The Federalist Era

"As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."


   I. Immediate Post-Revolution America
       A. Overall theme = equality
            1. Abolitionism spread (pesky double standard)
            2. Wider separation between church & state
            3. Women's status (legal & social) improved
            4. Gov't more responsive to public outcry
       B. Limits to absolute equality
            1. Slavery alive & well
            2. Religion-based constraints
            3. Women bound to age-old gender roles
            4. No universal suffrage
       C. 1790 census
            1. 16 states w/ 4 million people (Virginia largest)
            2. Philadelphia = 42,000; New York City = 33,000
  II. Washington's First Term = "Precedents Galore"
       A. Washington: respected, wise, non-partisan, regal
       B. Appropriately called "Father of Our Country"
       C. Formation of presidential Cabinet
            1. Not specifically addressed in Constitution
            2. Informal group until Jefferson's presidency
            3. Jefferson, Hamilton, Knox, Randolph, Osgood
            4. Hamilton vs. Jefferson
                  • solid nat'l power vs. states' rights
                  • "loose" vs. "strict" constructionism
                  • Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans (later)
                  • chief political ally: Washington vs. Madison
                  • industry (North) vs. agriculture (South & West)
                  • preferred European pal: Britain vs. France
       D. Judiciary Act of 1789
       E. Hamilton's grand economic plan
            1. Openly favored wealthier classes
            2. Major opposition usually southern
            3. Congress enacted four of five recommendations
                  • consolidate all debts (aka "assumption") → YES
                  • debts honored at par (aka "funding") → YES
                  • Nat'l Bank to handle fed'l monies → YES
                  • ambitious program to promote industry → NO
                  • excise tax on whiskey → YES
            4. Results
                  • placed United States on solid financial footing
                  • greatly aided development of political parties
                  • fueled civil rebellion
 III. Washington's Second Term = "Bugaboos"
       A. Citizen Genêt Affair (1793)
       B. Whiskey Rebellion (1794)
            1. Whiskey Tax opposed by western Penn & Virginia
            2. 7,000 militiamen targeted Pittsburgh
            3. Rebels treated to lots o' food & drink
            4. Fed'l force of 13,000 assembled
            5. Biggest nat'l crisis until Civil War
                  • possible secession (& foreign alliance)
                  • defined position of nat'l gov't & states/citizens
                  • set parameters between liberty & order
       C. Jay's Treaty (1795) w/ Britain
            1. Tie up loose ends dangling from Rev. War
            2. Unpopular (w/ American public & France)
       D. Treaty of San Lorenzo (1795) w/ Spain
            1. Aka Pinckney's Treaty
            2. Unplanned by-product of Jay's Treaty
            3. Full use of Mississippi River & New Orleans
       E. Farewell Address
            1. No "passionate attachments" w/ other nations
            2. Political parties undermine cooperative spirit
            3. Morals "indispensable support" of good gov't
 IV. Adams's Presidency = "the Federalist Era Fizzles"
       A. Election of 1796
            1. America's first real presidential election
            2. Hamilton's attempted manipulation backfired
       B. Adams: honest, diligent, patriotic, vain, stubborn
       C. XYZ Affair (1797)
            1. French anger & misconduct led to Quasi-War
            2. Hooray for Adams
       D. Alien & Sedition Acts (1798)
            1. Largely political maneuver by High-Federalists
            2. Major booboo for Adams
       E. Kentucky & Virginia Resolutions (1798)
            1. Anonymously written by Jefferson & Madison
            2. Hollow threat to invoke states' rights
  V. Election of 1800 (aka "Revolution of 1800")
       A. Tie vote between Jefferson & Burr (both Dem-Rep)
            1. Burr = antithesis of nation's Founding Fathers
            2. Election decided by House of Representatives
            3. Solved by Twelfth Amendment
       B. Congressional elections solidly Dem-Rep
       C. Peaceful/orderly change of political machinery
 VI. Legacy of the Federalists
       A. Nat'l gov't aptly strengthened (esp. via Constitution)
       B. Sound fiscal system installed to fix ailing economy
       C. Avoided war (despite probable ease/popularity)
       D. Ably guided infant country thru crucial tests


1. Congress rejected the portion of Alexander Hamilton's grand economic plan involving
  1. consolidation of state debts and assumption of same by the national government.
  2. paying all debts incurred during the war at par.
  3. ambitious support of industry through several measures.
  4. creation of the Bank of the United States to handle federal monies.

2. In his Farewell Address, President George Washington
  1. warned against forming permanent alliances with other nations.
  2. encouraged the growth of political parties as part of the democratic process.
  3. denounced Alexander Hamilton's economic policies.
  4. expressed marked support for Thomas Jefferson as the next President.

3. All of the following were accomplishments of the Federalists except
  1. strengthened the national government.
  2. kept the United States out of war.
  3. displayed uncompromising support for civil liberties.
  4. established a sound fiscal system.

4. The Alien and Sedition Acts were
  1. opposed by Alexander Hamilton as attacks on basic civil liberties.
  2. passed over the veto of President John Adams, who simply ignored the laws after they took effect.
  3. instrumental in avoiding war with France and England.
  4. politically intended by the Federalists to control the opposition party.

5. All of the following actions occurred during the presidency of George Washington except
  1. the National Bank was established.
  2. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.
  3. the Bill of Rights was ratified.
  4. the United States became embroiled in the XYZ Affair.


1.  Briefly describe Alexander Hamilton's economic proposals and explain how his ideas
     were the product of his personality and beliefs.

2.  Woodrow Wilson once described Alexander Hamilton as being "a great man, but not
     a great American." Discuss Wilson's assessment of Hamilton.

3.  President George Washington's Farewell Address recommended against the creation
     of political parties. Why were political parties formed in the United States during the
     Federalist Era? Tell which party you would envision yourself being persuaded toward
     by comparing the differences of the parties in domestic issues and foreign policy
     questions during this time.

4.  Benjamin Franklin once said that John Adams was "always an honest man, often a
     wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses." Use this
     statement as a theme by which to evaluate Adams as President.

5.  Select two of the following items and give an account of the effect that each had on
     the new nation—Jay Treaty; Whiskey Rebellion; XYZ Affair; Alien and Sedition Acts;
     presidential election of 1800.

"Hail to the Chief"
 by the U.S. Merchant Marine Band