Two enduring viewpoints compete
The organization of the government was no small task. Congress quickly created departments of State and of the Treasury. Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as Sec- retary of State and Alexander Hamilton, his aide during the Revolution, as Secretary of the Treasury. Simultaneously the Congress established the federal judiciary, setting up not only a Supreme Court, with one Chief Justice (John Jay was named to the post) and five associate justices, but also three circuit courts and thirteen district courts. In the -first administration, both a Secretary of War and an Attorney- General were also appointed. Since Washington generally preferred to make decisions only after consulting those men whose judgment he trusted, the American cabinet (consisting of the heads of all the departments that Congress might create) came into existence, although it was not officially recognized by law until 1907.
Just as revolutionary America had produced two commanding figures of world-wide renown-Washington and Franklin -so did the youthful republic raise to fame two brilliantly able men, Hamilton and Jefferson, whose reputations were to spread beyond the seas. It was not their sterling personal gifts, great though they were, which entitle these men to a place in history. Rather it was their representation of two powerful and indispensable, though to some extent antagonistic, forces in American life. Hamilton tended toward closer union and a stronger national government; Jefferson leaned toward a broader, freer democracy.
The keynote of Hamilton's public career was his love of efficiency, order, and organization. Indeed, the evidences of weakness and inefficiency he saw from 1775 to 1789 explain his dominant impulse to serve the young nation. Hamilton had bold plans and definite policies where others had cautious notions and vague principles. In response to the call of the House of Representatives for a plan for the "adequate support of public credit," Hamilton laid down and supported principles not only of public economy as such, but of effective government. America must have credit for industrial development, commercial activity, and the operations of government. It also must have the complete faith and support of the people. Many men wished to repudiate the national debt or pay only a part of it. Hamilton, however, insisted upon full payment of the debt of the union government and also upon a plan by which the federal government took over the unpaid debts of the states incurred in aid of the Revolution. He devised a Bank of the United States, with the right to establish branches in different parts of the country. He sponsored a national mint. He argued in favor of tariffs based upon the protection principle in order to foster the development of national industries. These measures had an instant effect-placing the credit of the federal government on a firm foundation and giving it all the revenues it needed. They encouraged commerce and industry, thus creating a solid phalanx of businessmen who stood fast behind the national government and were ready to resist any attempt to weaken it.
Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was a man of thought rather than action. As Hamilton's talents were executive, Jefferson's were meditative and philosophical, and among contemporary political thinkers and writers, he was without peer. Politically, he was frequently at odds with Hamilton. When he went abroad as Minister to France, he realized the value of a strong central government in foreign relations, but he did not want it strong in many other respects, fearing it would fetter men. Born an aristocrat, but by inclination and conviction an equalitarian democrat, he fought always for freedom-from the British Crown, from church control, from a landed aristocracy, from inequalities of wealth.
Hamilton's great aim was to give the country a more efficient organization, Jefferson's to give individual men a wider liberty, believing that "every man and every body of men on earth possess the right of self-government." Hamilton feared anarchy and thought in terms of order; Jefferson feared tyranny and thought in terms of liberty. The United States needed both influences. It required both a stronger national government and also the unfettering of men. It was the country's good fortune that it had both men and could in time fuse and, to a great extent, reconcile their special contributions.
Their differing points of view, made manifest shortly after Jefferson took office as Secretary of State, led to a new and profoundly important interpretation of the Constitution. For when Hamilton brought forth his bill establishing a national bank, Jefferson objected, speaking for all believers in state rights as opposed to national rights, and for those who feared great corporations. The Constitution, he declared, expressly enumerates all the power belonging to the federal government and reserves all other powers to the states. Nowhere was it empowered to set up a bank. Hamilton contended that all the powers of the national government could not be set down in words because of the intolerable detail this would neces sitate. A vast body of powers had to be implied by general clauses, he stated, and one of these authorized Congress to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for carrying out other powers specifically granted. The Constitution declared the national government should have the power to lay and collect taxes, pay debts, borrow money. A national bank would materially assist in carrying out these functions efficiently, and Congress was therefore entitled to set up the bank under its "implied powers." Washington and the Congress accepted Hamilton's measure and established a precedent.
Though its first tasks were to strengthen the domestic economy and make the union secure, the young country could not ignore political occurrences abroad. The cornerstone of Washington's foreign policy was the preservation of peace- peace to give the country time to recover from the wounds it had received during the war and to permit the slow work of national integration to continue. But events in Europe threatened the achievement of this goal. Many Americans were watching the French Revolution with the keenest interest and sympathy. And in April 1793, news came that made this conflict an issue in American politics. France had declared war on Great Britain and Spain. Citizen Gendt was coming to the United States as Minister of the French Republic.
America was still formally an ally of France, and war would enable Americans to discharge both their debt of gratitude to her and their feeling of resentment against Britain. But though most of the executive department of the United States wished the French well, it was more anxious to keep America out of war. And so Washington now proclaimed to the belligerents of Europe the neutrality of the United States, and when Genêt arrived, he was greeted with stern formality. Angered by this treatment, he attempted to disobey an order forbidding him to use American ports as bases of operations or French privateers, and after a time a request for his recall by the French government was granted.
In this period-from 1793 to 1795-came the crystallization of the two poles of American public opinion. For the rench Revolution seemed to some a clean-cut contest between onarchy and republicanism, oppression and liberty, autocracy nd democracy; to others, a new eruption of strife between narchy and order, atheism and religion, poverty and property. The former joined the Republican Party, ancestor of day's Democratic Party, the latter joined the Federalists, om whom the present-day Republican Party is descended.
|"We have met the enemy and they are ours", reported Captain Oliver Perry, whose energy and skill won the Battle of Lake Eire for the American forces.|
Jay's treaty caused general dissatisfaction, but as the end of Washington's second administration approached, it was evident that marked achievement had been made in other fields-the government was organized, national credit was established, maritime commerce fostered, the northwest territory recovered, and peace preserved.
Washington retired in 1797, firmly declining to serve for more than eight years as the nation's head. John Adams, able and highminded, stern and obstinate, was elected as the new President. Even before he entered the presidency, Adams had quarreled with Hamilton who had contributed so much to the previous administrations. Thus Adams was handicapped by having a divided party behind him and a divided cabinet at his side. To make matters worse, the international skies were again heavily clouded. For France, angered by Jay's recent treaty with Britain, refused to accept Adams' minister. When Adams sent three other commissioners to Paris, they were met with fresh contumely, and American indignation arose to an excited pitch. Troops were enlisted, the navy was strengthened and, in 1798, after a series of sea battles with the French in which American ships were uniformly victorious, war seemed inescapable. In this crisis, Adams thrust aside the guidance of Hamilton, who wanted war, and sent a new minister to France. Napoleon, who had just come to power, received him cordially and the danger of conflict disappeared.