Presidential inaugurations are important civic rituals in our nation's political life. The Constitution requires that presidential electoral votes be opened and counted by the Senate and House of Representatives meeting together, that the candidate with a majority of electoral votes be declared the victor, and that the president-elect, before taking charge of the office, swear an oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
In 1788, the Confederation Congress scheduled the first presidential inauguration for the first Wednesday in March of the following year. However, the early months of 1789 proved to be unseasonably cold and snowy and bad weather delayed many members of the First Federal Congress from arriving promptly in New York City, the temporary seat of government. Until a quorum could be established in both the House and the Senate, no official business could be conducted. Finally, on April 6, 1789 - over a month late - enough members had reached New York to tally the electoral ballots. The ballots were counted on April 6 and George Washington won unanimously with 69 electoral votes. Washington was then notified of his victory and traveled to New York City from his home in Virginia.
On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath as the first president of the United States. The oath was administered by Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor of New York, on a second floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. President Washington and the members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered the first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress. Washington humbly noted the power of the nations' call for him to serve as president and the shared responsibility of the president and Congress to preserve "the sacred fire of liberty" and a republican form of government.
At that auspicious moment marking the birth of the federal government under the Constitution, Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania observed that even the great Washington trembled when he faced the assembled representatives and senators. "This great man was agitated and embarrassed," Maclay added, "more than ever he was by the levelled Cannon or pointed Musket." After concluding his remarks, the President and Congress proceeded through crowds lined up on Broadway to St. Paul's Church, where a service was conducted. Social gatherings and festivities closed the nation's first inaugural day. Subsequent presidential inaugurations took place on March 4th (or March 5th when the fourth fell on a Sunday), until the Twentieth Amendment changed the date to January 20th beginning in 1937.
The President, Directors and Company, of the Bank of the United States, commonly known as the First Bank of the United States, was a national bank, chartered for a term of twenty years, by the United States Congress on February 25, 1791. It followed the Bank of North America, the nation's first de facto central bank.
Establishment of the Bank of the United States was part of a three-part expansion of federal fiscal and monetary power, along with a federal mint and excise taxes, championed by Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton believed a national bank was necessary to stabilize and improve the nation's credit, and to improve handling of the financial business of the United States government under the newly enacted Constitution.
The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. The so-called "whiskey tax" was the first tax imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government. It became law in 1791, and was intended to generate revenue to help reduce the national debt. Although the tax applied to all distilled spirits, whiskey was by far the most popular distilled beverage in the 18th-century U.S. Because of this, the excise became widely known as a "whiskey tax". The new excise was a part of U.S. treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton's program to pay war debt incurred during the American Revolutionary War.
The tax was resisted by farmers in the western frontier regions who were long accustomed to distilling their surplus grain and corn into whiskey. In these regions, whiskey was sufficiently popular that it often served as a medium of exchange. Many of the resisters were war veterans who believed that they were fighting for the principles of the American Revolution, in particular against taxation without local representation, while the U.S. federal government maintained the taxes were the legal expression of the taxation powers of Congress.
Throughout counties in Western Pennsylvania, protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent federal officials from collecting the tax. Resistance came to a climax in July 1794, when a U.S. marshal arrived in western Pennsylvania to serve writs to distillers who had not paid the excise. The alarm was raised, and more than 500 armed men attacked the fortified home of tax inspector General John Neville. Washington responded by sending peace commissioners to western Pennsylvania to negotiate with the rebels, while at the same time calling on governors to send a militia force to enforce the tax. With 13,000 militiamen provided by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Washington rode at the head of an army to suppress the insurgency. The rebels all went home before the arrival of the army, and there was no confrontation. About 20 men were arrested, but all were later acquitted or pardoned. Most distillers in nearby Kentucky were found to be all but impossible to tax; in the next six years, over 175 distillers from Kentucky were convicted of violating the tax law. Numerous examples of resistance are recorded in court documents and newspaper accounts.
The Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated that the new national government had the will and the ability to suppress violent resistance to its laws. The whiskey excise remained difficult to collect, however. The events contributed to the formation of political parties in the United States, a process already underway. The whiskey tax was repealed after Thomas Jefferson's Republican Party, which opposed Hamilton's Federalist Party, came to power in 1801.
The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, commonly known as the Jay Treaty, and also as Jay's Treaty, the British Treaty, and the Treaty of London of 1794, was a 1795 treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war, resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783 (which ended the American Revolutionary War), and facilitating ten years of peaceful trade between the United States and Britain in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars, which began in 1792.
The terms of the treaty were designed primarily by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, strongly supported by the chief negotiator John Jay, and also by President George Washington. The treaty gained the primary American goals, which included the withdrawal of British Army units from pre-Revolutionary forts that it had failed to relinquish in the Northwest Territory of the United States (the area west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River). (The British had recognized this area as American territory in the Treaty of Paris of 1783.) The parties agreed that disputes over wartime debts and the American-Canadian boundary were to be sent to arbitration — one of the first major uses of arbitration in diplomatic history. The Americans were granted limited rights to trade with British possessions in India and colonies in the Caribbean in exchange for some limits on the American export of cotton.
The treaty was hotly contested by the Jeffersonians in each state. They feared that closer economic ties with Britain would strengthen Hamilton's Federalist Party, promote aristocracy and undercut republicanism. Washington's announced support proved decisive and the treaty was ratified by a 2/3 majority of the U.S. Senate in November 1794 without a single vote to spare. The treaty became a central issue of contention, leading to the formation of the "First Party System," with the Federalists favoring Britain and the Jeffersonian republicans favoring France. The treaty was for ten years' duration. Efforts to agree on a replacement treaty failed (in 1806) when Jefferson rejected the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty as tensions escalated toward the War of 1812. The treaty was signed on November 19, 1794, the Senate advised and consented on June 24, 1795; it was ratified by the President and the British government, and it took effect the day ratifications were officially exchanged, February 29, 1796.
Pinckney's Treaty, known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo or the Treaty of Madrid, was signed in San Lorenzo de El Escorial on October 27, 1795 and established intentions of friendship between the United States and Spain. It also defined the boundaries of the United States with the Spanish colonies and guaranteed the United States navigation rights on the Mississippi River. The treaty's full title is Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation Between Spain and the United States. Thomas Pinckney negotiated the treaty for the United States and Don Manuel de Godoy represented Spain. Among other things, it ended the first phase of the West Florida Controversy, a dispute between the two nations over the boundaries of the Spanish colony of West Florida.
The treaty was presented to the United States Senate on February 26, 1796 and after debate was ratified on March 7, 1796. It was ratified by Spain on April 25, 1796 and ratifications were exchanged on that date. The treaty was proclaimed on August 3, 1796.
George Washington's Farewell Address is a letter written by the first President of the United States, George Washington, to "The People of the United States of America".
Washington wrote the letter near the end of his second term as President, before his retirement to his home Mount Vernon. Originally published in Daved Claypole's American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796, under the title "The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States," the letter was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in a pamphlet form. The work was later named a "Farewell Address," as it was Washington's valedictory after 20 years of service to the new nation. It is a classic statement of republicanism, warning Americans of the political dangers they can and must avoid if they are to remain true to their values.
The first draft was originally prepared in 1792 with the assistance of James Madison, as Washington prepared to retire following a single term in office. However, he set aside the letter and ran for a second term after the rancor between his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, convinced him that the growing divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Republican parties, along with the current state of foreign affairs, would rip the country apart in the absence of his leadership.
Four years later, as his second term came to a close, Washington revisited the letter and, with the help of Alexander Hamilton, prepared a revision of the original draft to announce his intention to decline a third term in office. He also reflects on the emerging issues of the American political landscape in 1796, expresses his support for the government eight years after the adoption of the Constitution, defends his administration's record, and gives valedictory advice to the American people.
The letter was published almost two months before the Electoral College cast their votes in the 1796 presidential election.
The letter included:
1. Washington warned Americans against the dangers of factions (parties) with in the nation.
2. He also warned about the dangers of entangling alliances with other nations. Washington advised: "the great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good face. Here let us stop."
The letter impacted:
1. On many occasions, US political leaders have disregarded Washington's advice and taking an active role in world affairs.
2. President Wilson's opponents word "Washington to justify their opposition to the league of Nations.
3. During the 1930s, isolationists would use Washington's farewell address to justify their support of the neutrality acts.
It might sound like something out of "Sesame Street" but the XYZ Affair was, in fact, a diplomatic incident between France and America in the late 18th century that led to an undeclared war at sea.
In 1793, France went to war with Great Britain while America remained neutral. Late the following year, the United States and Britain signed the Jay Treaty, which resolved several longstanding issues between those two nations. The French were infuriated by Jay's Treaty, believing it violated earlier treaties between the United States and France; as a result, they went on to seize a substantial number of American merchant ships. When President George Washington sent Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as the U.S. minister to France in 1796, the government there refused to receive him. After John Adams became president in March 1797, he dispatched a three-member delegation to Paris later that same year in an effort to restore peace between the two countries. Once the diplomats—Pinckney along with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry—arrived overseas they tried to meet with France's foreign minister, Charles de Talleyrand. Instead, he put them off and eventually had three agents inform the U.S. commissioners that in order to see him they first would have to pay him a hefty bribe and provide France with a large loan, among other conditions. Pinckney's supposed response was: "No! No! Not a sixpence!"
When word of the French demands reached the United States, it caused an uproar and prompted calls for war. After some members of Congress asked to see the diplomats' reports regarding what had transpired in France, Adams handed them over with the names of the French agents replaced with the letters X, Y and Z; thus the name XYZ Affair. Congress subsequently authorized various defense measures, including the creation of the Department of the Navy and the construction of warships. Then, in July 1798, it authorized American ships to attack French vessels, launching an undeclared naval war that came to be referred to as the Quasi-War. The hostilities were settled with the Convention of 1800, also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine, which was ratified in 1801.
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed by the Federalist dominated 5th United States Congress, and signed into law by Federalist President John Adams in 1798. They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen (Naturalization Act), allowed the president to imprison and deport noncitizens who were deemed dangerous (Alien Friends Act) or who were from a hostile nation (Alien Enemies Act), and criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government (Sedition Act). The Federalists argued that they strengthened national security during an undeclared naval war with France. Critics argued that they were primarily an attempt to suppress voters who disagreed with the Federalist party, and violated the right of freedom of speech in the First Amendment. Three of the acts were repealed after the Democratic-Republican party of Thomas Jefferson came to power. But the Alien Enemies Act remained in effect, was revised and codified in 1918 for use in World War I, and was used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to imprison Japanese, German, and Italian aliens during World War II. Following cessation of hostilities, the act was used by President Harry S. Truman to continue to imprison, then deport, aliens of the formerly hostile nations. In 1948 the Supreme Court determined that presidential powers under the acts continued after cessation of hostilities, until there was a peace treaty with the hostile nation. The revised Alien Enemies Act remains in effect today.
The Naturalization Act increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to 14 years. At the time, the majority of immigrants supported Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, the political opponents of the Federalists. The Alien Friends Act allowed the president to imprison or deport aliens considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" at any time, while the Alien Enemies Act authorized the president to do the same to any male citizen of a hostile nation above the age of 14 during times of war. Lastly, the controversial Sedition Act restricted speech which was critical of the federal government. Under the Sedition Act, the Federalists allowed people, who were accused of violating the sedition laws, to use truth as a defense. The Sedition Act resulted in the prosecution and conviction of many Jeffersonian newspaper owners who disagreed with the government.
The acts were denounced by Democratic-Republicans and ultimately helped them to victory in the 1800 election, when Thomas Jefferson defeated the incumbent President Adams. The Sedition Act and the Alien Friends Act were allowed to expire in 1800 and 1801, respectively. The Alien Enemies Act, however, remains in effect as 50 USC Sections 21-24.
Some observers have regarded Jefferson's election in 1800 as revolutionary. This may be true in a restrained sense of the word, since the change from Federalist leadership to Republican was entirely legal and bloodless. Nevertheless, the changes were profound. The Federalists lost control of both the presidency and the Congress.
By 1800, the American people were ready for a change. Under
Washington and Adams , the Federalists had established a strong government. They sometimes failed, however, to honor the principle that the American government must be responsive to the will of the people. They had followed policies that alienated large groups. For example, in 1798 they enacted a tax on houses, land and slaves, affecting every property owner in the country. Jefferson had steadily gathered behind him a great mass of small farmers, shopkeepers and other workers; they asserted themselves in the election of 1800. Jefferson enjoyed extraordinary favor because of his appeal to American idealism. In his inaugural address, the first such speech in the new capital of Washington, D.C. , he promised "a wise and frugal government" to preserve order among the inhabitants, but would "leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry, and improvement." Jefferson's mere presence in The White House encouraged democratic behavior. White House guests were encouraged to shake hands with the president, rather than bowing as had been the Federalist practice. Guests at state dinners were seated at round tables, which emphasized a sense of equality. He taught his subordinates to regard themselves merely as trustees of the people. He encouraged agriculture and westward expansion. Believing America to be a haven for the oppressed, he urged a liberal naturalization law.
Federalists feared the worst. Some worried that Jefferson, the great admirer of the French, would set up a guillotine on Capitol Hill.
Summary and definition: The 1801 Judiciary Act (Midnight Judges Act) was "An Act to provide for the more convenient organization of the Courts of the United States". John Adams, leader of the Federalists, signed the act into law on February 13, 1801, less than 3 weeks before the end of his presidency and the start of the Jefferson presidency.
Repeal of the 1801 Judiciary Act: Midnight Judges
President Thomas Jefferson, leader of the Republicans (Anti-Federalists), later repealed the act on March 8, 1802 by the 1802 Judiciary Act.
The 1801 Judiciary Act: Midnight Judges - The 'Lame Duck' Congress
Thomas Jefferson was voted as the next President in November 1800, but would not assume office until March in the following year. This enabled President Adams to get things done before the new president and his political party took over. The two men were from opposing political parties. Adams was a Federalist and Jefferson a Democrat-Republican. During the time between the end of the old presidency and the start of the new, the 'Lame Duck' Congress took the opportunity to pass the Judiciary Act of 1801 to give Adams the power to appoint new judges. This ensured additional Federalists would be in powerful positions in the new government.
Purpose of the 1801 Judiciary Act: Midnight Judges
The act significantly enlarged the national judiciary, and Adams seized the opportunity to appoint his Federalist friends and supporters to the new offices. These men could be depended upon to protect Federalist legislation from the rising Democratic-Republicans.
Why Midnight Judges?
The judges who were appointed to these new courts were called "Midnight Judges" by the Republicans because they were last minute appointments. President John Adams was alleged to have stayed up until midnight on March 3, 1801 completing the paperwork before his term in office ended the following day on March 4, 1801.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May 1804, from near St. Louis making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast.
The expedition was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, consisting of a select group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend, Second Lieutenant William Clark. Their perilous journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.
The campaign's secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area's plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Native American tribes. With maps, sketches, and journals in hand, the expedition returned to St. Louis to report their findings to Jefferson.
The Embargo Act of 1807 imposed a general embargo that made any and all exports from the United States illegal. It was sponsored by President Thomas Jefferson and enacted by Congress. The goal was to force Britain and France to respect American rights during the Napoleonic Wars. They were engaged in a major war; the U.S. wanted to remain neutral and trade with both sides, but neither side wanted the other to have the American supplies. The American goal was to use economic coercion to avoid war and to punish Britain. The policy was highly unpopular with shipping interests, and historians have judged it a failure. It was repealed as Jefferson left office in 1809. The embargo was imposed in response to violations of U.S. neutrality, in which American merchantmen and their cargo were seized as contraband of war by the European navies. The British Royal Navy, in particular, resorted to impressment, forcing 10,000 seamen with American papers into service on its warships. Britain and France, engaged in a struggle for control of Europe, considered the plunder of U.S. shipping to be incidental to war and indeed necessary for their survival. Americans saw the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair as a particularly egregious example of a British violation of American neutrality. Many Americans wanted war but Jefferson wanted to use economic coercion instead.
By spring 1808, New England ports were nearly shut down, and the regional economy headed into a depression with growing unemployment. On the Canadian border with New York and Vermont, the embargo laws were openly flouted. By March an increasingly frustrated Jefferson was resolved to enforce the embargo to the letter. In March 1808 Congress prohibited, for the first time, the export of all goods, either by land or by sea, regardless of destination. The strategy was to isolate the American economy. "The Enforcement Act", signed into law on April 24, 1808, was the last of the embargo acts. It decreed that port authorities were allowed to seize cargoes without a warrant, and to bring to trial any shipper or merchant who was thought to have merely contemplated violating the embargo.
Following the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in summer 1795, relative peace prevailed between the white settlers and the natives of the Old Northwest. The Washington and Adams administrations at least paid lip service to the terms of the treaty, but Thomas Jefferson (the great agrarian philosopher) sought additional lands for American farmers through a series of purchases from the tribes. Not all the frontiersmen bothered with the niceties of treaties and simply occupied Indian lands illegally.
Not without reason, resentment among the tribes ran high. In 1808, Tecumseh, a Shawnee chieftain, and his brother Tenskwatawa (known to the Americans as The Prophet) launched a reform movement among their people. They attempted to end the sale of additional lands to the whites and to resist alcohol and other troublesome temptations of the competing culture.
A new native settlement was built at the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers (north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana) and became known as Prophet's Town. The village became the focal point of Tecumseh's effort to rally the tribes east of the Mississippi River in the hope of halting the spread of white settlements.
William Henry Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory and superintendent of the Northwest Indians. Fearing the growing strength of Tecumseh's confederacy, Harrison decided to strike quickly.
He marched an army of 1,100 men along the Wabash toward Prophet's Town. Tecumseh was temporarily out of the area on a recruiting venture among the Creeks in the south, but his brother prepared the men for battle with fiery oratory — including promises that they could not be harmed by the white men's bullets.
Shortly before dawn on November 7, 1811, Harrison's soldiers were attacked. After a two-hour battle, the natives were forced to flee and their village — the gathering spot of the confederacy — was destroyed. Some military historians regard the Battle of Tippecanoe as a draw, but note that it held important ramifications:
The safety of the white settlements in the Indiana Territory became markedly improved.
The Prophet was discredited as a leader because of his inability to ensure the promised invincibility from the opponents' bullets and also because he had violated Tecumseh's earlier counsel to hold off any armed confrontation until his return.
The confederation of the eastern tribes disintegrated.
(December 15, 1814-January 5, 1815), in U.S. history, a secret meeting in Hartford, Connecticut, of Federalist delegates from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont who were dissatisfied with Pres. James Madison's mercantile policies and the progress of the War of 1812 ("Mr. Madison's War"), as well as long resentful over the balance of political power that gave the South, particularly Virginia, effective control of the national government.
Two weeks after the War of 1812 officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, U.S. General Andrew Jackson achieves the greatest American victory of the war at the Battle of New Orleans.
In September 1814, an impressive American naval victory on Lake Champlain forced invading British forces back into Canada and led to the conclusion of peace negotiations in Ghent, Belgium. Although the peace agreement was signed on December 24, word did not reach the British forces assailing the Gulf coast in time to halt a major attack.
On January 8, 1815, the British marched against New Orleans, hoping that by capturing the city they could separate Louisiana from the rest of the United States. Pirate Jean Lafitte, however, had warned the Americans of the attack, and the arriving British found militiamen under General Andrew Jackson strongly entrenched at the Rodriquez Canal. In two separate assaults, the 7,500 British soldiers under Sir Edward Pakenham were unable to penetrate the U.S. defenses, and Jackson's 4,500 troops, many of them expert marksmen from Kentucky and Tennessee, decimated the British lines. In half an hour, the British had retreated, General Pakenham was dead, and nearly 2,000 of his men were killed, wounded, or missing. U.S. forces suffered only eight killed and 13 wounded.
Although the battle had no bearing on the outcome of the war, Jackson's overwhelming victory elevated national pride, which had suffered a number of setbacks during the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans was also the last armed engagement between the United States and Britain.
The Virginia dynasty is a term sometimes used to describe the fact that four of the first five Presidents of the United States were from Virginia. The term sometimes excludes George Washington, who, though a Virginia planter, was closely aligned with the policies of the Federalist Party, and was succeeded by his Vice President, John Adams of Massachusetts. The first five presidents were, in order, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.