You are to make the transformation to become George Washington who has just been elected. You are going to show you he created the present

You are to make the transformation to become George Washington who has just been elected. You are going to show you he created the present

You are to make the transformation to become George Washington who has just been elected. You are going to show you he created the present

This is your fourth discusson board assignment worth 8 points. You are to read the text chapters, lecture, and watch the George Washington videos. You are also to read the information at the follow websites: to an external site. and (Links to an external site.)/ (You can use a lot of information from this website about these facts concerning his presidency) and (Links to an external site.)(this website also has videos on Washington).

You are to make the transformation to become George Washington who has just been elected. You are going to show you he created the present system of government by making a series of administrative decisions that became traditions of government. You are also going to describe what he thought about the formation of political parties. You are going to show how he worked with Hamilton on setting up economic policies. Finally you are going to describe in his second term his foreign policy.

Finally you will comment on whether Washington could be elected president today. You are to comments on at least two students with their opinions of Washington being elected today.


Presidents: Washington to Adams

The origins of the office of the presidency appeared in our first government after the American Revolution. The American Revolution ended in 1783 and the first national government was known as the Articles of Confederation. This was our first government, not our present government and this is a government system that no longer exists. We need to investigate the structure of this government and see why this government only lasted six years.

The Articles of Confederation was a government system based on the lessons of the American Revolution. This is the only way that this government makes sense. First it was decided to have no leader of this government. There would be no president, no king; the Americans had major problems with the king of England and they wanted to avoid a strong leader. When the states were colonies, they also had major problems with the strong central government in England, so power in this new government was placed with the states. This is why it was a confederation. There would be a central government but it would be relatively weak and with limited powers. During the revolution the central government consisted of a committee of wealthy men in New York City; this central government committee would continue but it would not have certain powers. It could not tax because taxes led to a revolution and it would not regulate trade because trade regulations from England also caused problems. It was also agreed that there should only be state courts no national court system. This is our first government that began in 1783 and lasted only until 1789.

There were many reasons why this government failed. First, there was no leader in this government and it is difficult to function in any government without any kind of leader or spokesman or chairman. Second, state courts gave rival decisions that caused problems from court to court and from state to state. Third, the central government was so limited, it could not function well. In addition, it was agreed that in order to change this government there must be an agreed of all thirteen states, which was virtually impossible. Next states government began to rival for power in this government. Finally, while the majority of Americans at this time were farmers, the farmers had little or no voice in this government and they felt that the government favored the wealthy, while the farmers were often in debt.

It was obvious that there were problems in this government when Daniel Shays in Massachusetts got a few of his unhappy farmer friends together and they staged a brief revolt against the wealthy in government in Boston. Shays Rebellion caused many wealthy Americans to begin to seriously question the effectiveness of the Articles of Confederation. The wealthy began to hold a series of meetings to discuss what action could take place to change or modify this government. Finally by the summer of 1787 the wealthy met in Philadelphia and decided to create new government: our present government under the United States Constitution.

The changes in our second government were important. First it was decided to have a leader of the new government; he was to be called president. The idea was to have a presiding officer of government: a person who would be the chief administrator and would be the chairman of the new government. This is the real beginning of the office of the president. Next it was decided to shift power to the central government. But the concept of federalism was continued; the concept of federalism resides in a two level system of government. When we were part of the English empire, we had colonies in America connected to England; we would now have a central government as well as state governments. But the power was shifted from the states to the central government. Plus the central government was given expanded powers. A national court system was also established. The structure of the central government was a two part one. There would be a congress and in the congress would be a Senate. This senate was considered to be the real source of power and authority in the government. The men in the senate would to be appointed and each state would have two senators. There was also to be a House of Representatives based on population; this would give the farmers some imput in government. Members of the House were elected for two years, while senators were appointed for a six year term.

After two years of debate on state levels, known as the ratification fight, the new government or second government was approved. One of the first priorities of this new government was the election of a first president. This would be done by that committee of wealthy men in New York City. And they had requirements for the first presiding office of government. That man must have wealthy. That man must be relatively conservative. That man must have good administrative skills. And that man should be popular or at least well known among the majority of Americans who were farmers. The only person who really met all those requirements was this man in his sixties from Virginia known as George Washington. Washington was a man of considerable wealth; Washington was middle of the road: relatively conservative. Washington was the chairman of the constitutional congress meeting in Philadelphia; he was known for his administrative skills. And Washington had been the general of the American army in the Revolution and was well known and among some farmers even popular. Washington was now elected first president. But because he was from Virginia, the South, the vice president was to be from the north. So John Adams, a wealthy attorney, was chosen to be first vice president.

In April, 1789, George Washington came to New York City and became the first president of the United States. Who was this man? Who is the real George Washington? Where did the myths of George Washington come from? George Washington was born in Virginia of a wealthy family; he received a good education because he was the male member of a wealthy southern family. He even attended college, but he did not like college and he was a college dropout. He really enjoyed detail work: actually he was a born administrator. He loved to keep detail records and he loved to do things like surveying. His parents did have him participate in politics, but he hated politics. Even when he had all the teeth in his mouth he was a poor speaker and he did not like dealing with the general public. Bottom line- George Washington was not a politician. Our first president was NOT a politician. Washington was very popular with the woman; actually he was a womanizer and he became very much interested in a woman whose husband had died. She had a great deal of money and land and her name was Martha Curtis. He eventually married Martha Curtis and many writers wonder his motivation; they feel that he married her to accumulate her wealth. Between his wealth and her wealth, he purchased Mount Vernon and his job was to handle his money and land and slaves. By the 1750s there were problems between the English and the French in the Ohio Valley. The French were staking a claim and were building forts in that region. Those English in Virginia were interested in expanding into that same area. So a volunteer military under George Washington was sent to drive out the French. Washington was never a very good military leader, but he was a good military administrator. He failed to drive out the French, but he did get valuable military experience. With his military experience, this wealthy Virginian was chosen to be the general of the American army in the revolution. There is no doubt that Washington did an excellent job in recruiting an army and keep it together; again he is an outstanding military administrator. But as a military leader in the field, he was quite weak. He became the master of retreat early in the revolution and achieved little success in the field. Books tell us that he did not take a salary; that is correct, but he did take an expense account and often spent a great deal of money on that expense account. By this time in his life he was having physical problems especially with his mouth and his bleeding gums. At the end of the revolution, he returned to Mt. Vernon and Martha. He was very interested in the new government and how it would protect the wealthy. He was involved as chairman of the constitutional meeting in the creation of the constitution and for the reasons already mentioned he became the first president in the first capital: New York City. He left office in 1796 and would die in 1799. What he died of would never be known for sure, but it may have been a combination of pneumonia and some sexual disease. Once he died, the myths of George Washington would appear.

Parson Weems lived at this time in our history and was a con man. He had been a minister, a writer and held a variety of jobs. He now felt that America needed a hero and he would make money by creating a hero. So he wrote a book about the life of George Washington. It made sense that our first president should be our first hero. But in this book which included a series of stories about Washington, Weems pictured Washington as a perfect person- a role model for the ages. Sections of this book began to appear in history texts and the myths of Washington would begin. Educators decided that Washington would make an excellent role model for children, so they used the various stories on the life of Washington to teach moral values. Few of these educators questioned whether these stories were true or not. There are many levels of the Washington myths and many examples of the stories could be given. Washington was pictured as an honest person; the most famous and longest lasting story is that of the cherry tree story. When George Washington was a child, he decided to cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When he was caught by his father, he told his father, “I cannot tell a lie” and he admitted that he cut down the tree. His father was so moved by his truthfulness. Washington’s strength was evident when he walked through the woods and picked up heavy fallen trees and when he threw a dollar across one of the widest parts of the Potomac River. His tendency toward the brotherhood of man was seen when he broke up fights in school and lectured his fellow classmates on accepting each other. His courage is evident in the various war stories including his suffering with his men at Valley Forge. In fact Weems even pictured Washington as a man for all ages: a near immoral. One story tells of an Indian who put a gun in his side and pulled the trigger and Washington dodged the bullet. Over the years Washington has been given credit for inventing everything from ice cream to a sandwich. Even at our national museum the Smithsonian Museum there is a marble statue of Washington ascending to heaven. In spite of the lack of historic truth connected with Weems’ stories, the myths go on.

Now back to the reality of the presidency of George Washington. He came to New York City and he had a difficult goal. He had to begin a new government. In order to do that he had to make administrative decisions. Over the years we still follow his decisions and those decisions have become traditions. There is a lengthy list of the decisions/traditions of Washington. He initially told people that the office of the presidency would not be like the position of king and would not serve for life; he said that the president would be on the same level as the people. Then he decided to take the oath of office to begin his presidency and to place his hand on a bible. Presidents today take the oath of office with their hand on the same bible Washington used. He then decided that he had to give a speech to begin his presidency; this speech would set the tone of his presidency and give a preview of what he would do. This speech has become the inaugural address. Although the content of his speech was adequate, the delivery was not. We have already mentioned that Washington was not a politician. Washington was nervous during his speech; he was afraid that his false teeth would fly out of his mouth(As a bit of trivia, when he became president he had only one tooth left in his mouth). He nearly fell off the speaker’s platform and due to his nervousness, he put his hand in his pants pocket and had a hard time removing the hand. He would not make during his presidency many public speeches.

Washington now created the executive office of government and at the same time he created the spoils system. The spoils system is the system that every president has used since Washington. It is the system of bringing friends and supporters into government and giving them jobs within the executive department. Of course, the most important jobs created within the executive department were those which involved the cabinet. Washington also created the cabinet system; he decided that the post important advisors in the executive department should comprise his cabinet. He also decided that he needed an important advisor for every important area of government. The first cabinet consisted of the following men and areas: Thomas Jefferson was his advisor in foreign affairs. Jefferson now became Secretary of State. Alexander Hamilton was his advisor in economic policy. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury. Henry Knox was his advisor in military matters and became the Secretary of War. These were well qualified men for their positions and these were excellent appointments. Washington now decided that the cabinet would meet with the president and would report directly to the president. This is a tradition that is not always accepted well by Congress.

Washington had to deal with a whole series of practical administrative decisions. He decided that the vice president would have few official duties; Washington created the insignificant office of vice president. The constitution said that treaties would be made “with the advice and consent of the senate.” Washington did not know exactly what this meant. He thought it meant that senators must be involved in all aspects of treaty making. But he decided that this was not practical, so he made the senate the body that only approved final treaties. He had to decide where the United States boundary stopped and started. So he created the idea of territorial waters: that the United States boundary would extend five miles into the ocean. He decided that if a cannon on the shore shot at a ship beyond five miles that ship could not be hit by the cannon. He also had to decide how a president would deal with congress; he created the tradition that a president had programs and ideas and that congress would deal with the mechanics of government. For example, he knew that the government needed money. So he believed that there would be a tax on foreign imports; in response Congress passed the Tariff Act. He had an idea that there should be a court system with one court being above all the other courts; Congress passed the Judiciary Act which established the Supreme Court and then Washington appointed John Jay to be the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Washington felt that farmers still did not have adequate protection of their rights; Congress responded with the Bill of Rights that added ten amendments to the constitution. Other traditions involved his farewell address, his two term tradition which today is law, and the tradition that the president is the object of criticism.

Many of the administrative decisions of Washington were made during his first term as president. From 1789-92, his priorities were to start a government system. As he was starting the government, he found problems were rising within his cabinet. Thomas Jefferson believed that the government should favor the majority: the farmer; Andrew Hamilton believed that the government should favor the wealthy. These two men had different philosophies of government and continually differed in the cabinet.

Eventually these two men began to get followers: men who supported their ideas and the American political system began. We have a two party system; it was never planned that way. It happened in the cabinet of Washington; while Washington did not like the idea of political parties, he did favor the ideas of Hamilton more than Jefferson. Andrew Hamilton is the founder of the Republican Party tradition; his political party was known as the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson was the founder of the Democratic Party, even though it was now called the Democratic Republicans. Our political party system had slowly begun.

In 1792 the small group of wealthy reelected Washington for a second term. He had little opposition in his first term but the opposition would increase in his second term and cause him to leave office quite unpopular. In Washington’s second term, he was forced to deal with issues in foreign policy. The French Revolution had begun in his first term and Americans supported that revolution because the French had helped us in our revolution. In fact France signed a treaty of mutual assistance with us during the Revolution; France helped us in the revolution and with promised that if France needed military help in the future we would help them. By his second term France was at war with England. The American people felt that we should help the French, but Washington thought otherwise. He took neutrality as his foreign policy; he decided that we were in no position militarily to help anyone. This was an extremely unpopular policy and it caused Thomas Jefferson to leave his cabinet. Next Washington sent John Jay to England to resolve a series of issues with England; Jay returned with the Jay Treaty which solved few issues and was quite embarrassing to America. Again the opposition increased against Washington. He was quite sensitive to criticism and yet he now mishandled an incident at home.

To increase government funding, congress passed a minor tax on whiskey. There was a great deal of opposition to this tax among some farmers in Western Pennsylvania and when Washington sent tax collectors from Philadelphia- the new capital of the United States- these tax collectors were met with resistance. They were tarred and feathered and sent back to Philadelphia. Washington remembered the days before the revolution when Americans protested against English taxes. This led to a revolution. To avoid any crisis like this, Washington recruited an army to put down this “Whiskey Rebellion.” He even led the army for a while through the woods toward Western Pennsylvania. Some estimate that as many as 30,000 joined the army to put down a handful of farmers. No farmers resisted the army and eventually two men were arrested and eventually let go. One was deaf and the other had mental illness. Washington was further criticized for his handling of this Whiskey Rebellion. Washington could no longer task the criticism; he gave a farewell address which was printed in the newspapers. He not only said farewell, but he gave two famous warnings: beware of political parties and beware of alliances in foreign policy. Then he left office and created the two term tradition that no president can break today and that only one president broke in our entire history. Washington left on a low, but he is rated one of the best early American presidents.

Washington had a difficult goal: to start the government. This may be the most difficult goal of any American president. Due his outstanding administrative ability, he did a very capable job of making decisions to get the government going. Over the years these decisions have become traditions. Sure Washington was not a politician; but there were no political parties when he began president, plus the nation needed an administrative leader, not a politician. It is also true that he relied too much for many of his decisions on Alexander Hamilton. But he is still rated one of the best presidents ever.

1796 featured the arrival of political parties. But politics was quite limited by our standards. John Adams, the vice president was the nominee of the Federalist Party: the first Republican party. Thomas Jefferson was the nominee of the Democratic Party. In this election only the wealthy voted and they voted for a list of individuals. When the votes were counted, Adams became the second president of the United States and Jefferson became the second vice president- even though these men were of opposite parties. John Adams is rated one of the worst president in our early history; it is possible that he is the worst of all.

Adams was only a one term president and is the only Federalist president in our entire history. His personality was unfit for the presidency; he was jealous and very insecure. He took advice from few people and was very much a loner. He was very jealous when the government began to celebrate the birthday of Washington. His attitude toward being president was that it was an honor, not a job. He saw himself more as a king than a working president. Plus his wife did not like Philadelphia and wanted him to spend much of his presidency on their farm in Quincy, Massachusetts. Actually he was away from the capital of government for one year out of four years. And in those days communications were really slow. Even when he was there in Philadelphia, he slept more than any early president. Adams in known as the puppet president because he was controlled and manipulated by Alexander Hamilton, the leader and founder of the Federalist Party. Plus Adams became very much of a partisan president. Hamilton wanted to destroy the Democratic Party; he saw the party as a challenge to the control of government by the wealthy. Adams went along with the Hamilton program. Hamilton influenced Congress to pass the Alien Act and Sedition Act. The Alien Act gave the president the power to deport undesirable aliens. Hamilton discovered that many foreigners joined the Democratic Party, so if many foreigners were kicked out of the United States, this would hurt the Democratic Party.

The most partisan act of all was the Sedition Act. The Sedition Act gave the president the power to punish those who criticized the government which was now dominated by the Federalists. This was known as the “gag law’ and was directed at the destruction of the Democratic Party. The law even went so far as to jail those who criticized the government. Matthew Lyons was a Democrat who criticized the government; not only did he criticize the government but he spit on people he did not like and earned the nickname “spitting” Lyons. Due to this ability to spit, he has usually been left out of our history. Lyons eventually went to jail and became the Democratic Party martyr. But his spitting did not stop in jail when he spit out the window and spit on fellow prisoners as well as prison guards.

Adams was becoming more and more unpopular even within his own party. Even though he may be responsible for the creation of our first navy in a mini crisis with France, he accomplished little as president. The Washington traditions continued. Of course, it did not help Adams that his vice president was the Democratic Party leader Jefferson. In 1800 in spite of his unpopularity, the Federalist created a tradition of renominating the present president: the incumbent president. The Democrats again nominated for president Thomas Jefferson. This would be the last election of voting for individuals from a list. When the ballots were counted, there was a tie. But it was a tie between Thomas Jefferson and the man the Democrats nominated for vice president Aaron Burr. According to the constitution, when no one gets a majority, the election goes to the House of Representatives. Our founding fathers never realized that we would have a two party system and that only two elections in our history ever went to the House of Representatives. The Federalists had a major influence over the House of Representatives and many in the House refused to vote. They believed that if Democrat Jefferson was elected there would be a “revolution” in government and that the farmers would take control. The final decision in this election was up to Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton disagreed with Jefferson’s philosophy, but many writers discovered that Burr had coveted Hamilton’s wife. So Hamilton picked the lesser of two evils and in 1800 Thomas Jefferson became the first Democratic President in American History.

Was there a “revolution”? The answer is no. Jefferson saw that the system was working, even though it favored the wealthy. So he did not change the system, but he did change the emphasis and direction of government. He did try to move toward majority politics. This is known as the Jefferson tradition. That when a new president with a new political party comes into office, the system of government remains the same, but a new direction and new emphasis in government takes place. Thomas Jefferson was a two term president. Thomas Jefferson was the first president of the Virginia dynasty: twenty four years of Virginia Democrats. And Thomas Jefferson would be rated above average as president. His policies were a mixed bag. Jefferson to John Quincy Adams will be the subject of our next topic

Washington’s Domestic Policies

George Washington had to borrow money to relocate to New York, then the center of American government. His presidential inauguration was held near New York’s Wall Street in late April 1789. A tremendous crowd showed up to see the man now known as “the Father of His Country.” Borrowing a custom from English monarchs, who by tradition address Parliament when its sessions open, Washington gave a brief speech. It was the first inaugural address and the first of many contributions that Washington would make to the office of the presidency. But this would be no monarch; the new leader wore a plain brown suit.

“As the first of everything in our situation will serve to establish a precedent,” Washington wrote James Madison at this time, “it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.” At every turn, Washington was aware that the conduct of his presidency would set the standard for generations to come.

The American government—in particular, the presidency—was in a remarkably primitive state. But Washington’s performance in those early years was both surefooted and brilliant. He went to one session of the Senate to receive its advice about a treaty but was annoyed because senators felt uncomfortable in his presence and would not debate its provisions. Washington withdrew angrily and swore he “would be damned if he went there again,” thus ensuring a tradition of separation between the executive and legislative branches. Departments of State, War, and Treasury were established, along with the office of Attorney General, each headed by a trusted presidential adviser. These advisers collectively became known as the cabinet. Washington strove for ideological balance in these appointments, thus augmenting their strength and credibility. He signed the first Judiciary Act of 1789, initiating the development of the judicial branch. A Supreme Court was created, headed by a chief justice and originally five associate justices, who were chosen by the President and approved by Congress. A network of district courts was also established. Congress sent the President ten amendments to the Constitution that became known as the Bill of Rights; these amendments strengthened civil liberties.


In 1791, Washington learned that an American force had been defeated by a Native American uprising in the Northwest Territory (present-day Ohio) that killed over 600 American soldiers and militia. The President ordered the Revolutionary War veteran General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to launch a new expedition against a coalition of tribes led by Miami Chief Little Turtle. Wayne spent months training his troops to fight using forest warfare in the style of the Indians before marching boldly into the region. After constructing a chain of forts, Wayne and his troops crushed the Indians in the Battle of Fallen Timbers (near present-day Toledo) in the summer of 1794. 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.


The young country had 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. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton laid plans for governmental financing via tariffs, or surcharges on imported goods, and a tax on liquor. Much of this revenue was earmarked for retiring war debts. Hamilton also proposed a national bank to centralize the nation’s financial base and urged the new government to assist in developing a manufacturing sector of the economy. He traded his support for Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson’s plan to locate the nation’s permanent capital near Virginia, with Philadelphia serving as a temporary capital, for Jefferson’s support of his policies on retiring the debt.

By the midpoint of Washington’s first term, however, such cooperation had deteriorated. Washington’s administration had split into two rival factions: one headed by Jefferson, which would later become the Democratic-Republican Party, and the Federalist faction headed by Hamilton. They disagreed on virtually all aspects of domestic and foreign policy, and much of the President’s energies were spent in mediating their differences.


A tax on whiskey—production of which had increased dramatically in the 1790s—was one of the key elements of Hamilton’s fiscal program. This taxation enraged many citizens, and in 1794, resistance to the whiskey tax boiled over in western Pennsylvania with attacks on tax collectors and the formation of several well-armed resistance movements. Washington was alarmed by the Whiskey Rebellion, viewing it as a threat to the nation’s existence. In an extraordinary move designed to demonstrate the federal government’s preeminence and power, the President ordered militia from several other states into Pennsylvania to keep order. He then traveled to the site of the troubles to personally oversee the buildup of troops and to lend his encouragement to the enterprise. The insurrection collapsed quickly with little violence, and the resistance movements disbanded. Later, Washington pardoned the men convicted of treason in the matter.

Soon after this incident, however, a pair of high-level departures diminished the quality of the Washington administration. Secretary of War Henry Knox quit in December 1794, and Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton followed suit a month later.


Although it was his for the taking, Washington never considered running for a third term. Over four decades of public service had left him exhausted physically, mentally, and financially. He happily handed the office to his successor, John Adams. With customary care, Washington was scrupulously silent on his opinions of the men jockeying to succeed him. By ceding office after two terms, Washington helped ensure a regular and orderly transfer of executive power. His two-term limit set a custom that would stand for a century and a half, until Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term in 1940 and a fourth term in 1944.

Washington closed his administration with a thoughtful farewell address. Written with the help of Hamilton and Madison, the address urged Americans to be a vigilant and righteous people. “It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness,” he said. “The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.” It was as if he saw the great challenges to come in the next decades and begged his fellow citizens to remain a unified nation. But some of Washington’s advice was not heeded. He warned his fellow citizens against “the baneful spirit of faction,” referring to the party spirit that had disrupted his administration, and he warned against “foreign entanglements.” But he could not prevent the formation of parties, nor did his warning against “foreign entanglements” prevent his successors from engaging in active diplomacy with European nations, often leading to de facto alliances. To this day, Washington’s farewell address is read aloud every year in the U.S. Senate as a tribute to his service and foresight

Washington’s Foreign Policy

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.

Taking a Global Position

In 1789, the French Revolution sent shock waves across the Atlantic. Many Americans, mindful of French aid during their own struggle for independence, supported returning the favor. At the same time, the British were once again inciting Native Americans to attack settlers in the West, hoping to destabilize the fledgling Republic. American anger in response to these attacks served to reinforce sentiments for aiding France in any conflict with Great Britain. Washington was leery of any such foreign entanglement, considering his country too weak and unstable to fight another war with a major European power. His insistence on neutrality in foreign quarrels set another key precedent, as did his insistence that the power to make such a determination be lodged in the presidency.

Within days of Washington’s second inauguration, France declared war on a host of European nations, England among them. Controversy over American involvement in the dispute redoubled. The Jefferson and Hamilton factions fought endlessly over the matter. The French ambassador to the U.S.—the charismatic, audacious “Citizen” Edmond Genet—had meanwhile been appearing nationwide, drumming up considerable support for the French cause. Washington was deeply irritated by this subversive meddling, and when Genet allowed a French-sponsored warship to sail out of Philadelphia against direct presidential orders, Washington demanded that France recall Genet.

More British Challenges

In mid-1793, Britain announced that it would seize any ships trading with the French, including those flying the American flag. In protest, widespread civil disorder erupted in several American cities. By the following year, tensions with Britain were so high that Washington had to stop all American shipments overseas. Six large warships were commissioned; among them was the USS Constitution, the legendary “Old Ironsides.” An envoy was sent to England to attempt reconciliation, but the British were now building a fortress in Ohio while increasing insurgent activities elsewhere in America.

The President’s strong inclination in response to British provocations was to seek a diplomatic solution. But the envoy to England, John Jay, negotiated a weak treaty that undermined freedom of trade on the high seas and failed to compensate Americans for slaves taken by the British during the Revolution. Worst of all, the treaty did not address the then-common British practice of impressment. Congress approved the treaty with the proviso that trade barriers imposed by England be lessened. Washington, while dissatisfied with elements of the treaty, signed it nonetheless.

For the first time, members of the government openly criticized Washington. While this no doubt led to some hard feelings, it was also a milestone. The fledgling government chose partisan sides, verbally jousted with their President, everyone was heard, the public hurled angry rhetoric—and the government remained standing. It was the first example of the partisan give-and-take that has been essential to the survival of American democracy for over two centuries.

There was a single dreadful casualty. Washington’s advisers presented him with evidence that Edmund Randolph, Jefferson’s successor as secretary of state, had allegedly solicited a bribe from a French envoy to oppose the treaty with England. Although Randolph denied the charges, an angry Washington forced his old friend to resign. With this action, another important precedent was set. The Constitution empowers the President to nominate his principal officers with the advice and consent of the Senate; it says nothing, however, about the chief executive’s authority to dismiss appointees. With Washington’s dismissal of Randolph, the administrative system of the federal government was firmly tied to the President. In total, Washington dismissed three foreign ministers, two consuls, eight collectors, and four surveyors of internal revenue—all without seeking the advice or approval of Congress.

Foreign Policy in the Final Years

A pair of treaties—one with Algiers and another with Spain—dominated the later stages of Washington’s foreign policy. Pirates from the Barbary region of North Africa were seizing American ships, kidnapping their crew members, and demanding ransom. These Barbary pirates forced a harsh treaty on the U.S. that demanded annual payments to the ruler of Algiers. It was, in short, a shakedown for protection money, and it hardened Washington’s resolve to construct a viable navy. The ships built during his administration would prove to be instrumental in naval actions that ended disputes with Algiers in later administrations.

The agreement with Spain had a much happier outcome for Washington. Spanish-controlled Florida agreed to stop inciting Native American attacks on settlers. 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.

John Jay’s treaty with the British continued to have negative ramifications for the remainder of Washington’s administration. France declared it in violation of agreements signed with America during the Revolution and claimed that it comprised an alliance with their enemy, Britain. By 1796, the French were harassing American ships and threatening the U.S. with punitive sanctions. Diplomacy did little to solve the problem, and in later years, American and French warships exchanged gunfire on several occasions.

A final precedent set by America’s first President, while unpleasant for Washington, was beneficial to his nation. Newspapers sympathetic to the Jeffersonians, emboldened by the public controversy surrounding the treaty with England, became increasingly critical of Washington during his final two years in office. One called him “Saint Washington,” another mockingly offered him a crown. To the President’s considerable credit, he bore these attacks with dignity—not even responding to them publicly. Privately, he was deeply wounded by the attacks on his integrity, and toward the end of his life, he ceased to have any contact with Thomas Jefferson.

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