In the first elections for the new Congress in January 1789 the Federalists won a majority in the House of Representatives. James Madison was denied a seat in the Senate because Anti-Federalists controlled the Virginia legislature. He faced a difficult challenge in his House district by James Monroe; but he promised to amend the Constitution with a bill of rights and was elected, becoming majority leader. More than half of those who had attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia served in the new government as legislators, executives, or judges. Most state legislatures chose their electors. Only five states chose their electors by a popular vote, and New Jersey’s governor and council selected theirs. On February 4 the 69 electors in the Electoral College met and voted unanimously for George Washington as President. With their second vote 34 voted for John Adams who thus became Vice President. Senators were elected by the state legislatures.
On March 2, 1789 the Pennsylvania legislature responded to petitions by repealing the 1786 law against theaters. In the summer of 1791 a town meeting in Boston, Massachusetts repealed a similar law, and by 1794 Boston had a Federal Theater.
Congress was supposed to begin on March 4, but they did not have a quorum until April 8. Although the British Parliament and the colonial legislatures kept their deliberations closed, the House of Representatives, but not the Senate, decided to open their meetings to the general public and thus to the press, though meetings as a committee of the whole were closed. Newspapers began reporting on the debates, but a complete Congressional Record was not started until 1834. Ten states were represented in the Senate at the beginning, and a Special Judiciary Committee was appointed with one member from each state with Oliver Ellsworth as chairman. Madison announced that the first priority was to develop a balanced economy free of control by foreign nations. Senator William Maclay was an Anti-Federalist from western Pennsylvania. He kept a journal of the first session of Congress when there was no other record, including his own outspoken criticisms of Vice President John Adams and his efforts to adopt some of England’s ceremonies and use of titles. The new Constitution clearly prohibited the United States from granting any title of nobility, and so the official title is “President of the United States.”
Washington was inaugurated in New York on April 30 as the first chief executive of the United States, and in his address he renounced his salary. However, he was required to accept his $25,000 salary and worked it out so that it equaled his annual expenses, using about $2,000 a year on alcoholic beverages when entertaining. George and Martha Washington arranged sixteen marriages, including James Madison to Dolly Payne. His inaugural address urged the Congress to propose amendments to the Constitution to strengthen the “characteristic rights of freedom” and to overcome the objections to the Constitution. He commented on the importance of ethics in their new experiment with republican government, hoping to win the affections of the citizens and the respect of the world
… since there is no truth more thoroughly established
than that there exists in the economy and course of nature
an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness;
between duty and advantage;
between the genuine maxims
of an honest and magnanimous policy
and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity;
since we ought to be no less persuaded
that the propitious smiles of Heaven
can never be expected on a nation
that disregards the eternal rules of order and right
which Heaven itself has ordained;
and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty
and the destiny of the republican model of government
are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally,
staked on the experiment
entrusted to the hands of the American people.1
Because the old Confederation, needing unanimous consent of the states, had failed to pass import duties and protective tariffs, the new Congress began by attempting to do so. Manufacturers wanted protective tariffs, but they were opposed by farmers, especially in the southern states. In June the Congress passed a bill favored by Madison that authorized the President to remove appointees without the advice and consent of the Senate.
Senators Ellsworth and William Paterson sponsored a bill to establish federal courts. The most controversial issue was section 25 which authorized appeals to the US Supreme Court by “writs of error” in the decisions of state courts. Madison, Fisher Ames, and Roger Sherman were able to get the Senate bill through the House, passing the Judiciary Act with the President’s signature on September 24 to establish the Supreme Court with a chief justice and five associate justices, three circuit courts with two judges each, and thirteen district courts. Judges were independent with secure salaries and could only be removed by impeachment. John Jay from New York was acting as Secretary of State until Jefferson arrived from France and was persuaded by Madison and Washington to take the position as the first chief justice of the United States. Washington appointed Jay and provided regional balance by selecting John Blair of Virginia, William Cushing of Massachusetts, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, John Rutledge of South Carolina, and James Iredell of North Carolina as associate justices of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless they were all Federalists. During its first three years the Supreme Court had practically no cases.
Congress also established departments of foreign affairs, war, and finances, followed by the offices of attorney general, postmaster general, superintendent of the land office, and governor of the Northwest Territory. Washington went to the Senate on August 22 with General Knox for the “advice and consent” required by the Constitution, submitting seven questions regarding a treaty with southern Indians; but when Senators Robert Morris and Maclay asked for time to study the questions and began demanding treaties and other documents, the President left in a huff. The Senate did agree to give their answers three days later, and Washington returned in a serene manner. However, after that he only consulted the Congress in writing.
On September 2 Congress created the Treasury Department, and on the 11th the President appointed Alexander Hamilton of New York as its secretary, the Senate confirming him the same day along with William Duer and four other assistants. Washington had asked Robert Morris, but he had declined and recommended Hamilton as the only man in America who could tell him about the debt. Hamilton began working the next day by arranging for a $50,000 loan from the Bank of New York, and he wrote a letter to the Bank of North America in Philadelphia asking for an equal amount. The next day the re-appointed Henry Knox of Massachusetts was confirmed as Secretary of War. Edmund Randolph of Virginia was appointed Attorney General. The President nominated Thomas Jefferson to be Secretary of State on the 25th, and he was confirmed the next day; but he was in France and did not take up his office until March 22, 1790. Also on September 25 Congress submitted to the states twelve amendments to the Constitution that included the Bill of Rights. The first Congress adjourned on September 29.
On September 6. 1789 Thomas Jefferson in Paris wrote a letter to James Madison that is also called “The Earth Belongs to the Living.” Influenced by the beginning of the French Revolution he was witnessing, he suggested that every generation has the right to remake its society with a new revolution. He wrote, “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”2 Because the Earth belongs to the living, not the dead, he asked whether they may change and abolish the privileges attached on lands, including the ecclesiastical and feudal.
Washington appointed 134 men who had been officers in the Continental Army, 74 of them from the Cincinnati Society. He avoided choosing any relatives, and on October 13 he wrote to Gouverneur Morris that the national government was organized. He also appointed Morris a special agent to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain. Two days later Washington began a tour of New England for his health and to see the condition of the country. He not only visited with politicians but went to schools, farms, and factories. After four weeks he returned to New York City, where the federal government was located for eighteen months.
Congress passed a law to make the Treasury Department’s reports go directly to them without having to go through the President. The Treasury Department began as the largest department by far with an assistant secretary, controller, treasurer, auditor, register, 31 clerks, dozens of staff in the Treasury office, and more than two thousand customs officials, revenue agents, and postmasters in the states. Hamilton established ethical standards that employees could not deal in government securities, and he divested his own business investments that could have been a conflict of interest. Foreign affairs were called the State Department which began with only a messenger, an office keeper, and four clerks. Hamilton was influenced by Malachy Postlethwayt’s Universal Dictionary of Trade and Britain’s Commercial Interest Explained and Improved as well as Pelatiah Webster’s Political Essays on the Nature and Operation of Money, Public Finances and Other Subjects and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
To gain revenue the Congress passed a tariff bill in 1789, imposing a five percent ad valorem charge on most goods and up to 50% duty on others such as steel, ships, cordage, tobacco, salt, indigo, and cloth. The British were reluctant to withdraw from their frontier posts because they helped them control the Indians and the fur trade which was worth £200,000 a year. Because they were not withdrawing and neither paying compensation nor returning stolen slaves according to the treaty, Madison proposed that the tonnage duty on the English be sixty cents per ton but only thirty cents on their French ally. The British commerce with America was one-sixth of their total, but the United States depended on the British for three-quarters of their trade. Hamilton and others opposed this discrimination which could lead to a trade war, and the Senate rejected the House bill. Then the two houses agreed to put a fifty-cent tonnage duty on all foreign shipping and six cents per ton on American-owned ships.
Hamilton’s private Bank of New York was successfully paying dividends of seven percent, and banks were becoming popular. Hamilton quickly began preparing reports on the economy, and he was eager to expand currency and credit. His “Report on the Public Credit” in January 1790 criticized the idea of repudiating the national debt, and he proposed that the federal government should assume the states’ debts too; those presently holding the securities would be compensated. The United States owed $11,710,387 to foreign countries and $42,414,085 to Americans. Hamilton also proposed assuming the state debts of about $21 million, making a total debt of about $75 million. He believed that a well funded national debt would be a foundation for paper money and loans. Competition between states and the national government for tax resources would be divisive and less efficient. The report calculated that the interest on the debt would be $2,839,163 plus $600,000 for governmental operations which could be raised from duties on imports and tonnage. With revenues Hamilton established a sinking fund to pay off the national debt at about 5% per year.
The new revenue law and his report stimulated speculative buying of government securities. Gouverneur Morris estimated that Dutch bankers had purchased three million pounds of government certificates for about five shillings per pound. Hamilton’s opponents complained about the speculative bubble and leaks by his Assistant Secretary William Duer that helped the wealthy.
In President Washington’s first annual message to Congress on January 9 he indicated his support of the public credit and asked for funds to provide for the common defense, notably against hostile Indians on the southern and western frontiers. He also asked for revenue to pay for improving roads and establishing a postal system, and he suggested promoting manufacturing by protecting inventions at home and abroad. The United States Supreme Court held its first session on February 1. General Knox came to Congress and asked for $1,152,000 to raise an army of 5,040 men to fight the Creek Indians. Madison opposed the assumption of all the debts because many had been purchased at low cost by speculators; but Hamilton argued that the debts should be honored and that it was too difficult to determine which ones should be discriminated against. On February 22 the House defeated Madison’s proposal 36-13.
Congress authorized the first census on March 1, and the 1790 census counted 3,699,525 people in the United States with 697,624 African slaves and 59,557 free Africans; but tens of thousands of Indians were not counted. Massachusetts and Vermont had no slaves. New York City with 33,131 people was second to Philadelphia’s 42,444, followed by Boston with 18,028, Charleston’s 16,359, and Baltimore’s 13,503. New York City as the first capital and growing financial center included 2,400 slaves and 1,100 free persons of color.
On March 17 a delegation of Quakers presented to the House of Representatives a memorial asking that slavery be abolished. Southern Congressmen were very angry, and a motion to give Congress authority to end slavery was defeated 29-25. The Congress was prohibited from ending the slave trade before 1808 because of the Constitution. The American patent system was established on April 10. That month Hamilton asked for boats to protect the security of the revenue against smuggling, and Congress authorized two revenue cutters that later were expanded into the Coast Guard.
The debate in the House was more controversial as Anti-Federalists such as James Jackson of Georgia warned of “imposing this enormous and iniquitous debt” that would “beggar the people and bind them in chains.” Madison moved away from the Federalist party as he led the opposition that defeated Hamilton’s proposal for the assumption of debts in the House on April 12. States with little debt would be helping those with large debts, but a compromise provided compensation for the low-debt states of Delaware, North Carolina, and Virginia. Southerners were concerned that Hamilton’s plans favored Easterners. A majority was opposing Hamilton’s plans, and the new delegation from North Carolina increased the Anti-Federalists. Hamilton hired the manufacturing expert Tench Coxe to replace Duer as assistant secretary in May.
President Washington caught pneumonia on May 10 and nearly died before recovering in late June. The Senate passed an assumption bill, but the House had refused to include the debts in its funding bill, putting the Congress at an impasse. At a presidential dinner on June 20 Jefferson mediated a compromise between Hamilton and Madison to pass the assumption of debt by locating the capital more centrally by the Potomac River, a project Jefferson had been planning for years. Massachusetts and South Carolina had the most to gain by assumption of the debt, and their representatives at Hamilton’s request agreed to vote for locating the permanent capital on the banks of the Potomac. The capital would move to Philadelphia for ten years while the federal city was being built. The Continental debt, which had been 6%, was funded at 4%, and the Continental currency was retired at the rate of 100-1 rather than 40-1. The bill passed the Senate on July 16 and the House on the 26th.
Many speculators became richer when more than $60 million in state and federal certificates, which had been practically worthless, were raised almost to face value. The new bonds soon circulating amounted to ten times the specie in the United States, providing what Hamilton called “an engine of business” and “an instrument of industry and commerce.” The national debt suddenly increased to more than $80 million. During the next ten years paying the interest on this debt accounted for more than 40% of national revenue which was averaging more than $6 million by the mid-1790s compared to $500,000 direct tax revenue in all the states. The states all together spent more than $1 million a year, and the Federal Government in 1795 spent $7.5 million.
On August 4 and 12 Congress authorized the United States Treasury to borrow $14 million in Europe as it held its last session in New York. Hamilton negotiated loans of three million florins from the Dutch bank of Willinks, Van Staphorsts and Hubbard. During the year that ended on September 30, 1790 the United States exported at least $20 million of mostly agricultural goods while importing more than $15 million worth of mostly manufactured products. Nearly half the exports went to England and less than a quarter to France.
The capital was moved from New York to Philadelphia for ten years, and Congress reconvened in Philadelphia’s Congress Hall on December 6, 1790. Eight days later Hamilton submitted his report on a national bank, and he proposed an excise tax on alcoholic beverages. After establishing the nation’s credit, in January 1791 Hamilton proposed a Bank of the United States which could issue bank notes (paper money) to private citizens. He admired the Bank of England, and his plan called for private stockholders who appointed most of the directors so that they would not inflate the economy with too much paper money. The government would own one-fourth of the stock and would appoint five of the 25 directors. The Senate approved the bank bill on January 21, and a week later Hamilton submitted his “Report on the Mint.” On February 8 the House passed the bank bill 39-20.
Madison, Jefferson, and Randolph objected that the Constitution did not authorize the government to create a bank, but the Treasury Secretary argued that this and other powers were implied as “necessary and proper” for fulfilling its designated powers such as collecting taxes, borrowing money, regulating interstate trade, and supporting military forces. Jefferson suggested the useful idea of using the decimal system for the United States currency. Washington accepted Hamilton’s arguments and signed the bank bill into law on February 25. The vote had shown how divided the nation was regionally as 34 out of 35 northern Congressmen voted in favor while 20 out of 25 southerners were opposed.
On February 28 Jefferson and Madison asked Philip Freneau to come to Philadelphia to help them establish a “vehicle of intelligence,” and Jefferson offered him a translating position in the State Department. In 1781 Freneau had written the poem “The British Prison-Ship” describing the brutal conditions he suffered as a prisoner during the Revolutionary War. In On False Systems of Government he wrote,
How can we call those systems just
Which bid the few, the proud, the first,
Possess all earthly good;
While millions robbed of all that’s dear
In silence shed the ceaseless tear,
And leaches suck their blood.3
On March 15 Jefferson submitted his report on America’s international commerce to the Congress. He advised duties on any nation that taxed or prohibited American goods to warn them. If they continued, he recommended prohibiting their goods.
Jefferson persuaded a Senate committee to let the President have the discretion of deciding on salaries of diplomats to other countries. He agreed with Franklin that whatever people made beyond a “modest competence” and enough money to provide for their families and educate the children was a surplus made possible by the society which thus had a right to ask for it back through progressive taxes on excess income and inheritance. Jefferson believed that history shows that reform movements begin with high ideals but tend to deteriorate into exploitation and rigidity “with the governments preying on the people and the rich on the poor.” He was glad that wheat had replaced tobacco as a major crop in Virginia because it symbolized independence and self-reliance as well as being food.
Many leaders of different persuasions such as Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Paine, and Patrick Henry were opposed to the factionalism of parties, but the controversial debates moved inexorably in that direction. Gradually the Anti-Federalists came to be called Republicans and were disparagingly referred to by Federalists as Democrats. Jefferson regularly opposed the views of the conservative Federalist Hamilton and became the leader of the Republican Party and was supported by Madison and James Monroe. Aaron Burr had been elected to the Senate by New York and became the Republicans’ political leader in that body. The new government was fortunate that the depression had ended. When George Hammond became the first British minister to the United States, Jefferson met him with coldness. Hammond turned to consulting with Treasury Secretary Hamilton.
On July 4 offices in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Charleston began accepting subscriptions for bank stock for $25. The US Bank’s capital was set at $10 million with $8 million to be supplied by private investors, who were to put down one-quarter in specie. Within an hour all the available scrip was subscribed, and many investors doubled their money in a few days. On August 11 scrip in New York reached a high of $280, and in Philadelphia it went to $320. Speculators believing it was over-valued began selling, and the next day the bubble burst as the price fell to $150. Hamilton allowed the government to pay for its stock in ten annual installments, but private stock purchasers had to pay in eighteen months. The bank scrip moved from $110 up to $140 while speculative scrip which had fallen to $67 rose to $145 in September. In October the Bank of the United States chose its twenty-five directors from various states and began doing business in Philadelphia. On August 17 Hamilton had written a critical letter to Duer because he had heard that he made “fictitious purchases” to fool the public. That summer the married Hamilton began a love affair with Mrs. Maria Reynolds, and in December he began making blackmail payments to James Reynolds.
The French revolution became a controversial issue, and the conservative Edmund Burke in England wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France. This made Thomas Paine so angry that in March he quickly published in London The Rights of Man dedicated to Washington. The American edition was published in Philadelphia in early May with a note by Jefferson printed without his permission. The Republicans adopted Paine’s work as their guide. Articles were published with the name “Publicola” in defense of John Adams, and eventually people learned that they were written by his son John Quincy Adams.
On September 8 Jefferson and Madison met with the commissioners the President had appointed to plan the new capital on the Potomac, and they decided to name the federal district Columbia and the city Washington.
The United States had nearly one hundred newspapers, though only eight were dailies. They printed foreign and national news and could fill them with political debates. Benjamin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, had started the General Advertiser in October 1790 to oppose the Federalist administration, and it later became the Aurora. Jefferson in July 1791 hired the poet Philip Freneau as a translator in the State Department and with Madison supported his National Gazette which published its first issue on October 31. Hamilton had sponsored John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States in New York since 1789 with printing jobs for the Treasury and the Senate, and they published the “Discourses of Davila” by John Adams in 1790. The Gazette had moved to Philadelphia with Congress in December.
The annual debt service was $826,625, and current revenues were insufficient. The US Bank was authorized to issue notes up to $10 million beyond its deposits. To help pay off the debt Congress imposed an excise tax on the production of liquor and other luxuries such as snuff and sugar loaf, and the law passed on March 3, 1791.
Washington met with a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, and the President toured the Carolinas and Georgia in April, May, and June of 1791. He was widely admired as the hero of the Revolution, but the fear of monarchy prevented people from giving him titles or putting his image on coins.
The United States Supreme Court met twice briefly in February and August 1790 but had no cases. The court had two cases in 1791 and five each in 1792 and 1793. In May 1791 a circuit court found a Connecticut law that collected additional interest invalid. In 1792 a circuit court in Georgia considered a treaty superior to a previous state law which had blocked recovery of the original debt. In Hayburn’s Case on August 11 the US Supreme Court struck down an act of Congress as unconstitutional because they did not believe the federal courts should have jurisdiction in all pension suits against the government.
The second Congress began on October 24, 1791. The House of Representatives had asked Hamilton for an economic plan to develop manufacturing, and after nearly two years of research he submitted his plan on December 5. Government would aid businesses with protective tariffs by exempting essential raw materials from import duties, by giving subsidies and bounties for inventions, and by modernizing transportation. For Hamilton promoting the general welfare included education, agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce. The Tariff Act of 1792 included many of his ideas except for the fisheries. He and Coxe encouraged the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (SEUM) to engage in this with capitalization of $500,000, and New Jersey’s Governor William Paterson granted a charter founding the town of Paterson on November 22, 1791.
On December 19 James Madison published a short essay in the National Gazette in which he wrote, “Public opinion sets bounds to every government and is the real sovereign in every free one.”4 On January 23, 1793 he published a short essay “Parties” that began as follows:
In every political society, parties are unavoidable.
A difference of interests, real or supposed,
is the most natural and fruitful source of them.
The great object should be to combat the evil:
1. By establishing a political equality among all.
2. By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few,
to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate,
and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches.
3. By the silent operation of laws, which,
without violating the rights of property,
reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity,
and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort.
4. By abstaining from measures
which operate differently on different interests,
and particularly such as favor one interest
at the expence of another.
5. By making one party a check on the other,
so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented,
nor their views accommodated.
If this is not the language of reason,
it is that of republicanism.5
The United States Bank stimulated the founding of the Bank of the State of New York for $200 a share in early March 1792; but after going up to about $300 in a week, in the next two weeks they fell to $100. Republicans accused insiders of using manipulation. In the next few days Hamilton tried to stabilize the stock by drawing $150,000 from the Sinking Fund (established for paying off the national debt) and by persuading the Bank of New York’s cashier William Seton to buy $150,000 in government securities, which stabilized the market. About $5 million was lost in New York and about $1 million each in Philadelphia and Boston. The SEUM experiment failed when the speculative bubble inflated by Duer, Alexander Macomb, and two dozen other New York investors collapsed in the financial panic of March. Macomb and Duer had made a secret partnership for the year 1792, and Macomb and Melancton Smith had organized the Million Bank in January. Duer was imprisoned for huge debts and died in jail in 1799. Macomb was arrested on April 12, and even Robert Morris was put in a Philadelphia prison for debtors.
Hamilton sent an explanation to reassure the American minister in Holland, William Short, who had negotiated a loan from the Dutch. Hamilton’s plan had unified the governments’ debt at the federal level, strengthening the federal government and preventing conflicts and uncertainty. Overall the war debt was being managed, and the economy was improving; the federal government had done much to create the financial stability that had been lacking under the weak Confederation.
Congress tried to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives by having one representative for every 30,000 people instead of for 40,000, and they passed the bill in March 1792; but the Virginians Jefferson, Randolph, and Madison persuaded President Washington to veto a bill on constitutional grounds for the first time on April 5. That spring Jefferson submitted to Washington a detailed criticism of Hamilton’s policies without mentioning his name. He also spoke personally to the President about his concern that funding the national debt and the assumption of debts were corrupting legislation and could destroy republican government.
The US Bank declined to loan money to southern planters using tobacco warehouse receipts as security. Eight state banks were founded in 1792, and 32 had been established by 1801. The Bank of the United States regulated them by requiring them to redeem their notes and checks with hard money. Congress authorized the mint in the spring of 1792, and it began producing gold and silver coins. The silver American “eagles” fled to England while unminted silver and gold escaped to India and China.
The struggle between the Republicans led by Jefferson and Madison and the Federalists led by Hamilton was expressed through a newspaper war that heated up in 1792 while President Washington tried to reconcile the emerging parties. On January 12 Freneau began castigating Hamilton regularly in the National Gazette. That month Madison wrote an article arguing that parties could not be avoided and could help work out conflicts and be another check on power. On March 5 Hamilton made his report to the House defending the excise taxes. Freneau began publishing letters by “Brutus” on March 15 criticizing Hamilton’s scheme for national manufacturing, and in April the first of nine articles by “Sidney” appeared objecting to the excise taxes.
Hamilton did not begin fighting back until July 25 when he published in the Gazette of the United States a paragraph signed “T.L.” accusing Freneau of using his government salary to run his National Gazette. Then Hamilton answered Jefferson’s criticisms of his financial policies in a long essay in August. The conflict had become one between Federalists who were financiers and merchants in the northern states who liked the British system and the Republicans who were farmers and artisans in the southern and middle states who admired the French Revolution. Jefferson believed the debt led to corruption and wanted it paid off as soon as possible while Hamilton wanted to use it to stimulate the economy. Jefferson believed that limited government was best, but Hamilton favored a broader interpretation of the implied powers of government in the Constitution.
The South grew staple crops for market, and tobacco, not being perishable, could be distributed to Europe without processing. Yet planters including Washington in the Upper South were turning to wheat and other foods because tobacco depleted the soil. In the Lower South rice and indigo for dying cloth continued to be staples. Cotton had not yet become a major crop, but Georgians had obtained seeds of the rot-resistant, long-staple black-seed cotton from the Bahamas since 1786. The South had more than 90% of the African slaves in the United States, and they were nearly 60% of South Carolina’s population, 40% of Virginians, and 30% in Maryland and North Carolina. Concerned about the slave revolt in Haiti, South Carolina banned the importation of slaves in 1792 for two years, but many were brought in illegally. Republicans appealed to the common people and the growing middle class and religious and ethnic minorities who wanted equality. They accused the Federalists of admiring British monarchy and of using their wealth and power to exploit others. The Federalists were afraid that popular radicalism stimulated by the French Revolution would challenge government and lead to anarchy. The Republicans opposed the concentration of power in government and the wealthy who used standing armies and debt to control people.
After a trip home to Mount Vernon, Washington wrote a letter to Hamilton on July 29 listing 21 grievances about their administration he had heard. Hamilton responded by urging Washington to run for a second term. He wanted to retire after his first term, but he was persuaded to run once more to help keep the nation from being divided. Jefferson also wanted to retire at the end of the term in March 1793, but he stayed to the end of the year. In September the French revolutionaries had stopped the Austrian and Prussian invasion of France at Valmy and had declared France a republic. American republicans were delighted that their revolution was also taking hold in Europe. Opposition to the excise tax on alcohol aroused strong opposition in the west that intimidated tax collectors and anyone who helped them. On September 15 President Washington issued a proclamation warning that violators of the law would be brought to justice. Madison’s essay “A Candid State of Parties” appeared in the National Gazette on September 26, and he described the emerging parties as representing the different opinions in Congress.
In the 1792 elections the incumbent Governor Clinton of New York barely defeated John Jay who was supported by Hamilton. Candidates did not run under party names, but Jefferson believed that his allies and friends had won a majority in the Congress. The Electoral College voted unanimously for Washington again, and for vice president Adams defeated Clinton 77-50. On November 6 Washington gave his state of the union address, noting that they had received three loans for three million florins each, two from Amsterdam and one from Antwerp. That month Hamilton calculated that 1792 revenues would be about $4.3 million. In December the Representative William Branch Giles of Virginia challenged Hamilton’s bill to borrow money for payment of the French debt in order to finance the government’s 20% share of the US Bank’s stock, and on January 23 his nine resolutions proposed an investigation of the Treasury Department. Hamilton made reasonable and detailed responses to the charges, and they were all voted down in the House on March 1.
On March 4, 1793 George Washington and John Adams were inaugurated for their second terms as President and Vice President. In April the German Republican Society formed in Philadelphia to watch elected officials, and a few weeks later the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania was organized by Benjamin Franklin Bache and others. Also in April news had arrived that the French had executed King Louis XVI for treason and on February 1 had declared war on England, Holland, and Spain. The Girondists were in power and sent Citizen Edmond Charles Genet as their minister to the United States. Blaming bad winds, his ship landed at Charleston on April 8. Citing the treaty of 1778 allying France and the United States, he began by fitting out four privateers with mostly American crews to attack British shipping. Genet persuaded the French naturalist André Michaux to give up his planned expedition to travel across the continent to the Pacific Ocean that had been supported by the American Philosophical Society and Jefferson. Instead he urged him to join George Rogers Clark and Benjamin Logan in Kentucky to recruit forces and attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana. The now alcoholic Clark was hired as Genet gave commissions in the Armée du Mississippi and the Armée des Florides; but Spanish agents in Philadelphia warned President Washington, and Senator William Blount of Kentucky gave up his effort to work for England and scotched Clark’s expedition.
Genet traveled by land to Philadelphia and was welcomed by enthusiastic crowds who supported the Republicans and favored the French Revolution over the British. He reached Philadelphia on May 16 and was invited to banquets. Genet wanted to negotiate a new treaty with the United States, and he at least insisted on fulfilling the previous one. He asked the United States to pay off its $5.6 million debt to France as soon as possible.
When Washington learned that France was at war, he left Mount Vernon and returned to Philadelphia on April 17. He submitted thirteen questions to his four cabinet officers, and on the 19th they all agreed to make a proclamation forbidding American citizens from participating in the hostilities on the seas or against belligerent powers that was issued with the President’s signature on April 22 and which stated,
The duty and interest of the United States require,
that they should with sincerity and good faith
adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial
towards the belligerent powers.6
They also agreed that they should receive a minister from France. Genet helped organize the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in May, the first of more than forty such voluntary organizations that sprang up around the country. The President treated Genet coolly on May 18, and four days later Genet gave a letter to Secretary of State Jefferson with France’s requests. The next day he enclosed a decree of February 19 showing that France had opened the West Indies to American trade.
Jefferson advised Genet and informed him that any new treaty would have to be confirmed by the Senate which was not in session. On June 5 Jefferson told him that every nation had the right to prohibit the arming of privateers or the recruiting of its citizens, and six days later Genet learned that the United States would maintain the schedule for paying the French debt. The young Genet wrote three letters to Jefferson which were received on the same day. He complained that Philadelphia authorities had stopped the sale of prizes taken by a French privateer and that another privateer had been detained in New York.
On June 17 Jefferson sent Genet an explanation of neutrality, international law, the 1778 treaties, and the position of the American government which would not interfere with civil suits over control of a prize. Two days later he made it clear that the United States would not issue assignments on the debt for the payment of supplies. On the 22nd Genet expressed his anger in a letter; but Washington had left for Mount Vernon. The French minister would be given no reply until he returned on July 11.
Jefferson realized that the Republicans should support the policy of neutrality to keep themselves in the right. He visited Genet and said the Little Sarah would be detained. When Washington returned, he learned that Genet was promoting the sailing of the Little Sarah which he had renamed the Petite Démocrate. If the United States protested, he even threatened to appeal to the people. On July 12 Washington and his cabinet decided to ask France to recall this minister, and their minister Gouverneur Morris was recalled from France. Washington asked for the opinions of the Supreme Court justices about Genet’s activities. The American citizens Henfield and Singletary were arrested for serving on a French privateer in Charleston. During this crisis Madison argued that the President did not have the authority to proclaim neutrality while Hamilton writing seven newspaper essays as “Pacificus” believed that he did. The position of the United States was that the defensive alliance with France did not apply because the French had started an offensive war.
The Federalists had held meetings in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia where they condemned Genet and defended the President in resolutions. The English reacted on June 8, 1793 by ordering neutral ships going to France detained and purchased, and on November 6 they began seizing any vessel trading with the French West Indies; but the British foreign ministry modified the latter on January 8, 1794, and the American minister Thomas Pinckney wrote to Washington that the British foreign secretary William Grenville wanted to be “on good terms” with the United States.
Jefferson warned Washington against declaring war on the Republican party because it would change him from being head of the nation to head of a party. Washington met with him on August 6 and agreed not to make the Genet affair a public issue. Two days later Chief Justice Jay informed the President that the Supreme Court would not offer an advisory opinion on the 29 questions Washington had submitted on July 18 about treaties and the French seizure of ships in American waters because the Constitution set up the legislative, executive, and judiciary as three independent branches of government; they declined to comment unless it was a legal case before them. Washington’s cabinet then issued rules prohibiting belligerents from arming privateers or bringing captured prizes in American waters which were defined as three miles from the coast, though Jefferson had recommended twenty miles. During the excitement over the French Revolution and the visit by Genet the Republicans in the South and Middle states formed several Democratic-Republican Societies and emulated French ways they admired. Jefferson persuaded Madison to take on Hamilton by writing his “Letters to Helvidius” in August and September. In the first five he argued that the presidential proclamation had violated Congress’s power to declare war.
An epidemic of yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia in August. Dr. Benjamin Rush diagnosed that it was yellow fever on the 19th. Although he noted that mosquitoes were bad that month, he said it was caused by rotten coffee imported from the West Indies. He saw hundreds of patients; but his purges and bleeding treatments resulted in many deaths, and he was severely criticized. Hamilton’s friend Ned Stevens advised patients to eat and drink liquids and use peppermint oils to avoid vomiting. Until cold weather killed off the mosquitoes in October, the disease took 4,000 lives in Philadelphia and spread in the other big cities of New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Charleston. Philadelphia newspapers stopped publishing except for Freneau’s National Gazette which had dwindling readers and closed after October 23.
Jefferson influenced Washington’s special message to Congress on foreign affairs sent on December 5. On the 16th Jefferson submitted to Congress his “Report on the Privileges and Restrictions on the Commerce of the United States in Foreign Countries.” He challenged Sheffield’s 1783 Observations on the Commerce of the American States and the Hawkesbury Report, arguing that the British Navigation Law had robbed Americans and that only the threat of retaliation would get the British to give up their advantageous system. Jefferson’s resignation went into effect at the end of 1793, and he retired at Monticello. Hamilton and Knox also wanted to resign, but Washington persuaded them to stay on for another year. The President made Randolph Secretary of State and appointed William Bradford of Pennsylvania Attorney General. Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law forcing judges to return runaway slaves to their masters wherever they were caught.
Exhilarated by the American and French revolutions, Jefferson came to believe that changes in debts, laws, and constitutions were needed every generation, estimated to be nineteen years by the French naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, the Comte de Buffon. Jefferson believed that his republican sentiments were shared by 99 out of 100 citizens.
On January 3, 1794 Madison presented a series of commercial resolutions based on Jefferson’s proposed remedies calling for duties on British ships and merchandise. American exports were increasing while imports from British ships were decreasing sharply and would continue to do so through 1796. The Federalist William L. Smith of South Carolina, coached by Hamilton, opposed Madison’s resolutions in the House. Fisher Ames argued that since American trade was improving, Madison was proposing unnecessary self-denial.
The new French minister Jean Fauchet arrived in Philadelphia on February 21. Robespierre’s Jacobins had taken power in France, and he ordered Genet arrested. President Washington offered him asylum, and he remained in the United States as a private citizen until his death. Genet recalled the commissions he gave to Clark and others, reducing the chance of war with Spain.
In 1794 the British had 1,000 soldiers stationed in United States territory. The British navy did not respect American neutrality and seized 130 of their ships at the island of St. Eustacia. Quebec’s Governor Guy Carleton (called Lord Dorchester) had made a speech on February 10 urging Indians to help the British redraw the border. That month the British captured Martinique and every American ship in the harbor, putting 250 sailors in a prison ship. On March 4 they funded repairing fortifications in all sea-coast ports. On the 7th news arrived of a British Order in Council issued on November 6 which imposed a blockade on the French West Indies and had been kept secret until late December. The British had seized more than 250 unsuspecting American ships, confiscating 150 already. Although the Federalists controlled the Senate, they passed the embargo resolution against British ships on March 26. The next day Washington signed the bill authorizing $688,889 for the building of six frigates, the beginning of the United States Navy, and on the 29th the President proclaimed a 30-day embargo.
On April 3 a message arrived from Thomas Pinckney, the American minister to Britain, that foreign minister Grenville was being conciliatory. On April 16 the President appointed Chief Justice John Jay as Envoy Extraordinary to Britain, and the Senate confirmed him three days later. Republicans reacted angrily, and Democratic Societies burned Jay in effigy in many towns. Madison proposed an amendment to suspend trade with the British, and it passed the House 58-38; but on April 28 Vice President Adams broke the tie in the Senate by voting against that. The embargo was discontinued by general agreement on May 12.
In May hundreds of artisans and tradesmen in Philadelphia protested the excise taxes on snuff (powdered tobacco), refined sugar, and carriages. Fauchet had asked Washington to recall Gouverneur Morris from France, and on May 27 the President nominated the Republican James Monroe to replace him. William Short was transferred from The Hague to be minister to Spain, and the Vice President’s son John Quincy Adams was confirmed as minister to the Netherlands. The United States had started a navy, and the Senate confirmed the first six captains on June 3. On August 15 Monroe made an admiring speech to the French Convention. He also urged the United States to loan France $5,000,000 and advocated military action against the British while Jay was trying to negotiate with Grenville in England. In an unusual step that made the President seem more partisan, Washington criticized the populist “self-created societies” in his annual message to Congress in November. Yet the Genet affair and events in France had dampened the enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and the Democratic Societies faded away.
Alexander Chisholm in South Carolina had tried to sue the state of Georgia on behalf of the estate of Robert Farquhar who had sold Georgia £64,000 worth of goods during the Revolution. Georgia denied jurisdiction, but the US Supreme Court in 1793 decided 4-1 for the plaintiff, upholding the right of citizens to sue another state in federal court. On March 4, 1794 the Congress proposed the following amendment to the Constitution:
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed
to extend to any suit in law or equity,
commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States
by Citizens of another State,
or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
After it was ratified by twelve states the 11th amendment went into effect on February 7, 1795.
James Hewitt came from England to the United States and in 1794 composed the ballad opera Tammany; or the Indian Chief which portrayed Indians as noble warriors and was performed in New York City by the Tammany Society that had been founded in 1786. Thomas Paine had published the first part of his Age of Reason in 1794, and it was published in eight American editions that year and seven more in 1795. Some Christian preachers objected to his challenges of organized religion and turned against supporters of the French Revolution such as Jefferson and Republicans. By 1795 the Democratic-Republican Societies formed in the previous two years had stopped meeting.
In March 1791 the United States enacted its first domestic excise tax on “distilled spirits” which was about one-quarter of the net price of a gallon of whiskey. On imports the tax ranged from 25 cents a gallon to 40 cents depending on the alcohol content, and domestic liquors were charged from 9 to 25 cents. This tax especially affected farmers in the west who gained much of their income from wheat and corn which they could not transport to markets as easily as they could the whiskey from stills. The excise tax was to go into effect on August 1, and farmers in western Pennsylvania met at Redstone Old Fort on July 27 to plan their resistance. They met again in two more conventions.
Robert Johnson was appointed to collect the revenue in Washington and Allegheny counties in western Pennsylvania, and in early September in a forest at Pigeon Creek he was captured by a gang wearing dresses as disguises who took his horse, stripped him naked, and covered his body with hot tar and feathers. He was released and identified three men to the sheriff who was too intimidated to arrest them. He also gave the name of Daniel Hamilton to the federal government in his complaint.
Another man claiming he was a tax collector got similar treatment. After that, little effort was made to collect the tax. President Washington could not find anyone in Kentucky to enforce United States law. A conference met for three days in Pittsburgh, and they worked on a petition objecting to the whiskey tax. General John Neville was put in charge of collection in the four westernmost counties of Pennsylvania for a salary of $400 a year and one percent of what he and his deputies could collect.
Congress revised the excise tax on May 8, 1792 to remove the distinction between producers in cities or the country. Treasury Secretary Hamilton wanted effective enforcement, and a central excise office was to be established in each county where distillers must register all stills. Failure to register could mean forfeiting the still and paying a fine raised to $250. The four counties around the forks at Pittsburgh organized the Mingo Creek Association and planned their own enforcement to prevent collection of the tax. When Captain William Faulkner offered to rent Neville a room for his office in the town of Washington, he was warned and shunned. About forty delegates met at a convention in Pittsburgh in late August, and the prominent Albert Gallatin signed their resolutions. Two days later thirty armed men visited Faulkner’s house while he was gone and broke things.
George Clymer was sent to Pittsburgh as the federal revenue inspector for all of Pennsylvania, but though thin he introduced himself as Henry Knox who was known to be fat. Clymer asked for protection at Fort Fayette. He asked the district judge Alexander Addison to take depositions, but he would not let a federal official dictate to a state court. Deputy collector Benjamin Wells wanted the money; but his house was attacked by disguised gangs, and in November he agreed to publish his resignation in the Pittsburgh Gazette. In 1793 he traveled to Philadelphia three times to report to the departments of Justice and Treasury. Tom the Tinker became a leader, and the gangs called themselves Tom the Tinker’s Men. In emulation of the revolution they met by liberty poles.
On February 24, 1794 Washington signed a proclamation offering a reward of $200 for apprehending persons who had violently entered the office of the revenue collector. However, Congress ended the requirement that farmers charged had to go to Philadelphia for trial. In April the Democratic Society of Washington County sent a petition to President Washington. William Rawle, the US attorney for Pennsylvania, was building a file on the Mingo Creek Association. Hamilton and Attorney General William Bradford planned a strategy to enforce the law, not charging those who agreed to register a still; but Rawle got some warrants on May 31 before the more lenient law went into effect on June 5. The rebels reacted by shutting down all tax offices, and they punished civilian collaborators as well as officials.
US Marshal David Lenox went from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. When Lenox and Neville visited William Miller’s farm, Miller refused to accept the writ. A posse of vigilantes followed them; but Neville fled to Bower Hill while Lenox returned to Pittsburgh. The Mingo Creek Association elected John Holcroft to lead armed men and capture the marshal. Thirty-seven men with muskets went to Bower Hill where Neville’s men mortally wounded Miller’s nephew. Holcroft’s men fired at the building and had six men wounded by return fire.
On July 15 Marshal Lenox started trying to serve more than sixty writs on tax evaders to appear in a Philadelphia courthouse. Two days later about 600 men assembled at Couch’s Fort voted to attack Bower Hill even though the US Army was going to defend it. They demanded that the marshal turn over his writs and that Neville resign as excise inspector. Neville and a few soldiers defended his home, and the rebels set buildings on fire. Seeing a white flag, James McFarlane told his men to stop firing, and he was shot dead. Inside Major Kirkpatrick surrendered. The militia let his soldiers go and held Kirkpatrick hostage. Then they burned down the Bower Hill plantation. After a negotiation Lenox agreed not to serve any more writs in the west and surrendered. After four men warned the inhabitants of Pittsburgh that every house would be burned down if they did not support the resistance, 7,000 people gathered on Braddock’s Field.
A congress was held at Parkinson’s Ferry on August 14 with 226 delegates from five Pennsylvania counties and Ohio County in Virginia with 250 armed men in the gallery. They demanded the excise tax be repealed and talked about redistribution of wealth. The next day representatives of President Washington sent them a message asking for a negotiation. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson had authorized him to invoke the Militia Act on August 4, but Pennsylvania’s Governor Thomas Mifflin objected to calling out the state militia and doubted they would come. The next day Hamilton gave Washington a report justifying military action. Secretary of War Knox agreed they needed at least 12,000 men.
However, the Federalist Attorney General Bradford agreed with Randolph that they should negotiate first. On August 6 Washington assigned Bradford to lead a Presidential Commission to negotiate with the rebels. They left the next day, and Knox ordered the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia to call out 13,000 militiamen on September 1. Knox got permission to go to Maine to look into his land investments there, and Hamilton became acting Secretary of War. Bradford wrote advising no delay in sending troops. After a long war council on August 24 Hamilton began planning to send 15,000 men, and Virginia’s Governor Henry Lee III was to command under Washington. Hamilton also wrote newspaper articles as “Tully” to explain the need for military action.
The Commission began negotiating with the moderate Hugh Henry Brackenridge in Pittsburgh, offering not to begin prosecuting anyone for treason until July 1795. If laws were obeyed by then, they would pardon any crimes not yet indicted. Brackenridge in 1781 had helped start the Pittsburgh Gazette, the first newspaper on the western frontier. In 1786 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly and the next year obtained state funding to found the Pittsburgh Academy which eventually became the University of Pittsburgh. His satirical novel Modern Chivalry about life in the west was published in four volumes 1792-97. Influenced by Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Captain Farrago travels around with his Irish bond-servant Teague O’Regan who tries to be a politician, a scientist, a minister, a husband, a comedian, a tax collector, and a newspaper editor; but from lack of education and experience, he fails in these, and Farrago persuades him to give them up. Brackenridge criticized speculators who tried to profit by manipulation, and he warned that a free society cannot be preserved when the love of money is encouraged. The virtues of a republic are self-denial, humility, and justice. Brackenridge also wrote the account of the Whiskey Rebellion Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania in the Year 1794. He became a judge in 1799 and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1801. On August 23, 1794 the committee of moderates agreed to present the President’s terms to a committee of sixty which five days later voted 34-23 to submit, and Brackenridge got a hundred copies of the committee’s report printed.
Washington ordered the militia to report on September 9. A referendum was set for September 11, and males over eighteen had to take an oath of submission to federal law by that date to gain amnesty. In Maryland the governor called out 700 men to defeat 90 rebels who had seized the armory at Frederick’s Town; but in Hagerstown the militia drove the officers out of town, and they put up a second liberty pole after the first was torn down. On September 25 the President’s final proclamation threatened the use of force, and on the 30th Washington and Hamilton left Philadelphia to join the army at Carlisle.
Washington was in Carlisle by October 9 and began sending out troops the next day. On the 18th he paraded 3,000 soldiers in Bedford. Hamilton ordered Henry Lee to take command on the 20th, and the next day Washington left to go east. Hamilton ordered quartermasters to seize civilian property. Arrests already had begun with the radical evangelist Herman Husband, and about 150 had been arrested by November 17. Only twenty prisoners were in the first group that marched to Philadelphia where they paraded before 20,000 citizens. Twelve cases went to trial in 1795; but only two were convicted of treason, and Washington pardoned them. The town of Washington was occupied by 1,500 soldiers. Lee ordered a general pardon. Loyalty oaths were made, and stills were registered. Overt opposition to the whiskey tax had ended, but many managed to elude the tax in various ways. In 1801 President Jefferson appointed Albert Gallatin Secretary of the Treasury, and the whiskey tax was repealed.
At the end of 1794 President Washington accepted the resignation of Secretary of War Knox, and he moved the Postmaster Timothy Pickering to that position. In four years Pickering had implemented the expansion of post offices from 89 to 450. By January 9, 1795 the Senate had ratified treaties with the Cherokees and the Iroquois nations. Because there were so many political refugees coming to America, Congress required five years of residence before a person could be naturalized as a citizen. Hamilton left the cabinet on January 31 to return to his law practice in New York, and his able assistant Oliver Wolcott Jr. succeeded him at the Treasury.
Washington promoted canals of the James and Potomac rivers. When he learned that the value of his land had increased by $32,000, he promised the money for a national university in Virginia. His gift of $20,000 in James River Canal shares went to Liberty Hall Academy which was renamed Washington Academy, and after the Civil War became Washington and Lee University.
John Jay had reached London on June 15, 1794 and on July 15 he wrote to Washington that Lt. Col. John Simcoe had been ordered to leave Ohio. By August 1 the British had promised justice in regard to the American ships they had captured. Grenville learned from a dispatch in September from George Hammond, the British minister to the United States, that Hamilton had assured him that the Americans would not join the League of Armed Neutrality. Knowing this enabled Grenville to gain better terms from Jay. On November 19 Jay and Grenville agreed on a treaty, but the first two copies were captured by the French at sea, and the third did not reach the President until March 7, 1795. Financial claims on US war debts and British compensation for the ships were to be decided by two joint commissions, but there was to be no compensation paid for slaves taken away during the Revolutionary War. Canadian traders were allowed to operate south of the border, and furs brought back were not taxed differently.
On March 25 the House of Representatives voted 62-37 to demand all the treaty papers, but Washington refused. After a month of debate the House majority switched from Madison to the President. Four French spies were traveling around the west opposing the treaty, and on May 25 Washington directed Secretary of War James McHenry to give the names of two to General Wayne. On June 8 President Washington gave the documents to the Senate. They quickly rejected Jay’s Treaty but then on June 24 approved it without the clause prohibiting molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa, or cotton from leaving the United States in American ships. Jay and the government had kept the terms of the treaty secret from the newspapers and the general public. The Jeffersonian press criticized the treaty, and Benjamin F. Bache’s Aurora in June objected to the people being kept in the dark. Finally Senator Pierce Butler of South Carolina leaked a copy of the treaty to Madison who sent it to be printed by Bache as a pamphlet on July 1.
Jay returned to New York and learned that the state had elected him Governor. He resigned as Chief Justice on June 28, and Washington nominated John Rutledge while the Senate was in recess, making him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the 30th. On July 16 Rutledge made a speech at a meeting in Charleston vehemently attacking Jay and the treaty that was published in at least thirteen newspapers. When the Senate reconvened in December, they rejected his nomination. On July 18 Hamilton tried to speak in favor of the treaty in front of New York’s city hall, but he was pelted with stones and fled. Two days later treaty opponents rallied in Philadelphia. Republican newspapers reported there were 5,000 people, but the Federalists estimated only 1,500. Robert R. Livingston of New York had been criticizing the treaty as “Cato,” and on July 22 Hamilton published the first of 38 essays, including some by Rufus King, defending the treaty using the name “Camillus.” They objected to public meetings that passed resolutions condemning the treaty without discussing its provisions. They argued that the treaty would be good for the United States, that it does not violate other treaties, and that not ratifying it could lead to war against England.
Eli Whitney graduated from Yale University in 1792 and invented an inexpensive and more practical version of the roller cotton engine by spring 1793 that could produce fifty pounds of clean cotton in one day compared to one pound by hand. In March 1794 he was given a patent on his “cotton gin” as it was called, and American exports of cotton went from 6 million pounds in 1796 to 41 million in 1801. Whitney learned how to standardize parts and make them interchangeable by having them made by machines. By 1796 all but 7% of the Anglo-American carrying trade would be in American ships.
Pickering made a treaty with the sachems and war chiefs of all the tribes northwest of the Ohio in August. Hamilton favored it, but Secretary of State Randolph objected to the order for capturing provisions. However, on August 18 Washington and Randolph signed the treaty. The next day Washington showed Randolph a letter from Fauchet stating that Randolph had given him valuable information. The British had captured Fauchet’s dispatches at sea and turned them over to the American government in July to influence the treaty debate. Pickering called Randolph a traitor, and he resigned. Attorney General Bradford died four days later. War Secretary Pickering handled the State Department during the transition. On September 20 General Wayne reported that the British forts at Michilimackinac, Niagara, and Oswego had been politely transferred to the Americans. Republicans continued to oppose the treaty with Britain, and on October 23 Bache’s Aurora of Philadelphia accused Washington of overdrawing his salary and suggested he be impeached. On November 29 Washington met with warriors from the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, Ottawas, Chippewas, Potawatomies, Miamis, Weeas, Kickapoos, Piankashaws, and the Kaskaskias.
In the 1795 Supreme Court case Van Horne’s Lessee v. Dorrance over a territorial conflict between the states of Connecticut and Pennsylvania Justice Paterson argued that because of the social compact of the Constitution the government could not take property away from someone without giving compensation. In January 1796 James McHenry was confirmed as secretary of War, and Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut became Chief Justice and Samuel Chase of Maryland an Associate Justice. British creditors brought litigation to collect debts from Americans, and an appeal reached the Supreme Court in Ware v. Hylton. The court upheld the treaty as the supreme law that made the government responsible for its obligations. In Hylton v. United States on March 8, 1796 the court defended the federal government’s authority to impose an indirect tax on carriages. That summer the Supreme Court heard a case involving the French privateer La Vengeance asserting its admiralty jurisdiction beyond the limits of common law. In this case rather than each justice giving his opinion in turn, for the first time Chief Justice Ellsworth delivered the opinion for the majority, and Justice Chase dissented.
On August 19 President Washington released his “Address to the Cherokee Nation” advising them to give up the traditional hunting and gathering for the farming and ranching of civilization. The women could spin and weave. Washington himself was going to be retiring to his farm to take care of his corn, wheat, and other grain and his cattle, sheep, and other useful animals.
On October 27, 1795 Thomas Pinckney had signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo el Real with Spain, giving the United States large territory that would become Alabama and Mississippi north of the 31st parallel, navigation rights on the Mississippi River, and a trading post in New Orleans. In the recent treaties about 600,000 square miles had been added to the territory of the United States. The Jay-Grenville Treaty had been signed by George III, and Washington proclaimed it going into effect on March 1. Two days later the Senate approved the treaty with Spain. On March 7 Washington proclaimed a treaty that had been made with the Dey Hassan Pasha of Algiers on September 5, 1795. To prevent the Barbary pirates from attacking American ships the United States paid him a $642,000 ransom and promised him $21,600 a year worth of gunpowder, shot, oak planking, pine masts, and other supplies. The Senate ratified the treaty without objections.
Republicans in the House of Representatives in March opposed to the Jay Treaty tried to prevent funding its implementation. They voted 61-38 for the President to turn over all papers related to the treaty. The documents had already been submitted to the Senate which made them available to the House. Washington, because of separation of powers, refused to comply with their request. The French minister Pierre Adet urged opposition to the treaty and even sent General Victor Collot to explore how the French could conquer Louisiana with possible help from western American states he hoped would secede. The Federalist Fisher Ames spoke eloquently for the treaty in the House on April 28. The next day the Pennsylvania Republican Frederick Muhlenberg, chairman of the House Committee of the Whole, broke a tie vote to get the issue out of committee, and later his brother-in-law, a fanatical Republican, slashed him with a knife. Finally on May 1 the House in a sectional vote of 51-48 funded the treaty. By 1796 the United States had a standing army of about 3,000 men.
Washington had consulted with Madison, Hamilton, and Jay on his “Farewell Address” and published it on September 19. He recognized interest and emphasized duty, and he warned against permanent alliances. The speech had originated with advice from Madison in 1792 when Washington was hoping to retire before he was persuaded to serve for a second term. By retiring rather than dying in office, he set an important precedent that a republic could change its head by election rather than by death. He mentioned the treaties with Britain and Spain that had improved foreign relations. Washington also wrote about republican government.
Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws,
acquiescence in its measures, are duties
enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people
to make and to alter their constitutions of government.
But the Constitution which at any time exists,
until changed by an explicit
and authentic act of the whole people,
is sacredly obligatory upon all.
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.7
Washington considered virtue or morality as necessary for popular government, and therefore he recommended promoting institutions of learning and the diffusion of knowledge. As democratic government depends on public opinion, those opinions should be enlightened. In foreign relations he urged “good faith and justice toward all nations,” cultivating peace and harmony with all. Although he favored extending commercial relations, he advised having as little political connection as possible. They should “steer clear of permanent alliances,” and he accepted that “honesty is always the best policy” in public as well as in private affairs.
France’s minister Adet in November published diplomatic notes to try to persuade Americans to elect Jefferson president. Washington allowed Secretary of State Pickering to answer his claims in the newspapers, though Hamilton disagreed with this strategy.
Before the Congressional election the Republicans had a slight majority 58-57 in the House, but after the 1796 voting the Federalists outnumbered them 64-53. In the presidential election John Adams received 71 electoral votes to 68 for Jefferson, making them president and vice president. The Federalist Thomas Pinckney was given 59 votes, the Republican Aaron Burr 30, and the Republican Samuel Adams 15.
In Washington’s state of the union speech on December 7 he described how diplomacy had made peace with the Indians of the northwest, the Creeks and Cherokees in the south, Morocco, Spain, and Britain. Agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing were prospering more than ever before, and the governments based on rational liberty were using “mild and wholesome laws.” Trade by shipping had tripled since Washington became president as American imports per capita had become 60% higher than any other nation. He also called for a national university in the new capital. Samuel Harrison Smith wrote his essay “Remarks on Education” and won a prize in a contest the next year for his ideas on liberal education. He recommended education from age five to eighteen for every male child without exception in a system of primary schools, colleges, and universities promoting literature and science.
In the spring Judith Sargent Murray published her essay “On the Equality of the Sexes” in the Massachusetts Magazine. Her collected essays and plays were published in three volumes as The Gleaner in 1798.
Judith Sargent was born on May 1, 1751 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and her father Winthrop Sargent had brought her up as a Universalist. She was primarily self-taught. She and her family joined the forming Universalist Church in 1777. In 1781 fifteen Universalists refused to pay taxes for the First Parish Church of Gloucester, and she had joined their petition to the Massachusetts Supreme Court that allowed them to support their church and not pay taxes to the First Parish, a judgment that affected many religious groups. In 1782 Judith Sargent Stevens published her Universalist catechism, and she helped the Universalist Church to accept women as ministers. Her husband John Stevens died in 1787, and the next year she married the Universalist preacher John Murray.
In 1790 Judith Sargent Murray published her essay “On the Equality of the Sexes” and explained how women are equally capable of using imagination, reason, memory, and judgment. She also wrote “On the Domestic Education of Children.” She urged the wider education of girls and argued that happiness in America depended on families and their education. In 1792 the Massachusetts General Assembly recognized the charter of the Gloucester Universalist Church, ending the lawsuits against it. That year Judith Sargent Murray began publishing her Gleaner and Repository essays in the Massachusetts Magazine. In 1795 her play The Medium or Virtue Triumphant was performed at the Federal Street Theater in Boston, and the next year they did her play The Traveler Returned. She also had her play Africa performed there in 1808. She published The Gleaner in three volumes in 1798. She is best known for her four-part essay “Observations on Female Abilities” in which she argued that the intellectual and literary abilities of women are equal to men’s. She believed that women could achieve economic independence and all the rights of citizenship. She maintained that educated women make the best mothers and wives.
John Adams was inaugurated as President of the United States on March 4, 1797. In his address he reviewed the independence struggle, the confederation’s “temporary preservation of society” that failed to solve so many problems, and the better adapted Constitution that the “good sense” of the American people produced. Adams praised the Washington administration and warned against sophistry, factional parties, and foreign influence. He promised he would treat American Indians with equity and humanity to help them improve their situations. He expressed his determination to remain at peace with all nations including with France where he had lived for nearly seven years as a diplomat. Federalists such as Noah Webster criticized the speech for being too favorable to France while Bache’s Aurora called Adams a “patriot” for his wisdom and moderation. Adams had supported Washington loyally when he was Vice President and accepted the Federalists he had chosen as heads of the departments.
The new Vice President Thomas Jefferson had not seen Adams for three years; but he called on him a few days before the inauguration, and they discussed negotiations with Paris. Adams wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail that the guilt for an unnecessary war is great. Washington had replaced Monroe in France with the Federalist General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Adams wanted to send Elbridge Gerry and James Madison to join him. Talking after a farewell dinner given by Washington, Jefferson told Adams that Madison had retired from Congress and declined to go to France. Adams on his part informed his rival that objections had been raised to choosing Madison anyway. Jefferson felt the break and later wrote that Adams never consulted him on any government policy after that.
On March 13 news arrived that the French had refused to accept Pinckney, who had been forced to leave Paris. Also the French were seizing American ships in the Caribbean as the Directory had proclaimed an undeclared war on American shipping on March 2. President Adams on the 25th summoned Congress for a special session on May 15. To counter the Republican Bache’s Aurora newspaper, William Cobbett was writing as “Peter Porcupine” in Porcupine’s Gazette. Headlines in that paper warned that war with France was “inevitable” and that the United States should form an alliance with Britain, an idea hated by the Jeffersonian Republicans. Part of Jefferson’s letter to Philip Mazzei in April 1796 criticizing George Washington was published in English on May 2, 1797 after having been translated from Italian and French. President Adams told the Congress on May 16 that he was determined to maintain Washington’s policy of neutrality, but he would not submit to indignities against American honor. He recommended they take effective measures of defense.
On May 31, 1797 Adams appointed John Marshall, a Federalist from Virginia, and Chief Justice Francis Dana of the Massachusetts Supreme Court to join Pinckney in Paris. A few weeks later Dana declined because of bad health, and he was replaced by the moderate Republican Elbridge Gerry from the same state. That spring the French captured three hundred American ships, and they even tortured a captain to make him say he had British cargo. Washington had urged Adams to appoint his talented son, John Quincy Adams, and he was made minister to Prussia. The Aurora criticized the choice and noted that Washington had never chosen relatives. Jefferson’s rooms at the Francis Hotel became headquarters for the Republican leaders and their opposition to the Federalists. On June 22 Massachusetts passed a state-wide health program to prevent epidemics by using quarantines.
Spanish officers in Louisiana were interfering with the southern border of the United States in violation of the 1795 treaty. On July 3, 1797 Adams sent documents to Congress that included an intercepted letter from Senator William Blount to an Indian interpreter indicating that the British would support him in an expedition against Spaniards in Louisiana and the Floridas. Blount was impeached on July 7, and the next day the Senate expelled him by a vote of 25-1 for treason; but the trial that began in December 1798 was dismissed two months later.
Congress funded the frigates the Constitution, the United States, and the Constellation before adjourning on July 10. Adams left for his home in Quincy, Massachusetts nine days later. Yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia again that summer, and two-thirds of the residents left the city.
James Callender blamed Hamilton for attacks on Monroe’s efforts in Paris, and in early July 1797 he published in his pamphlet History of 1796 documents that exposed Hamilton’s adulterous affair with Mrs. Maria Reynolds they had in 1792. Callender in his Sketches of the History of America accused Hamilton of corrupt financial dealings in order to pay off her husband James Reynolds. On August 25 Hamilton in a pamphlet admitted the affair and paying more than $1,000 in blackmail, and he published his correspondence with Maria; but he denied charges that he had secretly profiteered from government funds. Federalists like John Jay hoped for an independent nation, and he wanted people “Americanized” so that they would not suffer from foreign intrigues. Albert Gallatin & Company helped pioneer profit-sharing by forming a partnership on September 20 that sold stock and enabled employees to own part of the business.
President Adams addressed Congress on November 23 emphasizing the need for naval power to protect their commerce. In early 1798 France made General Napoleon Bonaparte commander of all their forces, and John Quincy Adams reported that he was attacking Egypt.
Matthew Lyon had come to America from Ireland as an indentured servant in 1764, but he worked hard, bought land in Vermont, and founded the town of Fair Haven, building mills, an iron foundry, and a tavern. He served in Vermont’s assembly and in 1793 started the Farmer’s Library newspaper to oppose Hamilton’s financial policies. He was elected to Congress in 1797, and the Federalist William Cobbett in Porcupine’s Gazette reported that he had been convicted of cowardice during the Revolutionary War and was made to wear a wooden sword as a punishment. On January 30, 1798 in a heated debate over foreign policy when the Federalist Roger Griswold of Connecticut insulted the Republican Lyon by advising him to wear his wooden sword, Lyon spat in his face. Sixteen days later Griswold retaliated with a cane, and Lyon grabbed fire tongs. They fought on the floor until they were pulled apart. Adams informed Congress in February that the French privateer Vertitude had attacked a British ship anchored in Charleston harbor. The British were still seizing US ships and impressed hundreds of American sailors. Spain regretted the treaty they had made and balked at fulfilling its terms.
On March 4, 1798 dispatches arrived from Europe with the news that the French had closed all their ports to neutral ships and that they might capture any ship carrying goods from England. The three American envoys to Paris had been given only one brief meeting with the French foreign minister Talleyrand who employed the secret agents Jean Conrad Hottinguer, Pierre Bellamy, and Lucien Hauteval whom the Americans referred to in the dispatches as X, Y, and Z. They said Talleyrand wanted the Americans to pay him $250,000 and loan France $10,000,000 because of the insults in the Adams speech last May. Pinckney, Marshall, and Gerry refused to pay anything. Sweden wanted to renew its treaty with the United States, and Adams nominated his son John Quincy to negotiate as a commissioner. The Senate so far had refused to confirm his nomination as minister to Prussia. On March 10 Hamilton, using the name “Titus Manlius,” published the first of seven articles called “The Stand” in the Commercial Advertiser in which he advocated that the United States greatly expand its army to counter the French threat.
On March 19 Adams informed Congress that the diplomatic mission had failed but gave no details. He revoked Washington’s order that forbade arming American merchant ships, and Jefferson suggested challenging the constitutionality of ordering that without the approval of Congress. The Vice President also urged Congress to adjourn so they could consult their constituents. On March 27 Republicans in Congress proposed a resolution that it was inexpedient to go to war against France, a protest of arming merchant vessels, and measures to protect coastal areas. Republicans suspected that Adams was withholding information favoring the French, and they insisted he show Congress the documents. On April 2 the Republican leader in the House, Albert Gallatin, proposed that the President turn over the dispatches. This passed 65-27 because the Federalists had learned they were damaging to France. The envoys had left France, and Adams released the information the next day. The House went into a secret session; but the Senate printed copies for Congress which were leaked to the public.
The Aurora castigated Adams, and Fenno in the Gazette of the United States fought back against Bache. Congress appropriated funds for harbor fortifications and cannons, and in May they authorized nearly $1 million for nine US warships to capture French privateers. To pay for more ships Congress passed a stamp tax. Gallatin complained about military despotism, but after rejecting an army of 24,000 the Congress established an army of 10,000 men and a Navy Department with twelve ships.
In 1798 two books from Europe on conspiracies by the secret societies of the Freemasons and Illuminati were published in the United States—one by the Scottish scientist John Robison and the other by the French Jesuit Abbé Barruel. In May the Congregational minister Jedidiah Morse gave two sermons in Boston on the Illuminati theory, and on July 4 Yale’s President Timothy Dwight gave a speech in which he warned American youth against becoming disciples of Voltaire, dragoons of Marat, or concubines of the Illuminati. Federalists also targeted Irish immigrants since the Society of United Irishmen had been founded in August 1797.
President Adams proclaimed May 9, 1798 a day of “public humiliation, fasting and prayer throughout the United States;” but Republicans ridiculed the idea, and Jefferson complained about the waste of money. Federalists supporting Britain attacked Republican newspaper editors. Street gangs wore cockades of black for England or tricolor for France. The cavalry had to be called in to break up a fight, but only one person was arrested. Bache’s house had windows broken, and rumors spread that the French were going to burn the city. Adams finally agreed to have a guard posted at the President’s house. He appointed Rufus King to negotiate a treaty with Russia and sent the Federalist William Smith of Maryland to talk to Turks about a treaty. Jefferson considered these provocations to the French. On May 5 he executed the will of the Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko who bequeathed his lands in Ohio to help free Negro slaves. On May 28 Congress authorized a larger army and the use of force against the French at sea, and on June 13 they enacted an embargo against French ships.
On April 12 Adams had learned that Pinckney and Marshall had left Paris, but Gerry remained behind. Marshall returned to Philadelphia on June 17 and assured the President that the French did not want a war with the United States. He explained that Gerry had stayed because Talleyrand had threatened war if he left. On June 26 US Judge Richard Peters issued a warrant for the arrest of Bache on a charge of libel for publishing that the correspondence of Gerry had been altered by the President.
Amid the tumult and fear of war the Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. An estimated 25,000 French had emigrated to the United States, and Philadelphia had several French newspapers. On June 18 Congress passed the Naturalization Act which extended the time required for citizenship from five to fourteen years and required aliens to register with a government agent within 48 hours of their arrival in the United States. Three days later Adams sent a message to Congress that he would not appoint another minister to France until they assured him that he would be respected.
On June 25 the Alien Friends Act authorized the President to expel any foreigner considered dangerous. Federalists in Congress held a war caucus on July 2, and on the 4th of July holiday many people wore black cockades to support them. On the 6th Congress passed the Alien Enemies Act which authorized deporting anyone from a nation currently at war against the United States. Many foreigners left the country before enforcement of these acts began. Secretary of State Pickering advised massive deportations, but Adams never deported anyone. On July 7 Congress abrogated the treaties of 1778 and 1788 with France, and two days later they authorized naval operations on all oceans.
The Sedition Act was passed on July 14 and outlawed “false, scandalous, and malicious” writing against the government or any attempt to excite hatred of Americans. Punishment was up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Only France was named as an enemy country in the law. The law only went into effect during a declared war or imminent danger of invasion, and the Act itself was only to last until March 3, 1801. Republicans considered this a violation of the first amendment to the Constitution, and all those arrested and convicted were Republicans. In disgust Jefferson went home to Monticello. Some blamed Abigail Adams for influencing her husband to approve these laws. In the early 1790s most newspapers had supported the Federalists; but later in the decade the number of newspapers doubled with many more Republican editors after 1797.
On July 2 the House approved the first direct tax on land, and Adams appointed George Washington to command the army. On the 9th news arrived that the Delaware commanded by Stephen Decatur had captured a French privateer. On that day the Evaluation Act became law and was called the “Direct House Tax” which was levied on land, houses (based on the size of windows), and slaves at $.50 per head. The tax was progressive with the tax rate of 1% on a valuable house five times that on a small one. This tax was expected to raise $2,000,000, and Jefferson complained about Virginia’s share. The federal government’s budget had risen to nearly $8 million. In the fall the Federalists angered many by imposing a stamp tax and a salt tax that especially burdened the poor.
In what was called the “Quasi-War” or the “Half-War” Congress abrogated the French treaty of 1778, initiated the Marine Corps, passed the Sedition Act, and approved Washington as commander. Congress adjourned on July 16, and Adams left on the 25th. Already people were dying in the worst epidemic of yellow fever since 1793. Philadelphia lost 3,000 lives including the editors Fenno and Bache.
In France on July 15 Talleyrand told Gerry he wanted peace, and on the 27th he asked the Directory to work for reconciliation with the United States. Four days later they put limits on French privateers in the West Indies. Talleyrand then recalled all judges in the West Indies suspected of illegally confiscating American ships. On August 16 the Directory ended its embargo of American ships.
During the summer of 1798 the state of New York authorized a loan of $200,000 from the Bank of New York for arms and harbor defenses. Yet Hamilton complained when Virginia raised taxes 25% and purchased 5,000 stands of arms. Hamilton had persuaded Washington to make him his second in command, and on September 30 the former president wrote to Secretary of War McHenry suggesting that officers with Republican views be deprived of their commissions. On the same day Adams reluctantly acquiesced to letting Washington have his way which is what McHenry and Pickering also wanted. The standing army had been increased from 3,500 to 12,000 men with a reserve of 20,000 more men.
Gerry returned from France, and on October 4 he told Adams that the French and Talleyrand wanted peace. The Philadelphia Quaker George Logan had gone to Paris on his own and left Paris on August 29 with a message of peace. The revolutionary Francisco de Miranda of Venezuela wanted to liberate Spanish America, and Hamilton favored his proposal to cooperate with the English on an expedition; but on October 3 Adams rejected the foolish scheme. Logan returned to Philadelphia persuaded that France wanted peace. Washington was in the capital and dismissed him curtly on November 13, but Adams listened to him courteously on the 26th, the day after the President returned to Philadelphia.
Congressman Lyon began publishing The Scourge Of Aristocracy and Repository of Important Political Truth on October 1, 1798 and severely criticized President Adams. He was charged with sedition and challenged the constitutionality of the act, but Judge William Patterson disagreed and sentence him to four months in prison and a fine of $1,000. He became a Republican martyr and while in jail was re-elected, and money was raised to pay his fine. Ten of the fifteen charged with sedition were convicted, but no Federalist was charged for maligning Republicans. In the elections Federalists increased their majority in the House of Representatives from 57-49 to 60-46, winning 5 of 6 seats in South Carolina and 5 of 10 in North Carolina.
Federalists were still demanding a declaration of war against France while Republicans pleaded for peace. Washington and Hamilton came to Philadelphia to work on organizing the military. On December 8 President Adams gave his second annual message to Congress in which he recommended a strong defense to keep the country safe. He said that Spain had begun evacuating its border posts, and a commission had fixed the boundary between the United States and Canada at the Scoodiac River and was working on the claims regarding captured American ships. He asked the French to assure them that any American mission to Paris would be properly received. Both the Republicans and the High Federalists criticized the speech which showed that he was preparing military defense but was not asking for a declaration of war. Adams met with Gerry, War Secretary McHenry, and the Navy Secretary Benjamin Stoddert, and they decided to assign four squadrons with twenty ships to the Caribbean. In 1798 the budget for the Navy was $1.4 million. Adams had dinner with Joseph Bunel, who represented Toussaint L’Ouverture and the slave revolution in Haiti, and he asked Congress to recognize them.
After spending six months at Monticello, Jefferson returned to Philadelphia on Christmas Day. He wrote resolutions which declared the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional and void and gave his proposal to Wilson Cary Nicholas to present to the North Carolina legislature. Nicholas gave them in September to John Breckinridge of Kentucky instead. The eighth resolution called for states to nullify any federal law that was unconstitutional; but this resolution was moderated to a request for repeal by Breckinridge before they were passed and signed on November 16 by Kentucky’s Governor James Garrard who ordered a thousand copies to be printed and sent to the governors and members of Congress. On December 6 citizens from Dinwiddie County published in the Richmond Examiner similar arguments in opposition to standing armies, great naval armament, alliances, increasing the national debt, the Alien Act, and the Sedition Act. Madison wrote the more moderate Virginia Resolutions which were introduced by John Taylor of Caroline and enacted on December 24. Madison was elected to the Virginia legislature again in 1799. Liberty poles became popular in Pennsylvania. Yet no other state voted for these resolutions, and the legislatures in the nine northern states voted to reject them.
Citizens were sending petitions to President Adams complaining about a law creating a standing army, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the stamp tax, the direct tax on property, and more revenue officers. On January 15, 1799 Adams directed Pickering to draft a treaty for negotiation with France. Jefferson in a letter to Elbridge Gerry on January 26 expressed his purposes as preserving the powers of the states, keeping the general government frugal by saving revenues to pay off the public debt, relying on militia for defense, avoiding the quarrels in Europe, protecting freedom of religion and the press, and opposing violations of the Constitution.
Hamilton was still urging Congress to declare war on France, and on February 2 he wrote in a letter to Theodore Sedgwick that he favored “attacking and arraigning” the enemies of the government. He considered the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions evidence that a conspiracy wanted to overthrow the government. Three days later Jefferson wrote to Madison that he must use his pen and purse to persuade people of the changes needed. Jefferson on the 14th warned Edmund Pendleton against insurrection because any use of force to block the progress of public opinion would rally people around the government. Rather they should use the “constitutional means of election and petition.” He believed that the spirit of 1776 was not dead and that the American people are “substantially republican.”
On January 30, 1799 Congress passed the Logan Act in reaction to the private diplomatic effort for peace by George Logan, making such efforts a crime. Although the Logan Act has been revised as late as 1994, no one has ever been prosecuted for that nor has its constitutionality been tested.
Joel Barlow, who knew German, French, and Italian, in 1792 had written Advice to the Privileged Orders, which emphasized social justice and was banned in England but made him a citizen of France. In this work he recommended a United States of Europe in a federal system as the best hope for peace. He was consul at Algiers 1795-97 and was able to ransom sick American hostages by borrowing $200,000 from the Jewish banker Joseph Bacri. In Paris he was a friend of Logan and of Robert Fulton, who was working on a submarine and a steamship. Barlow’s letter to George Washington received on January 31, 1799 informed him that France wanted to restore harmony with the United States and urged him to prevent an imminent war. On December 20, 1798 Barlow had published an open letter to American citizens “On Certain Political Measures,” arguing against the national debt and standing armies and navies. He wanted France to define the rights of neutrals, and his suggestion was incorporated in the treaty the United States made the next year with France. If blockades and privateering could be banned, then commerce between nations would be free.
The next day Washington forwarded the letter to President Adams with a note saying he would be glad if Adams could arrange an honorable peace. On that day the Aurora published statistics compiled by the Insurance Company of North America showing that in the preceding six months losses to American shipping caused by the British were $280,000, which was $20,000 more than what French privateers had done. On February 9 Adams signed a law authorizing trade with Toussaint’s revolution in Haiti. On the same day the US Constellation captured the French frigate L’Insurgente which had seized many American ships, but the news did not reach Philadelphia until the second week in March.
On February 15 Adams learned that France had retracted more of its hostile maritime decrees. Three days later the President nominated the diplomat William Vans Murray, who as at The Hague, to be the American minister to France to negotiate a new treaty. Vice President Jefferson read the message to the Senate which shocked the Federalists and pleasantly surprised the Republicans. Objections were made, and on February 25 Adams proposed a commission with Murray, Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, and Patrick Henry, who declined because of health and was replaced by Governor Davie of North Carolina. Also on the 25th Congress acquired forests for timber to build ships. Congress adjourned on March 4.
On March 10, 1799 at a cabinet meeting Adams decided to propose that France indemnify American citizens for all the damages in the undeclared naval war, that all American ships taken be returned or paid for, and that the United States should no longer guarantee to protect French territory in the western hemisphere as it had in the 1778 treaty. Two days later Adams left Philadelphia to go home to Quincy, and he did his work there by mail until the end of September.
In reaction to the Direct House Tax the German-American community of Bucks County in southeastern Pennsylvania was roused by John Fries in the fall of 1798. By January 15, 1799 assessors told Judge Henry they could no longer do their duty. At a meeting on February 8 Fries and George Mitchell drew up a petition in opposition to the tax that was signed by about fifty people. After assessing about fifty houses, the assessors dined at Jacob Fries’ tavern. John Fries came in and warned them not to assess another house. He and his comrades captured assessor Foulke and told him they had 700 men opposed to the law. Foulke and the other assessor decided to stop assessing and went home on March 6.
In Northampton County the US Marshal Col. Nichols arrested eighteen protesters in Millarstown and took them to the Sun Tavern in Bethlehem on March 6. Two groups with 140 men led by Fries marched there and freed them by threatening force. On March 12 President Adams issued a proclamation accusing the tax rebels of treason. On the 20th he and the War Department asked Governor Thomas Mifflin to send the militia to quell the insurrection, but he turned the matter over to the legislature which delayed action. Adams then ordered 500 regulars from the new Army to capture the rebels. After a meeting on March 25 at Mitchell’s tavern Fries and other rebels in Milford ended their opposition to the tax, calming the disturbance in Bucks County. On March 28 Rev. Helmuth sent a letter to the Germans in Northampton reminding them that taxes are necessary and urging them to end the rebellion. Fries was arrested on April 6.
Sixty prisoners were taken to Philadelphia where about half of them were indicted and tried. Fifteen men were charged with treason and others with misdemeanors. Fries and others were indicted as traitors before Supreme Court Justice James Iredell in Philadelphia on April 11, and their trial before a jury began on May 1. Fries was sentenced to death but appealed and was tried a second time before the Circuit Court starting on October 11. The fanatical Supreme Court Justice Chase tried three others for treason on the last three days of April 1800 and was upset when one was acquitted. On May 15 Chase sentenced Fries and the other two men to be hanged. President Adams did not believe they were guilty of treason, and on May 21 he granted the three a pardon and a general amnesty to all the tax resistors. Thirty-five men had been sent to jail, and two had died there. The militia Adams sent cost $80,000, but no one was even wounded in the entire Fries rebellion.
The 1798 elections were not completed until the spring of 1799 and gave the Federalists 60 seats in the House of Representatives to 46 for the Republicans; but many of the new Federalists were moderates, and the Republicans gained majorities in New York and Pennsylvania in the House. The New York legislature passed a law gradually emancipating slaves. After 22 years as Pennsylvania’s chief justice during which he pioneered judicial review by striking down statutes as unconstitutional, Thomas McKean was elected Governor as a Republican in 1799. He began by firing 24 state employees.
On June 23 President Adams ended the American embargo on trade with Saint Domingue, and Treasury Secretary Wolcott notified customs collectors that American ships could now bring arms and supplies to Toussaint, but not to Benoit Joseph Rigaud. The commission to France was delayed by many months, and on September 18 Ellsworth wrote to Adams asking for an additional postponement. An American agent in Kingston, Jamaica reported that the British had impressed more than 250 Americans to serve on their ships in the West Indies. Because of yellow fever in Philadelphia the government was meeting in the small town of Trenton, New Jersey. Adams reached there by October 15 when he gave the commissioners their instructions. General Hamilton tried to persuade the President to suspend the mission; but the next day Adams ordered them to leave by November 1, and they sailed from Newport, Rhode Island on the 3rd. The three envoys did not meet in Paris until March 2, 1800.
On November 14, 1799 the Kentucky legislature passed more resolutions affirming their right to resist violations of the Constitution, and on the 26th Jefferson wrote to Madison that their main goals were the following:
1) peace even with Great Britain;
2) a sincere cultivation of the Union;
3) the disbanding of the army on principles of economy and safety;
4) protestations against violations of the true principles of our constitution.8
In response Madison wrote the Virginia Report of 1800 in which he argued that states had a duty to interpose to “arrest the dangerous exercise of powers not granted.” In the fourth resolution he argued against interpreting the Constitution too broadly to enlarge the powers of the federal government. He asserted that liberty of conscience and freedom of the press cannot be cancelled or restrained by any authority in the United States.
Congress convened on November 22, and Adams gave his annual address on December 3. In this optimistic message he hoped for peace and the return of prosperity after the disease the cities had suffered. He noted that revenues in that year were a new record, and he urged improvement of the judiciary. National expenses had risen to $7.6 million in 1798 and $9.3 million in 1799. He prayed to the “Supreme Ruler of the universe” that the new capitol would be blessed as a place of virtue, wisdom, and magnanimity. George Washington died on December 14 after a short illness caused by a streptococcus infection. His will ordered that all his slaves be freed upon the death of his wife Martha. On the national day of mourning on the 26th General “Light-Horse Harry” Lee eulogized the founding father as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Napoleon’s government in December repealed the French law against neutral shipping, and the Consulate tried to control the abuses of the prize courts. After being away for ten months, Jefferson arrived in Philadelphia on December 28. In February 1800 news arrived that General Napoleon Bonaparte had become the ruler of France as first consul on November 9, 1799, ending the era of the French Revolution. Vice President Jefferson became president of the Philosophical Society and worked on science. He wrote the useful Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Senate. The Library of Congress was initiated on April 24 with an appropriation of $5,900 for books.
Scottish James Callender wrote for the Richmond Examiner, and in late 1799 he criticized President Adams severely in his pamphlet The Prospect before Us. He had left Philadelphia and moved to Richmond, Virginia. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, who had condemned the English scientist and lawyer Thomas Cooper, sentencing him on May 1 to a $400 fine and six months in prison, went to Richmond and indicted Callender for sedition that May. Chase treated him contemptuously and would not let him challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition Act before the jury chosen by federal marshals. He sentenced Callender to pay a fine of $200 and spend nine months in jail. Jefferson contributed $50 to his fine and pardoned him and the others when he became President.
The Republicans won the elections in New York on May 1, 1800 and two days later the Federalist caucus chose Adams and C. C. Pinckney as their candidates for President and Vice President. On the 11th a Republican caucus nominated Jefferson and Aaron Burr for those positions. On May 5 Adams accused McHenry of working secretly with Hamilton against his policies. McHenry refused to resign and was fired. Secretary of State Pickering also refused to resign, and on May 12 the President dismissed him. That day Adams appointed Senator Samuel Dexter of Massachusetts to be Secretary of War and Representative John Marshall as Secretary of State. On May 10 Congress passed the Land Act of 1800 to attract more settlers by offering them credit for public land purchases.
Both parties agreed to disband the army during the summer. Hundreds of private ships had been authorized to seize French vessels that were armed, and the United States Navy had twenty ships patrolling the West Indies. In Bas v. Tingy (1800) the Supreme Court ruled that a congressional declaration of war was not necessary to determine whether France was an “enemy” of the United States because Congress had authorized hostilities on the high seas in certain situations. The Philadelphia Aurora reacted by urging the impeachment of every judge who violated the rights of Congress.
On June 3 Adams visited the new District of Columbia and the large but unfinished President’s House that later was called the White House. The town of Washington was only a village then with no schools or churches. The Capitol was half-finished, and only a two-story Treasury Department building was completed. People living in Washington and Georgetown could still vote in Maryland, and Adams made campaign stops in that state and Pennsylvania on his way home to Quincy. He left John Marshall in charge of the government and administered by mail. During his presidency Adams spent about twice as many days away from the capital in four years as Washington had in eight.
Since spring Alexander Hamilton had been criticizing Adams and urging people to vote for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Hamilton’s minions Pickering and McHenry gave him confidential files on Adams, and he wrote 54 pages on the “public conduct and character of John Adams” in which he berated him in severe terms. Yet he concluded with his support for Adams as well as Pinckney in the election. He circulated this among Federalists, but Aaron Burr got a copy from the printer and sent copies of the pamphlet to Republican editors. William Duane of the Aurora distributed it widely. The moderate Federalist Noah Webster blamed Hamilton for destroying their party, and Hamilton was unable to persuade New Englanders to withhold any votes from Adams; instead one from Rhode Island voted for Jay instead of Pinckney. Jefferson remained at Monticello, and he and Adams primarily campaigned indirectly through others. On September 23 Jefferson wrote in a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, “I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”9
The 1800 census showed a population of 5,308,483 in the United States with an increase in slaves to 893,602; the number of free Africans had increased to 108,435. During the summer a slave called Prosser’s Gabriel led about 150 slaves in an uprising with home-made weapons in Richmond, Virginia. When a rainstorm washed out the bridge and made roads impassable on August 30, Gabriel postponed the plan. Two slaves alerted their owner Mosby Sheppard who informed Governor Monroe. Gabriel had called for the death of whites except for Quakers, Methodists, and the French because most of them opposed slavery. He was interrogated but refused to talk. He and 25 other slaves were hanged in October.
Most of the voting for the presidential electors was held on October 14. Electors voted for two men but did not distinguish which was for President and which for Vice President. In most states the legislature chose the electors. Even in states where adult white males were allowed to vote only about one-sixth of them owned enough property to be eligible. Aaron Burr in New York used the tactic of listing up to twenty names on joint-tenancy deeds to make them eligible. Although Federalists won a majority in the New York Senate, the Republicans with one more vote in the combined legislature gave all twelve electoral votes to the two Republicans. All the Republican electors voted in solidarity for both Jefferson and Burr who each received 73 electoral votes to 65 for Adams and 64 for Pinckney. Burr had campaigned hard in New York City, and that state made the difference. Adams, Jefferson, and Burr were actually tied in late November with 65 votes each. South Carolina was the last state to vote and in December gave all eight of its electoral votes to the Republicans because Pinckney refused to make a deal.
On December 29 Burr wrote to Republican Representative Samuel Smith of Maryland that if the House elected him president, he would serve. Although the New York Federalist David Ogden was soliciting support for Burr, Smith persuaded Burr not to challenge the popular Jefferson. Hamilton warned Federalists that if they supported Burr for president, they would disgrace themselves and their party.
Adams returned to Washington on November 1. News that the Morfontaine Convention of Peace, Commerce, and Navigation with France had been signed on September 30 reached the United States on November 7. Adams suspected that the French delayed signing the treaty so that Jefferson would win the election. Governor Davie brought a copy on December 11, and Adams submitted it to the Senate five days later. The Convention called for restoring all public ships and available private property. They agreed that their ships were to be given most favored nation treatment in the other’s ports. The Senate rejected it on January 23, 1801, but ten days later they ratified it with the condition that French indemnities must be paid.
Chief Justice Ellsworth had resigned, and John Jay declined to serve again. On January 31, 1801 Adams nominated John Marshall, and the Senate quickly confirmed him as chief justice.
On February 11 Congress met in joint session, and Vice President Jefferson announced the results of the voting in the electoral college. Because of a tie vote between him and Burr the election went to the House of Representatives with each state having one vote. Although Hamilton preferred Jefferson to Burr, six Federalist states voted for Burr. Two states were divided, and so Jefferson had only eight of sixteen states and needed nine. Radical Federalists were hoping that the election would be thrown into the Senate where a Federalist could be elected. The House voted 36 times before the Federalist James Bayard of Delaware and the Maryland delegation changed their votes to Jefferson on February 17. They believed that Jefferson had promised not to change the Hamiltonian financial system, not to reduce the navy, and not to dismiss Federalist officials; but Jefferson himself said he had refused to tie his hands. The Federalists had lost forty seats in the House, giving the Republicans a 68-38 advantage, but Federalists still held the Senate 17-15.
On February 13 the Federalist Senate passed the judiciary bill that doubled the circuit courts to six and added 23 new judges. However, they reduced the number of Supreme Court justices from six to five at the next vacancy to prevent an early appointment by the Republicans. Adams nominated mostly Federalists, and they were confirmed by February 24. Because he chose two Federalist senators, the Republicans gained control of the Senate. Adams left the horses and carriages in the stable for the next president and departed on a stage for Baltimore at four in the morning on March 4, eight hours before Jefferson took the oath of office. John Adams eventually died on July 4, 1826 on the same day as his friend and former rival Jefferson. The second US President had only one accomplishment inscribed on his tombstone, and that was that he “took upon himself the responsibility of peace with France in the year 1800.”
George Washington had been the most prominent Freemason. The Masons grew from about two hundred local lodges under nine state grand lodges in 1793 to more than five hundred lodges with about 25,000 members by 1800 as Republicans became more influential.
The British were maintaining their forts at Michilimackinac and Detroit in the northwest, Niagara and Oswego on Lake Ontario, Oswegatchie on the St. Lawrence seaway, and at Dutchman’s Point and Point-au-Fer on Lake Champlain. The British justified keeping them because they believed they had not recovered their debts from American citizens. In the mid-1780s William Cooper and his partner had purchased tens of thousands of acres in upstate New York, and in the early 1790s he was the richest man in Otsego County where he raised his son James Fenimore Cooper, the famous novelist. Most speculators in the west did not do as well as they had hoped because settlers found so much land available for free. Also Indian hostilities limited the number of settlers. Many Americans believed that no one had a right to own land they did not farm.
By fall 1789 an Indian war had broken out in the Ohio territory. General Josiah Harmar led Pennsylvania troops to build forts northwest of the Ohio River. On September 30, 1790 he took 320 regulars and 1,133 militia from Fort Washington (now Cincinnati), and on October 22 Col. John Hardin with about 540 men attacked about 1,050 Miami and Shawnee warriors led by Little Turtle. After three hours of fighting the Americans retreated; 129 were killed, and 94 were wounded. The Indians’ casualties were less than 150.
On May 23, 1791 Brigadier General Charles Scott led a raid that killed 32 Indians, took 58 prisoners, and destroyed several villages while only five of his men were wounded. General Arthur St. Clair governed the Northwest Territory and assembled 849 regulars and 1,538 militia by September. Then he led 1,400 regulars a hundred miles north of Fort Washington where they attacked Miami villages and then camped south of the Maumee. On November 4 Miami Chief Little Turtle led a thousand Indians from various tribes who killed 630 Americans. They stuffed soil into the mouths of the dead Americans to mock their hunger for land. This slaughter has been called the worst defeat of the US Army by Indians in American history. The War Department responded by doubling its budget to create a standing army of 5,000 men while the government tried to negotiate a new treaty.
In the spring of 1792 Secretary of War Knox sent six messengers to the Miamis and Shawnees that they wanted to negotiate peace, but they were all killed as spies. During the summer the Iroquois Chief Red Jacket led a delegation and met with nearly a thousand Indians from a dozen tribes in Shawnee villages; but the western tribes blamed the Iroquois for not defending their land, and they demanded that the Americans keep their agreement by withdrawing from all territory north of the Ohio River and by paying the Shawnees for taking their hunting grounds in Kentucky.
Canadian governors Carleton (Dorchester) and John G. Simcoe sent agents to persuade Indians to be a buffer between them and the Americans, and in the spring of 1793 in a conference at Sandusky the Indians met with American commissioners and demanded the Ohio River as the boundary. The commissioners returned and told the President there would be war.
Washington had appointed General “Mad” Anthony Wayne in 1792, and he spent two years training his soldiers, building Fort Greenville in 1793. Using 3,229 of the 3,861 in the standing army, he began an expedition to the Ohio frontier with the 2,600 fit for duty on October 7, 1793. In February 1794 Governor Carleton told the Indians that the British would fight on their side against the Americans. On June 20 Blue Jacket led 1,200 warriors in an attack on the Americans at Fort Recovery, but they were driven off by cannons with heavy losses. Wayne’s legionnaires moved north and established Fort Defiance before going down the Maumee River. Knowing the Indians fasted before fighting, he waited several days until they went to the British Fort Miami to eat. Then on August 20 they defeated Blue Jacket and more than 2,000 Indians at Fallen Timbers in one hour. The Americans lost 31 men and killed 50 Indians. Wayne did not attack the British at Fort Miami; but he ordered Indian towns and crops pillaged, and they burned 5,000 acres. The British did not want a war with the United States and did not defend the Indians, though they did help prevent them from starving in the winter and discouraged them from negotiating with the Americans. After establishing Fort Wayne, the American army withdrew for the winter so that the Indians could prepare for a peace council.
On April 8, 1795 Secretary of War Timothy Pickering sent a long letter to General Wayne advising him what terms to offer the Indians based on the Treaty of Fort Harmar. He noted that the main reasons why the Indians had not adhered to the treaties of Fort McIntosh, Fort Miami, and Fort Harmar were the following:
1. That the Chiefs who treated were not an adequate
representation of the Nations to whom the lands belonged.
2. That they were compelled by threats
to subscribe some of the treaties.
3. That the claim of the United States
to the full property of the Indians’ lands,
under colour of the treaty of 1783 with Great Britain
was unfounded and unjust.10
In Wayne’s treaty at Greenville on August 3 about 1,100 chiefs and warriors from the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Wyandot, Miami, Chippewa, Kickapoo, Wea, Piankashaw, and Kaskaskia tribes ceded 25,000 square miles in southern Ohio to the United States for $25,000 and a promise of $10,000 a year if they behaved. To avoid war and get a commercial treaty with the United States the British promised to evacuate their posts on the frontier by June 1, 1796. American troops occupied Detroit and Fort Miami on July 11, and the last British outpost at Michilimackinac was taken over in October.
On April 1, 1788 Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham had bought six million acres from Massachusetts in the west for £300,000 over three years, and in July 1789 Gorham persuaded the Senecas to sell 2,500,000 acres by the Genesee River for $5,000 and a $500 annuity. However, in March 1790 Phelps and Gorham gave back to Massachusetts the western two-thirds, and on November 18 they sold the other third for £30,000 to Robert Morris, who eventually sold most of it to English and Dutch speculators. In 1791 Alexander Macomb bought four million acres in St. Lawrence County for eight cents an acre. Charles Williamson went there in 1792 and built roads, stores, taverns, gristmills, and sawmills, spending $1,000,000 while taking in $146,000 from land sales. In 1795 the Connecticut Land Company organized by Phelps bought 500,000 acres on the western edge of the Reserve for $1,200,000. In 1796 Congress financed the Zane’s Trace road across Ohio
On September 15, 1797 Seneca chiefs in the Big Tree Treaty sold all their territory except for about 200,000 acres in eleven small reservations in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania to the Holland Land Company. The Iroquois nations had been conquered and divided. Ohio had a legislature by December 1798. Congress passed a new land act on May 10, 1800 that allowed a settler to buy a farm of 320 acres for a one-quarter down payment of $160. In January 1801 the military hero William Henry Harrison became the governor of the Indiana territory west of Ohio.
In the 1790s many Americans moved west from New England into western New York, from the middle states to the Ohio territory, and from the southern states to Tennessee and Kentucky, which had 220,000 people by 1800. They found fertile land for farming at much lower prices than in the east.
Kentucky, where John Breckinridge was establishing slavery, became the fifteenth state on May 1, 1792. In 1793 the Spanish Governor Carondelet reduced the duty on imports from Kentucky to only 6% from the 15% established by royal order in 1788. The population of Kentucky increased from about 12,000 in 1783 to some 120,000 in 1795. The young lawyer Henry Clay urged the Kentucky legislature in 1797 to emancipate slaves gradually, and he represented slaves suing for their freedom. James McGready was a Presbyterian minister who on a Saturday night in June 1800 preached an emotional sermon with such effect that the next month at his Gasper River Church he held the first of a series of camp-meetings that each lasted several days. In August 1801 about 20,000 people gathered for the revival at Cane Ridge, Kentucky.
In the southwest General James Wilkinson secretly received an annual salary of $2,000 from the Spanish government for fifteen years as their Agent 13. With his Second Memorial on September 24, 1789 at New Orleans he tried to establish an alliance with Spain, but this second conspiracy also failed.
Shortly after President Washington was inaugurated, he received a letter from Secretary of War Knox advising him as follows:
The disgraceful violation of the Treaty
of Hopewell with the Cherokees
requires the serious consideration of Congress.
If so direct and manifest contempt of the authority
of the United States be suffered with impunity,
it will be vain to attempt to extend
the arm of government to the frontiers.
Indian tribes can have no faith in such imbecile promises,
and the lawless whites will ridicule a government
which shall, on paper only,
make Indian treaties and regulate Indian boundaries.11
On December 21, 1789 the Georgia legislature sold 25,400,000 acres in the Mississippi, Tombigbee, and Tennessee valleys to the Yazoo companies in South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee for $207,580. On June 8, 1790 President Washington appointed William Blount to govern the newly created Southwestern Territory and made John Sevier and James Robertson brigadier generals in the western army and James Wilkinson a lieutenant colonel in the US Army.
Washington sent a peace emissary south in the spring of 1790 to the Creek leader Alexander McGillivray, and in the summer they came back with 26 chiefs to New York and were welcomed with lavish dinners and ceremonies for weeks. In a treaty signed on August 7 the Creeks ceded two-thirds of the land claimed by Georgia, and a secret clause made McGillivray an agent of the United States and a brigadier general with an annual salary of $1,200 and gave him a trade monopoly. President Washington proclaimed that no one should encroach on the Creek territory. However, the Yazoo companies had already started selling the land in January 1790, and Georgia legislators were bribed to cancel the New York treaty and ignore the President’s proclamation.
Washington considered land speculators a major problem and threatened to send the army to uphold the rights of Indians. Instead he summoned Cherokees, and on July 2, 1791 forty chiefs and 1,200 Cherokees agreed to the Treaty of Holston, ceding their lands east of the Clinch River for an annuity of $1,000. The United States gained the exclusive right to regulate Cherokee trading and prohibited their having any diplomatic relations with any other nation, state, or individual, but Americans committing crimes against Cherokees could be tried by Cherokee laws. The United States also promised to provide useful farming tools and to assist the Cherokee nation in their pursuits. Dragging Canoe participated and died in 1792, succeeded by John Watts.
Bloody Fellow wrote to Louisiana’s Spanish Governor Hector, Baron de Carondelet, but went to Philadelphia with a Cherokee delegation which met with Washington and Knox and gained a new treaty increasing the annual subsidy from $1,000 to $1,500. In the summer of 1792 Carondelet sent emissaries who promised guns, ammunition, land guarantees, and trading rights to Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Chickamaugas. McGillivray accepted from the Spaniards a larger pension than he had from the United States.
Bloody Fellow was a Chickamauga and had told Washington they wanted plows and hoes for growing corn and raising cattle, but in late August 1793 Chickamaugas led by Doublehead and others attacked settlers in the Cumberland Valley. A month later John Watts led Creek, Chickamauga, and Cherokee warriors, and they killed thirteen men defending Alexander Cavet’s station near Knoxville. Sevier with 700 men retaliated by destroying Creek and Lower Cherokee towns. The Washington administration was angered by this unauthorized expedition which cost the federal government more than $29,000, and they refused to pay Sevier’s militia for several years. In three years Indians had killed two hundred settlers and destroyed property worth more than $100,000, and in February 1794 elected representatives at Knoxville wanting to make Tennessee a state petitioned for more federal protection.
Washington and Knox had an American warship bring Doublehead and a delegation to Philadelphia, and on June 26, 1794 a new treaty increased the Cherokee’s annuity from $1,500 to $5,000. General James Robertson sent Major James Ore with 550 mounted troops, and on September 13 they burned the Chickamauga towns of Nickajack and Running Water. Federal troops garrisoned Tellico Blockhouse, and the Chickamauga wars ended with a peace treaty signed on November 8.
Governor Blount summoned a territorial assembly in June 1795 to work for Tennessee statehood. Peace increased the number of settlers, and a 1795 census counted 77,262 non-Indian people that included 10,613 slaves and 973 free blacks, more than enough people for statehood. Blount called elections in December for a constitutional convention that met in Knoxville in January 1796 and wrote a document that included a Declaration of Rights. The convention voted not to abolish slavery, but free black males were allowed to hold some kinds of property and could vote. However, candidates for the legislature had to own at least 200 acres in the county represented, and Christian ministers and atheists were barred from holding offices.
Blount speculated in land, but he could not get the Federalist administration in Philadelphia to go to war against the Creeks and became a Republican. On April 8 the President asked the Congress to admit Tennessee as the sixteenth state, and they did so on June 1. Voters elected Sevier governor, and the legislature elected Blount and William Cocke as senators and Andrew Jackson as the one representative. To rescue his collapsing real estate empire Blount conspired with the British Indian agent John Chisholm to try to get the United States to attack Spanish territory, and in March he had paid Chisholm’s expenses to travel to England.
Methodist revival camp meetings led by Francis Asbury that lasted days became popular in Tennessee. In 1797 Congressman Andrew Jackson investigated massive land fraud in Nashville and Raleigh that implicated Governor Sevier, Jackson’s brother-in-law Stockley Donelson, and North Carolina’s Secretary of State James Glasgow. Bloody Fellow and forty Cherokee chiefs met at Tellico in October 1798 and agreed to a treaty that ceded more land for money but recognized the right of the Cherokee nation to “exist forever.”
In January 1795 the Georgia legislature sold 35 million acres to four Yazoo companies for $500,000, but according to one legislator all the other lawmakers had been bribed. Only one of twenty partners paid more than £2,000. Several grand juries objected to the grants, and in 1796 the legislature repealed the statute and expunged the legal records. In the spring of 1795 Carondelet had the forts strengthened at St. Louis, Nogales, Natchez, St. Stephens, and Fort Confederation, and a new fort built at Chickasaw Bluffs. He granted Wilkinson an additional $16,000 beyond his $2,000 pension to enlist other leaders; but by the end of the year Carondelet realized he was being manipulated by Kentuckians. In the Treaty of San Lorenzo signed on October 27 Spain gave up the Yazoo Strip and promised to evacuate garrisons north of the 31st parallel within six months. The Mississippi River was opened to American shipping in December 1796.
That year Washington appointed Benjamin Hawkins the agent for the southern Indians, and he visited the Cherokees and found them driving cattle with the women spinning and weaving cotton. His report arrived in December when Representative Andrew Jackson was sponsoring a bill to pay for John Sevier’s unauthorized attacks against Cherokees in 1793. Jackson speculated in land and wanted Washington impeached.
President John Adams assigned Silas Dinsmoor to live with the Cherokees and teach them how to raise stock and cultivate the land. Conspirators wanted to liberate the Floridas and Louisiana from Spanish rule, and Tennessee Senator Blount planned four military campaigns. In March 1798 Manuel de Godoy ordered Carondelet to give up the disputed territory, and the United States organized the Mississippi Territory between Georgia and the Mississippi River. In 1799 William Augustus Bowles led an expedition with 300 Indians and renegade whites that captured the fort at St. Marks in May 1800. In the Treaty of San Ildefonso signed on October 1 Spain ceded Louisiana to France.
1. Basic Writings of George Washington ed. Saxe Commins, p. 560.
2. Writings by Thomas Jefferson, p. 959.
3. Quoted in Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon Louis Parrington, Volume 1, p. 376-377.
4. Madison Letters, IV: “Public Opinion.”
5. National Gazette, January 12, 1792.
6. Quoted in The Founding Fathers by Nathan Schachner, p. 242.
7. “Farewell Address” by George Washington in The Annals of America, Volume 3, p. 610.
8. Quoted in The American Revolution of 1800 by Daniel Sisson, p. 333.
9. Writings by Thomas Jefferson, p. 1082.
10. Quoted in The Indian and the White Man ed. Wilcomb E. Washburn, p. 347.
11. Quoted in The Cherokees by Grace Steele Woodward, p. 112.