistance movements disbanded.[43] Washington's forceful action proved the new government could protect itself. It also was one of only two times that a sitting President would personally command the military in the field: the other was in 1814. These events marked the first time under the new constitution that the federal government used strong military force to exert authority over the states and citizens.[45] The men arrested for rebellion were imprisoned, where one died, while two were convicted of treason and sentenced to death by hanging. Later, Washington pardoned all the men involved.[46][47]

This was the first time the federal government had been directly opposed. Washington believed that the delicate line between liberty and order needed to be established. In any young nation, there is some inherent vulnerability. By exercising the use of the militia, Washington exemplified that the federal government retained the power to take action when necessary.[48]

Following the incident, Secretary of War Henry Knox resigned in December 1794,[49] and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton resigned a month later.[50]

Foreign affairs[edit]

Upon becoming President of the United States, George Washington almost immediately set two critical foreign policy precedents: He assumed control of treaty negotiations with a hostile power–in this case, the Creek Nation of Native Americans–and then asked for congressional approval once they were finalized. In addition, he sent American emissaries overseas for negotiations without legislative approval. According to historian Alfred N. Hunt, during the 1790s foreign affairs had a direct impact on American domestic policy.[51]

Taking a global position[edit]

The "storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, marked the beginning of the "French Revolution. Washington kept the United States neutral during the conflict.

With the "Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, the "French Revolution erupted. Many Americans, remembering the French assistance during the Revolutionary War, supported aiding the "French Republicans against the "French monarchy. With France in revolution, Great Britain used its Indian allies to continue the "Northwest Indian War. American anger in response to these attacks served to reinforce sentiments for aiding France in its conflict with Great Britain. Washington did not desire any such foreign entanglements. Washington believed that the United States was too weak and unstable to fight another war with a major European power. Thus, America gave no assistance to the French.[52]

In 1791, shortly after the "Haitian Revolution broke out, Washington's administration, at French request, agreed to send money, arms, and provisions to the French colony of "Saint-Domingue (present-day "Haiti) to assist distressed slave owning colonists.[53] Reports came in of the Haitian slaves having slaughtered their white masters. Washington himself was a slave owner and was willing to help the French government in their suppression of the slave revolt.[54] Many Southerners believed that a successful slave revolt in Haiti would lead to a massive race war in America.[55] This aid formed part of the US repayment of Revolutionary War loans, and eventually amounted to about $400,000 and 1,000 military weapons.[56]

When the French Revolution ended on September 21, 1792, France declared itself a "Republic. That same year, Washington was elected to a second term as President. Before Washington began his second term, the French revolutionaries guillotined "King Louis XVI in January 1793, which gave a pretext for the British to persist in their war to restore the Ancien Régime, the absolute French monarchy. The King had been decisive in helping America achieve independence; now he was dead and many of the pro-American aristocrats in France were exiled or executed. Many of those executed had been friends of the United States, such as the navy commander "Comte D'Estaing. "Lafayette had fled France and ended up in captivity in Austria, and "Thomas Paine went to prison in France. The Republicans in the United States denounced Hamilton, "Adams, and even Washington as friends of Britain, as secret "monarchists, and as enemies of the republican values that all true Americans cherished.[57]

France declared war on several "European nations, with the "Kingdom of Great Britain among them. Once again, Americans were divided on whether to enter the war on the side of France. Jefferson and his faction wanted to aid the French, while Hamilton and his followers supported neutrality in the conflict. Hamilton and the Federalists warned that American Republicans threatened to replicate the horrors of the French Revolution, and successfully mobilized most conservatives and many clergymen. The Republicans, some of whom had been strong Francophiles, responded with support, even through the "Reign of Terror, when thousands were guillotined.[58]

In order to avoid war with Great Britain, Washington refused to help the people in the French Revolution. While large portions of the American public were ready to help the Frenchmen and their fight for "liberty, equality, and fraternity," the government was strongly against it.[59] In the days immediately following Washington's second inauguration, the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat "Edmond-Charles Genêt, called "Citizen Genêt," to America. Genêt's mission was to drum up support for the French cause. Genêt issued "letters of marque and reprisal to American ships so they could capture British merchant ships.[60] He attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement in the French war against Britain by creating a network of "Democratic-Republican Societies in major cities.[61]

Washington was deeply irritated by this subversive meddling, and when Genêt allowed a French-sponsored warship to sail out of Philadelphia against direct presidential orders, Washington demanded that France recall Genêt. However, by this time the revolution had taken a more violent approach and Genêt would have been executed had he returned to France. He appealed to Washington, and Washington allowed him to remain, making him the first political refugee to seek sanctuary in the United States.[62]

During the Genêt episode, Washington issued the "Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793. Washington declared the United States neutral in the conflict between Great Britain and France that had begun with the French Revolution. He also threatened legal proceedings against any American providing assistance to any of the warring countries. Washington eventually recognized that supporting either Great Britain or France was a false dichotomy. He would do neither, thereby shielding the fledgling U.S. from, in his view, unnecessary harm.[63]

The public had mixed opinions about Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality. Those who supported Madison and Jefferson were far more likely to be in support of the French Revolution, as they saw it as an opportunity for a nation to achieve liberty from tyrannical rule. However, there were a number of merchants who were extremely happy that the President decided to remain impartial to the revolution. They believed that if the government took a stance on the war, it would ruin their trade relations with the British completely. This economic element was a primary reason for many federalist supporters wanting to avoid increased conflict with the British.[64]

Peace with Great Britain[edit]

In 1793, Great Britain stated that it would not follow the provisions of the "Treaty of Paris and would not leave its posts on the Great Lakes until the United States repaid all debts to Great Britain. It announced that it would seize any ships trading with the French, including those flying the American flag. British vessels had been seizing hundreds of American ships and subjecting American sailors to impressment, claiming them to be deserters of Great Britain, since some of them were of British origin. In protest, widespread civil disorder erupted in several American cities. By the following year, tensions with the British were so high that Washington ordered all American shipments overseas halted. An envoy was sent to England to attempt reconciliation, and Britain had the goal of keeping the US neutral in the wars underway in Europe. Since Thomas Jefferson had resigned as Secretary of State, Washington appointed his former Attorney General "Edmund Randolph as his new Secretary of State to oversee the affairs between Britain and France.[65]

As a neutral nation, the United States argued that it had the right to carry goods anywhere it wanted. The British nevertheless seized American ships carrying goods from the "French West Indies. Madison and the Jeffersonians called for a trade war against Britain. They realized it might lead to war, but believed Britain was weak and would lose. While they were officially neutral, the Federalists favored Britain. Since a large majority of America's foreign trade was with Britain, they called for a new treaty. One possible alternative was war with Britain, a war that America was ill-prepared to fight.[66]

Washington sent Chief Justice John Jay to London to negotiate the "Jay Treaty. Hamilton wrote most of the instructions for Jay. Both sides gained most, but not all, of what they wanted. Most importantly, war was averted.[67] For the British, America remained neutral and economically grew closer to Britain. The Americans also guaranteed favorable treatment to British imports. In return, the British agreed to evacuate the western forts, which they had been supposed to do by 1783. They also agreed to open their West Indies ports to smaller 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. However, the Jay Treaty had no concessions on impressment or established any rights for American sailors. Another commission was established to settle boundary issues.[68]

The Republicans had wanted to pressure Britain to the brink of war, and assumed that America could defeat a weak Britain.[69] They denounced the Jay Treaty as an insult to American prestige, a repudiation of the French alliance of 1778 and a severe shock to Southern "planters who owed those old debts but who were never to collect for the lost slaves the British captured. Republicans protested vehemently, but the Federalists won the battle for public opinion, thanks to Washington's prestige, and won by exactly the necessary ⅔ vote, 20-10, in 1795. The pendulum of public opinion swung toward the Republicans after the Treaty fight, and in the South, the Federalists lost most of the support they had among planters.[70] The Jay Treaty marked the nationalization of electoral politics, as voters across the country chose the Federalist or Republican side depending on their view of the Jay Treaty. The Treaty brought a decade of prosperous trade with Britain, but angered the French who fought an undeclared war with the US, the "Quasi-War, in 1798–99.[71]

Historian Todd Estes shows that as protests from Jay treaty opponents intensified in 1795, Washington's initial neutral position shifted to a solid pro-treaty stance. It was he who had the greatest impact on public and congressional opinion. With the assistance of Hamilton, Washington made tactical decisions that strengthened the Federalist campaign to mobilize support for the treaty. For example, he effectively delayed the treaty's submission to the House until public support was particularly strong in February 1796, and refocused the debate by dismissing as unconstitutional the request that all documentation relating to Jay's negotiations be placed before Congress. Washington's prestige and political skills applied popular political pressure to Congress and ultimately led to approval of the treaty's funding in April 1796. His role in the debates demonstrated a "hidden-hand" leadership in which he issued public messages, delegated to advisers, and used his personality and the power of office to broaden support.[72]

Following the ratification of the Jay Treaty, the British handed Washington evidence that Secretary of State Randolph had damaged American interests by engaging in indiscreet conversations with the minister from France. An angry Washington forced his old friend to resign in August 1795.[73] By 1796, France was at war with Britain, the French were harassing American ships and threatening the U.S. with punitive sanctions. Diplomacy did little to solve the problem, and by 1798 American and French warships were engaged in what became known as the "Quasi-War.[74]

Barbary pirates[edit]

Pirates from the Barbary region of North Africa were seizing American ships, kidnapping their crew members, and demanding ransom. Previously, the United States had been protected by the "Royal Navy and then by the French navy. However, following America's neutrality, America's ships had become vulnerable to pirate attack. These "Barbary pirates forced a harsh treaty on the United States that demanded annual payments to the ruler of "Algiers. By late 1793, a dozen American ships had been captured, goods stripped and everyone enslaved.[75]

Portugal offered some armed patrols, but American merchants needed an armed American presence to sail near Europe. With this as the backdrop, America began thinking about constructing a force to defend her merchant marine. After some serious debate, Washington signed the "Naval Act of 1794 on March 27, 1794. Thus, the "United States Navy was reborn. Congress authorized "six frigates to be built by "Joshua Humphreys.[76] With his assistant "Josiah Fox, they designed frigates for America with superior speed and handiness. These ships would prove to be instrumental in naval actions that ended disputes with Algiers in later administrations and wars. This was a major philosophical shift for the young Republic, many of whose leaders felt that a Navy would be too expensive to raise and maintain, too imperialistic, and would unnecessarily provoke the European powers. In the end, however, it was felt that a navy was necessary to protect American interests at sea.[77]

The new Navy would not see use under Washington's command. In March 1796, as construction of the frigates slowly progressed, Washington brokered a peace accord between the United States and the "Dey of Algiers. According to the "Treaty of Tripoli, Washington agreed to pay the "Pasha of Tripoli a yearly tribute in exchange for the peaceful treatment of United States' shipping in the "Mediterranean region.[78]

Relations with Spain[edit]

United States states and territories after Pinckney's Treaty

After he established the national government and instituted Hamilton's economic programs, Washington turned his attention to securing the western territories of the United States. In the decades preceding Washington's presidency, numerous settlers had moved West of the "Appalachian Mountains in search of farm land. "New Orleans, standing at the mouth of the "Mississippi River, was the only viable outlet for the goods of many of these farmers. "Spain controlled New Orleans, and refused to open its port to American farmers. Washington feared that Spain or Britain could incite an insurrection against the United States if he failed to open trade on the Mississippi, and he sent envoy "Thomas Pinckney to Spain with that goal in mind.[79]

Shortly after the signing of the Jay Treaty, the United States and Spain agreed to the Treaty of San Lorenzo, also known as "Pinckney's Treaty. Fearing that the United States and Great Britain might unite to take Spanish territory, Spain had decided to seek accommodation with the United States.[80] Signed on October 27, 1795, the treaty established intentions of friendship between the United States and Spain.[81] The United States and Spain agreed not to incite native tribes to warfare. Additionally, the western boundary of the United States, separating it from the Spanish "Colony of Louisiana, was established along the "Mississippi River from the northern boundary of the United States to the 31st degree north latitude.[81]

More importantly, Spain 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. The territory ceded by Spain in this treaty was organized by the United States into the "Mississippi Territory in 1798.[82]

Rise of political parties[edit]

Despite their part in the Compromise of 1790, Jefferson and Madison stood against most of Hamilton's economic proposals. Neither Jefferson nor Madison liked the idea of a central bank, doubting its constitutionality and believing the bank would be used to dispense corrupt patronage.[83][84][85] Jefferson feared that cities like London and Paris would overpower the industry, and strongly opposed industrialization. He idealized the yeoman farmer who could think independently, as opposed to the city worker who would do what his bosses ordered.[86] Washington, however, largely supported Hamilton's ideas, believing that they would lead to a stronger country and a stronger federal government. While Madison had served as Washington's foremost congressional ally during the first year of the Washington administration, he irrevocably broke with Washington over Hamilton's policies.[87]

After the creation of the national bank, Jefferson and Madison began traveling to former "Anti-Federalist strongholds. At this point, their goal was not to form a political party or even generally oppose Washington, who they continued to admire, but rather to foment opposition to Hamilton's policies. Most Congressmen aligned with either the Democratic-Republican or Federalist parties during the 1792 elections, but local concerns dominated most campaigns. Hamilton began attacking Jefferson and his followers in the newspapers, calling Jefferson's followers the "Republican Party." The name implicitly accused Jefferson of engaging in partisan behavior, which was disdained by Americans. During this same period, though, Hamilton began to build his own political party. In the 1792 elections, most Congressmen aligned with the Democratic-Republican or Federalist parties, but the campaign was dominated by local issues.[88] While economic policies were the original motivating factor in the growing partisan split, foreign policy also became a factor. Though most Americans supported the French Revolution prior to the "Execution of Louis XVI, some of Hamilton's followers began to fear the radical egalitarianism of the revolution as it became increasingly violent. Washington particularly feared British entrance into the war, as he worried that sympathy for France and hatred for Britain would propel the United States into the French Revolutionary Wars, to the ruin of the American economy.[89]

In 1793, after Britain entered the French Revolutionary Wars, several Democratic-Republican Societies were formed. These societies, centered on the middle class of several eastern cities, opposed Hamilton's economic policies and supported France. Conservatives came to fear these societies as populist movements that sought to re-make the class order. That same year, the British began attacking American ships that were trading with France, fanning the flames of anti-British sentiment. As Washington continued to seek peace with Great Britain, critics finally began to attack the president himself. After crushing the Whiskey Rebellion, Washington publicly blamed the Democratic-Republican Societies for the rebellion, and Jefferson began to view Washington as "the head of a party" rather than "the head of a nation." Hamilton's followers, who coalesced into the "Federalist Party, were thrilled by Washington's remarks, and the party sought to closely associate itself with Washington. The passage of the Jay Treaty further inflamed partisan warfare, resulting in a further hardening between the Federalists and Jefferson's party, the "Democratic-Republicans.[90]

Farewell Address[edit]

George Washington's Farewell Address
Washington's Farewell Address

By the end of his eight years in office, Washington had proven himself an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular Cabinet meetings, which debated issues; he then made the final decision and moved on. In handling routine tasks, he was "systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them."[91]

Although it was his for the taking, Washington only reluctantly agreed to serve a second term of office as president and refused to run for a third, establishing the precedent of a maximum of two terms for a president.[92] Over four decades of public service had left him exhausted physically, mentally, and financially. He happily handed the office to his successor, "John Adams, then returned to "Mount Vernon and resumed farming.[93]

Washington closed his administration with a thoughtful farewell address. "Washington's Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of American political values.[94] Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. In the address, he called morality "a necessary spring of popular government." He suggests that "reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." Washington thus makes the point that the value of religion is for the benefit of society as a whole.[95]

Washington warns against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warns against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. Specifically, Washington proclaims his deep distrust in political parties. He believed that they would open doors for unprincipled men to gain power. He called for an America wholly free of foreign attachments, as the United States must concentrate only on American interests. Washington counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term alliances. The address quickly set American policy regarding religion and foreign affairs, and his advice was often repeated in political discourse well into the twentieth century. Not until the 1949 formation of the "North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would the United States again sign a treaty of alliance with a foreign nation. Washington's position about the forming of political parties did not prevent their creation, which continues to the present day.[96]

Major legislation[edit]

Major legislation signed[edit]

Legislation vetoed[edit]

Constitutional amendments[edit]

  • September 25, 1789: Congress approved 12 amendments to the "U.S. Constitution establishing specific constitutional guarantees of personal freedoms and "rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the "states or the "people, and submitted them to the "state legislatures for "ratification.[109]
  • March 4, 1794: Congress approved an amendment to the United States Constitution clarifying judicial power over foreign nationals, and limiting the ability of citizens to sue "states in federal courts and under federal law, and submitted it to the state legislatures for ratification.[113]

Judicial appointments[edit]

List of federal judges appointed by George Washington

As the first President, Washington was responsible for appointing the entire "Supreme Court. Due to this, he filled more vacancies on the Court than any other president in American history.[115] [e]

After the "Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number of Supreme Court justices at six, Washington nominated the following persons to serve on the Court:[116]

  • "John Jay – "Chief Justice; confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789
  • "John Rutledge – "Associate Justice; confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789
  • "William Cushing – Associate Justice; confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789
  • "Robert Harrison – Associate Justice; confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789; declined appointment
  • "James Wilson – Associate Justice; confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789
  • "John Blair – Associate Justice; confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789
  • "James Iredell – Associate Justice; confirmed by the Senate on February 10, 1790

"Thomas Johnson received a "recess appointment from Washington on August 5, 1791, to a seat vacated by Associate Justice John Rutledge, and was nominated to the same position by Washington on October 31, 1791. He was confirmed by the Senate on November 7, 1791.[117]

Following the January 1793 resignation of Thomas Johnson, Washington nominated:[116]

  • "William Paterson – Associate Justice, confirmed by the Senate on March 4, 1793

"John Rutledge received a recess appointment from Washington on July 1, 1795, to a seat vacated by chief Justice John Jay, and was nominated to the same position by Washington on December 10, 1795 He resigned on December 28, 1795, after nomination was not confirmed by the Senate.[118] Rutledge was the first rejected Supreme Court nominee and the only "recess appointed" justice not to be subsequently confirmed by the Senate. Following his termination, Washington nominated:[116]

  • "William Cushing – Chief Justice; confirmed by the Senate on January 27, 1796; declined appointment
  • "Oliver Ellsworth, Chief Justice, confirmed by the Senate on March 8, 1796

Following the October 1795 resignation of John Blair, Washington nominated:[116]

  • "Samuel Chase, Associate Justice, served: January 27, 1796

Washington also had the responsibility to fill the entire body of United States federal judges. He appointed 28 judges to the "federal district courts during his two terms in office.[119]

States joining the Union[edit]

When the federal government began operations under the new form of government on March 4, 1789, two (of the "13) states were ineligible to participate as they had not yet ratified the "Constitution. Both did so while Washington was in office, joining the Union:

Three new states were "admitted to the Union (each on an "equal footing with the existing states) while Washington was in office:

Elections during Washington's presidency[edit]

Election of 1792[edit]

United States presidential election, 1792

As the election of 1792 approached, Washington was pleased with the progress his administration had made in establishing a strong, stable federal government. But he was also looking forward to retirement and had grown tired of the in-fighting plaguing his cabinet. Jefferson, Hamilton, and numerous newspapers urged Washington to seek a second term. Fearing the possibility that the "French Revolutionary Wars might impact the United States, Washington finally agreed to serve for a second term. He was unanimously re-elected by the electoral college, while Adams won re-election to the vice presidency.[126]

Election of 1796[edit]

United States presidential election, 1796

After two terms, Washington was in declining health and eager to retire. He felt that he had accomplished his goal of establishing a strong national government, a stable union, and peace with the European powers.[127] With Washington retiring, the country experienced its first competitive presidential election in 1796. With Hamilton tarred by "an affair, "Patrick Henry too old, Jay too unpopular due to the Jay Treaty, Chief Justice "Oliver Ellsworth holding little support in the North, and "Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and "Thomas Pinckney largely unknown in the North, the Federalists turned to Vice President Adams as their presidential nominee. A Federalist "congressional nominating caucus nominated Adams and Thomas Pinckney as their nominees. Although Hamilton provided only lukewarm support for Adams, Adams's candidacy was largely successful in consolidating Federalist votes. Jefferson was the clear leader of the Democratic-Republicans, but he expressed some reluctance to run for president at first, instead suggesting that Madison should take the nomination. Jefferson at first declined his party's nomination, but he finally agreed to run in October 1796, and he was joined on the ticket by "Aaron Burr. Adams won the most electoral votes and became president, while Jefferson finished with the second-most electoral votes and became vice president.[128]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The "Coinage Act of 1792 sets the value of $1 USD equal to 24.1g of silver. With the price of silver at $15.95/oz as of June 13, 2015, the value of 25,000 in silver dollars in 1792 value (24.1g/$1) is $338,750.
  2. ^ This sum is disputed (the "CPI only goes back to 1913) Estimates range from $240,000 to as much as $4 million[7]
  3. ^ Massachusetts and Virginia were divided into two districts[11]
  4. ^ one of the two amendments not ratified in 1791 was later ratified, May 7, 1992, becoming the "Twenty-seventh Amendment;[111] the other "amendment is technically still pending before the states.[112]
  5. ^ Due to the relatively small size of the judiciary, Washington appointed roughly 10% of the record "376 judges appointed by Ronald Reagan from 1980 to 1988; as well as less than 5% of the number of active federal judges serving as of July 2010.
  6. ^ Vermont declared itself an "independent republic on January 17, 1777, during the "American Revolutionary War; however its territory was claimed by the "State of New York. Only when New York was induced to "renounce its claim in exchange for financial remuneration (30,000 "Dollars; an agreement formally accepted by both jurisdictions as of October 28, 1790) was Statehood possible.[123]
  7. ^ Kentucky is one of 3 states that were set off from already existing states (Maine and West Virginia are the others). The "Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation on December 18, 1789 separating its "District of Kentucky" from the rest of the State and approving its statehood.[123]
  8. ^ Tennessee was the first state created from a "U.S. territory, the "Territory South of the River Ohio; previously, what would become Tennessee had been part of the State of North Carolina.[123]


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  2. ^
  3. ^ Ferling, pp. 270–274
  4. ^ "George Washington's Inaugural Address". National Archives. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  5. ^ Frost, Doug (January 6, 2005). "Rum makers distill unsavory history into fresh products". San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. ^ "The 2nd Presidential Inauguration, George Washington, March 04, 1793". U.S. Senate. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  7. ^ "A Presidential Salary FAQ". Slate. 2001-01-03. "ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2017-03-20. 
  8. ^ Chernow "Washington", Kindle location 11,386
  9. ^ Scott Douglas Gerber, ed. (1998). Seriatim: The Supreme Court Before John Marshall. NYU Press. pp. 1–26. 
  10. ^ "History of the Federal Judiciary". Federal Judicial center. Retrieved 2017-03-04. 
  11. ^ a b David Gardner Chardavoyne (15 March 2012). United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan: People, Law, and Politics. Wayne State University Press. pp. 10–12. "ISBN "0-8143-3720-1. 
  12. ^ Ferling, pp. 282–284
  13. ^ McDonald, pp. 139–140
  14. ^ McDonald, pp. 156–157
  15. ^ McDonald, pp. 164–165
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  95. ^ for text [1]; Washington never mentions deity by name in any known writing; some researchers believe he was expressing deist beliefs. See F. Forrester, The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders (2004) 115.
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Further reading[edit]

Bibliography of George Washington
  • Bassett, John Spencer. The Federalist System, 1789–1801 (1906), old survey of politics online version,
  • "Chernow, Ron (2004). Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Books. "ISBN "1-59420-009-2.  detailed biography
  • Cronin, Thomas F., ed. Inventing the American Presidency. U. Press of Kansas, 1989. 404 pp.
  • "Elkins, Stanley and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism (1995) online version, the standard highly detailed political history of the 1790s also online at DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195093810.001.0001 online
  • Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. (2004)
  • Ellis, Joseph J. "Inventing the Presidency." American Heritage 2004 55(5): 42–48, 50, 52–53. "ISSN 0002-8738
  • Fatovic, Clement. "Constitutionalism and Presidential Prerogative: Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian Perspectives." American Journal of Political Science 2004 48(3): 429–444. "ISSN 0092-5853 Fulltext in Swetswise, Ingenta, Jstor, Ebsco
  • Ferling, John (2009). The Ascent of George Washington. New York: Bloomsbury Press. 
  • Fishman, Ethan M.; William D. Pederson, Mark J. Rozell, eds. George Washington (2001) essays by scholars
  • "Freeman, Douglas S. George Washington: A Biography. 7 volumes, 1948–1957; vol 6–7 cover the presidency The standard scholarly biography, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A single-volume abridgment by Richard Harwell appeared in 1968
  • Flaumenhaft; Harvey. The Effective Republic: Administration and Constitution in the Thought of Alexander Hamilton Duke University Press, 1992
  • Grizzard, Frank E., Jr. George Washington: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO, 2002. 436 pp. Comprehensive encyclopedia by leading scholar
  • Gregg II, Gary L. and Matthew Spalding, eds. George Washington and the American Political Tradition. ISI (1999), essays by scholars
  • Higginbotham, Don, ed. George Washington Reconsidered. (2001). 336 pp.
  • Hogeland, William. The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty. New York: Scribner, 2006. "ISBN 0-7432-5490-2.
  • Leibiger, Stuart. "Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic." U. Press of Virginia, 1999. 284 pp.
  • McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of George Washington. 1988. Intellectual history showing Washington as exemplar of republicanism.
  • Miller, John C. The Federalist Era, 1789–1801 (1960), political survey of the 1790s.
  • Miller, John C. Alexander Hamilton: Portrait in Paradox (1959), full-length scholarly biography; online edition
  • Nettels, Curtis P. The Emergence of a National Economy, 1775–1815 (1962).
  • Nordham, George W. The Age of Washington: George Washington's Presidency, 1789–1797. (1989).
  • Riccards, Michael P. A Republic, If You Can Keep It: The Foundations of the American Presidency, 1700–1800. (1987)
  • Sharp, James. American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. (1995), survey of politics in the 1790s
  • Sheehan, Colleen. "Madison V. Hamilton: The Battle Over Republicanism And The Role Of Public Opinion" American Political Science Review 2004 98(3): 405–424.
  • Slaughter, Thomas P. The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution. Oxford University Press,
  • Smith, Robert W. Keeping the Republic: Ideology and Early American Diplomacy. (2004)
  • Spalding, Matthew. "George Washington's Farewell Address." The Wilson Quarterly v20#4 (Autumn 1996) pp: 65+.
  • White, Leonard D. The Federalists: A Study in Administrative History (1956), thorough analysis of the mechanics of government in the 1790s
  • Wood, Gordon S. "The Greatness of George Washington." Virginia Quarterly Review 1992 68(2): 189–207. "ISSN 0042-675X Fulltext: in Ebsco
  • Wright; Robert E. Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic Praeger (2002)

Foreign policy[edit]

  • Bradford Perkins. From Sea to Sea, 1776–1865, (1993)
  • Jerald Combs. The Jay Treaty: Political Battleground of the Founding Fathers (1970),
  • Estes, Todd. "The Art of Presidential Leadership: George Washington and the Jay Treaty" Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 2001 109(2): 127–158. "ISSN 0042-6636 Fulltext online at Ebsco.
  • Estes, Todd. The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture. (2006)
  • Harper, John Lamberton. American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy. (2004)
  • Daniel C. Lang. Foreign Policy in the Early Republic: The Law of Nations and the Balance of Power (1986);
  • Malone, Dumas. Jefferson and the Rights of Man (1960) and Thomas Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty (1962), vol 2–3 of monumental biography
  • Frank T. Reuter. Trials and Triumphs: George Washington's Foreign Policy (1982)
"U.S. Presidential Administrations
New office Washington Presidency
Succeeded by
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