Two Enduring Viewpoints Compete
Congress quickly created departments of State and of the Treasury. Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as Secretary 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 13 district courts.
In the first administration, both a Secretary of War and an Attorney General were also appointed. And since Washington generally preferred to make decisions only after consulting those men whose judgment he valued, the American Cabinet came into existence, consisting of the heads of all the departments that Congress might create.
Hamilton and Jefferson represented two powerful, 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. Hamilton brought to public life a love of efficiency, order, and organization. In response to the call of the House of Representatives for a plan for the "adequate support of public credit," he laid down and supported principles not only of the public economy as such, but of effective government.
He pointed out that America must have credit for industrial development, commercial activity, and the operations of government. It must also have the complete faith and support of the people. There were many who wished to repudiate the national debt or pay only part of it, but Hamilton insisted upon full payment and also upon a plan by which the federal government took over the unpaid debts of the states incurred in ftirthering the Revolution.
Hamilton did much else. 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, and argued in favor of tariffs based upon the protection principle in order to foster the development of national industries. These measures-placing the credit of the federal government on a firm foundation and giving it all the revenues it needed - encouraged commerce and industry, and created a solid phalanx of businessmen who stood firmly behind the national government and were ready to resist any attempt to weaken it.
More meditative and philosophical, Thomas Jefferson was frequently at odds with Hamilton. Jefferson recognized the value of a strong central government in foreign relations, but, fearing it would fetter free men, he did not want it strong in many other respects. Hamilton's great aim was more efficient organization; Jefferson's was wider individual liberty, in the belief 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 freedom. The United States needed both influences. It was the country's good fortune that it had both men and could, in time, fuse and reconcile their philosophies. One clash between them, which occurred shortly after Jefferson took office as Secretary of State, led to a new and profoundly important interpretation of the Constitution. When Hamilton introduced his bill to establish a national bank, Jefferson objected. Speaking for those who believed in states rights as opposed to national rights, and for those who feared great corporations, he argued that the Constitution expressly enumerates all the powers 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, because of the mass of necessary detail, a vast body of powers had to be implied by general clauses, 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 authorized the national government to levy and collect taxes, pay debts, borrow money. A national bank would materially help in performing these functions efficiently. Congress, therefore, was entitled, under its implied powers, to create such a bank. Washington and the Congress accepted Hamilton's view, thus establishing a precedent.
Although one of the first tasks to be done was to strengthen the domestic economy and make the Union financially secure, the young nation could not ignore political affairs abroad. The cornerstone of Washington's foreign policy was to preserve peace, to give the country time to recover from its wounds, and to permit the slow work of national integration to continue. Events in Europe threatened 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, and Citizen Genét was coming to the United States as Minister of the French Republic.
America was still formally an ally of France, and felt a debt of gratitude for her aid in the War of Independence. But though the people and the government wished the French well, they wanted very much to stay out of war. Washington proclaimed a state of neutrality, and when Genét arrived, he was treated with cool formality. Angered, he attempted to disobey an order forbidding him to use American ports as bases of operation for French privateers. Shortly afterward the United States requested his recall by the French government.
The Genét incident strained American relations with France. At the same time, relations with Great Britain were far from satisfactory. British troops still occupied forts in the west, property carried off by British soldiers during the Revolution had not been restored or paid for, and the British navy was playing havoc with American commerce. To settle these matters, Washington sent to London, as envoy extraordinary, John Jay, Chief Justice of the United States. Acting with moderation, Jay negotiated a treaty securing withdrawal of the British from western forts and some slight trading concessions. Nothing was said, however, about the return of property, seizure of American ships in the future, or "impressment" - the forcing of American sailors into British naval service.