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 Dissolves"
       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




  • George Washington
  • John Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Henry Knox
  • Edmund Randolph
  • John Jay
  • Potomac River
  • Compromise of 1790
  • Bank of the United States
  • "strict" & "loose" constructionists
  • Edmond Charles Genêt
  • Neutrality Proclamation of 1793
  • Whiskey Rebellion
  • Jay's Treaty
  • Pinckney's Treaty
  • Democratic-Republican Party
  • Aaron Burr
  • Quasi-War
  • XYZ Affair
  • Alien & Sedition Acts
  • Kentucky & Virginia Resolves

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
John Adams by David McCullough



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 any 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.

6.  Thomas Jefferson described the presidential election of 1800 as a "revolution."
     Discuss this pronouncement.


  1. The portion of Alexander Hamilton's grand economic plan which was rejected by Congress involved
    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
    1. were opposed by Alexander Hamilton as attacks on basic civil liberties.
    2. were all passed over the veto of President John Adams, who therefore simply ignored the laws after they were passed.
    3. helped the United States avoid war with France and England.
    4. were politically intended by the Federalists to control the opposition party.

  5. All of the following 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.

It has been only the last few years that Mount Rushmore's local sister sculpture, Chief Crazy Horse atop Thunderhead Mountain, has taken recognizable shape. The 1998 South Dakota tourism campaign issued billboards, posters, and brochures with the stone profiles of Crazy Horse and George Washington facing each other, thus marking the first time the state had photographically paired the two great monuments in its advertising history. Perhaps the ad carries an underlying message for chiefs and presidents of all cultures to foster global peace and cooperation. Click on the faces to access LECTURE GUIDE for this unit.


 Grace Miller & Kailey Tubbs '19



"Hail to the Chief"   by the United States Merchant Marine Band