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How effective were the policies of Washington and Hamilton?

Creating a new government on paper was difficult. The framers of the constitutional convention fought long and hard over the format and function of our government. Putting it in practice was difficult as well. In 1790 Madison wrote "We are in a wilderness, without a single footstep to guide us." As our founding fathers walked through the wilderness of democratic government, alone and without a real model, many obstacles would have to be overcome and many precedents would be set.

I. The Domestic Policy of Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson

A. How did Washington define the Presidency?

1. As hostility rose between Hamilton and Jefferson, Washington tried to “soothe” things between them.

2. Washington wanted to keep the presidency formal and thus set precedent by establishing Presidential protocol. He held regular morning receptions as well as formal evening dances and dinners. He had servants in uniforms and always dressed properly. Critics thought that these occasions seemed to cold but George felt that they were necessary for the dignity of the office.

6. Washingtons other precedents included running for two terms, the creation of a cabinet and a foreign policy of neutrality.

B. What was Hamilton's economic plan

1. Funding - Hamilton re issued bonds sold by the Constitutional Convention. This was done in an effort to organize the nations outstanding debt and build trust in the new nation with the wealthy investors that now owned the bonds. The problem was that many bonds had been sold to wealthy speculators during hard times. These speculators would now make an enormous profit. This act was seen as another Hamilton plan to help the rich.

2. Assumption of State Debt - In an effort to solidify the national debt and appear more united Washington, under Hamilton's direction took on the debt of all the colonies. The federal government would pay the debt from the war, not the original colonies. The debt would be paid with tax money. The problem was that the South had already repaid most of its debt. Southerners saw this as another way Hamilton protected his wealthy northern friends.

3. Build a New Capital - Hamilton felt that a new federal city would increase respect for the new nation and build investor support. Land was donated by Maryland and Virginia and the swamps were turned into Washington D.C.

4. Establish a National Bank - Hamilton wanted to build and create a national bank with the power to issue paper money, handle tax receipts and other government money. Hamilton felt this would stabilize currency, and tie the economy to wealthy investors who would own 80% of bank.

5. Excise (sales) Tax on Whiskey - Hamilton urged a tax on Whiskey. The tax was passed not necessarily as a way to gain money but as a way to demonstrate the new nations power. Hamilton and Washington knew the poor whiskey maker would revolt and they did. The so called "Whiskey Rebellion" was easily crushed by the new federal army proving the new nations power and willingness to remain united.

C. How did Jefferson change policy?

1. Tried to cut down costs of government wherever possible

2. Reduced the size of the army

3. Halted expansion of the navy

4. Lowered expenses for government social functions

5. Wanted to simplify the government’s financial affairs and to tear down Hamilton’s financial program

D. How did Jefferson change the judicial system?

1. The Federalists tried to increase their hold on the judiciary and passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 which increased the number of federal judges

2. In the waning days of the Adams administration President Adams appointed 67 Federalist judges. These were known as the "Midnight Judges."

3. This led to the case of Marbury vs. Madison which established the principal of judicial review

E. Hamilton Duels with Burr

1. 1804 Burr ran for governor of NY. He accepted the side of some Federalists who wanted to establish an independent northern confederacy of NY and NJ. Hamilton found out about the scheme and exposed it.

2. Burr lost and was furious. Between this and Hamilton's past brokering of the election of 1800 Burr felt that Hamilton was out to personally destroy him. He challenged Hamilton to a “gentlemen’s duel” with pistols.

3. July 11, 1804, Burr fatally wounded Hamilton and lost all of what was left of his political dignity.


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