BECK index

United States & Washington 1789-97

by Sanderson Beck

America’s New Government 1789-90
Washington & Hamilton’s Bank 1790
Washington & Hamilton’s Bank 1791
Washington & Hamilton’s Bank 1792
America & the French Revolution 1793-94
Whiskey Rebellion
Washington & Peace 1795
Washington & Peace in 1796
American Frontier 1789-96

This chapter has been published in the book American Revolution to 1800. For ordering information please click here.

America’s New Government 1789-90

      In the first elections for the new Congress in January 1789 the Federalists won a majority in the House of Representatives. James Madison was denied a seat in the Senate because Anti-Federalists controlled the Virginia legislature. He faced a difficult challenge in his House district by James Monroe; but Madison promised to amend the Constitution with a bill of rights and was elected, becoming majority leader. More than half of those who had attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia served in the new government as legislators, executives, or judges. Most state legislatures chose their electors. Only five states chose their electors by a popular vote, and New Jersey’s governor and council selected theirs. On February 4 the 69 electors in the Electoral College met and voted unanimously for George Washington as President. With their second vote 34 voted for John Adams who thus became Vice President. John Jay got nine votes. Senators were elected by the state legislatures.
      On 2 March 1789 the Pennsylvania legislature responded to petitions by repealing the 1786 law against theaters. In the summer of 1791 a town meeting in Boston, Massachusetts repealed a similar law, and by 1794 Boston had a Federal Theater.
      Congress was supposed to begin on March 4, but they did not have a quorum until April 8. Although the British Parliament and the colonial legislatures kept their deliberations closed, the House of Representatives, but not the Senate, decided to open their meetings to the general public and thus to the press, though meetings as a committee of the whole were closed. Newspapers began reporting on the debates, but a complete Congressional Record was not started until 1834. Ten states were represented in the Senate at the beginning, and a Special Judiciary Committee was appointed with one member from each state with Oliver Ellsworth as chairman. Madison announced that the first priority was to develop a balanced economy free of control by foreign nations. Senator William Maclay was an Anti-Federalist from western Pennsylvania. He kept a journal of the first session of Congress when there was no other record, including his own outspoken criticisms of Vice President John Adams and his efforts to adopt some of England’s ceremonies and use of titles. The new Constitution clearly prohibited the United States from granting any title of nobility, and so the official title is “President of the United States.”
      Washington did not wear a military uniform when he was inaugurated in New York on April 30 as the first chief executive of the United States. On a balcony before the crowd with his hand on the Bible he took the oath prescribed by the United States Constitution to “preserve, protect and defend” that Constitution. Inside the Senate chamber Washington expressed his trust in God and ethical principles as the best guides to good government. He described his

fervent supplications to that Almighty Being
who rules over the Universe,
who presides in the Councils of Nations,
and whose providential aids can supply every human defect,
that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties
and happiness of the People of the United States,
a Government instituted by themselves
for these essential purposes:
and may enable every instrument employed
in its administration to execute with success,
the functions allotted to his charge.
In tendering this homage to the Great Author
of every public and private good I assure myself that
it expresses your sentiments not less than my own;
nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either.
No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore
the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men
more than the People of the United States.
Every step, by which they have advanced to the character
of an independent nation, seems to have been
distinguished by some token of providential agency.
And in the important revolution just accomplished
in the system of their United Government,
the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent
of so many distinct communities,
from which the event has resulted,
cannot be compared with the means by which
most Governments have been established,
without some return of pious gratitude
along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings
which the past seem to presage….
      In these honorable qualifications,
I behold the surest pledges,
that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments;
no separate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect
the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over
this great assemblage of communities and interests:
so, on another, that the foundations of our National policy will
be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality;
and the pre-eminence of a free Government,
be exemplified by all the attributes
which can win the affections of its Citizens,
and command the respect of the world.
      I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction
which an ardent love for my Country can inspire:
since there is no truth more thoroughly established,
than that there exists in the economy and course of nature,
an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness,
between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims
of an honest and magnanimous policy,
and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity:
Since we ought to be no less persuaded that
the propitious smiles of Heaven,
can never be expected on a nation
that disregards the eternal rules of order and right,
which Heaven itself has ordained:
And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty,
and the destiny of the Republican model of Government,
are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked,
on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.1

In his address he renounced his salary; but he was required to accept his $25,000 salary and worked it out so that it equaled his annual expenses, using about $2,000 a year on alcoholic beverages when entertaining. The Vice President’s salary was $5,000, and cabinet secretaries received $3,500.
      George and Martha Washington arranged sixteen marriages, including James Madison to Dolly Payne. His inaugural address urged the Congress to propose amendments to the Constitution to strengthen the “characteristic rights of freedom” and to overcome the objections to the Constitution. He commented on the importance of ethics in their new experiment with republican government, hoping to win the affections of the citizens and the respect of the world

      President Washington asked for written advice on policies from advisors who included Adams, Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and New York Chancellor Robert R. Livingston.
      Because the old Confederation, needing unanimous consent of the states, had failed to pass import duties and protective tariffs, the new Congress began by attempting to do so. Manufacturers wanted protective tariffs, but they were opposed by farmers, especially in the southern states. In June the Congress passed a bill favored by Madison that authorized the President to remove appointees without the advice and consent of the Senate.
      Senators Ellsworth and William Paterson sponsored a bill to establish federal courts. The most controversial issue was section 25 which authorized appeals to the US Supreme Court by “writs of error” in the decisions of state courts. Madison, Fisher Ames, and Roger Sherman were able to get the Senate bill through the House, passing the Judiciary Act with the President’s signature on September 24 to establish the Supreme Court with a chief justice and five associate justices, three circuit courts with two judges each, and thirteen district courts. Judges were independent with secure salaries and could only be removed by impeachment. John Jay from New York was acting as Secretary of State until Jefferson arrived from France. Jay was persuaded by Madison and Washington to take the position as the first chief justice of the United States. Washington appointed him and provided regional balance by selecting John Blair of Virginia, William Cushing of Massachusetts, James Wilson of Pennsylvania, John Rutledge of South Carolina, and James Iredell of North Carolina as associate justices of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless they were all Federalists. During its first three years the Supreme Court had practically no cases.
      Congress also established departments of foreign affairs, war, and finances, followed by the offices of attorney general, postmaster general, superintendent of the land office, and governor of the Northwest Territory. On August 5 the Senate rejected Washington’s nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn to be collector of the Savannah port, and the President’s temper flared up. He went to the Senate again on August 22 with General Knox for the “advice and consent” required by the Constitution, submitting seven questions regarding a treaty with the Creeks; but when Senators Robert Morris and Maclay asked for time to study the questions and began demanding treaties and other documents, the President left in a huff. The Senate did agree to give their answers three days later, and Washington returned in a serene manner. After that he only consulted the Congress in writing.
      The US Constitution made the Vice President the president of the Senate, and John Adams believed that this made him the leader and executive of the Senate. Washington did not want the Senate intruding on his authority, and Adams came to believe that he had “the most insignificant office.”
      On September 2 Congress created the Treasury Department, and on the 11th the President appointed Alexander Hamilton of New York as its secretary, the Senate confirming him the same day along with William Duer and four other assistants. Washington had asked Robert Morris, but he had declined and recommended Hamilton as the only man in America who could tell him about the debt. Hamilton began working the next day by arranging for a $50,000 loan from the Bank of New York, and he wrote a letter to the Bank of North America in Philadelphia asking for an equal amount. The next day the re-appointed Henry Knox of Massachusetts was confirmed as Secretary of War. Edmund Randolph of Virginia was appointed Attorney General. The President nominated Thomas Jefferson to be Secretary of State on the 25th, and he was confirmed the next day; but he was in France and did not take up his office until 22 March 1790. Also on September 25 Congress submitted to the states twelve amendments to the Constitution that included the Bill of Rights. The first Congress adjourned on September 29.
      On 6 September 1789 Thomas Jefferson in Paris wrote a letter to James Madison that is also called “The Earth Belongs to the Living.” Influenced by the beginning of the French Revolution he was witnessing, he suggested that every generation has the right to remake its society with a new revolution. He wrote, “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”2xx Because the Earth belongs to the living, not the dead, he asked whether they may change and abolish the privileges attached on lands, including the ecclesiastical and feudal.
      Washington appointed 134 men who had been officers in the Continental Army, 74 of them from the Cincinnati Society. He avoided choosing any relatives, and on October 13 he wrote to Gouverneur Morris that the national government was organized. He also appointed Morris a special agent to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain. Two days later Washington began a tour of New England for his health and to see the condition of the country. He not only visited with politicians but went to schools, farms, and factories. After four weeks he returned to New York City, where the federal government was located for 18 months.
      Congress passed a law to make the Treasury Department’s reports go directly to them without having to go through the President. The Treasury Department began as the largest department by far with an assistant secretary, controller, treasurer, auditor, register, 31 clerks, dozens of staff in the Treasury office, and more than 2,000 customs officials, revenue agents, and postmasters in the states. Hamilton established ethical standards that employees could not deal in government securities, and he divested his own business investments that could have been a conflict of interest. Foreign affairs were called the State Department which began with only a messenger, an office keeper, and four clerks. Hamilton was influenced by Malachy Postlethwayt’s Universal Dictionary of Trade and Britain’s Commercial Interest Explained and Improved as well as Pelatiah Webster’s Political Essays on the Nature and Operation of Money, Public Finances and Other Subjects and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
      To gain revenue the Congress passed a tariff bill in 1789, imposing a 5% ad valorem charge on most goods and up to 50% duty on others such as steel, ships, cordage, tobacco, salt, indigo, and cloth. The British were reluctant to withdraw from their frontier posts because they helped them control the Indians and the fur trade which was worth £200,000 a year. Because they were not withdrawing and neither paying compensation nor returning stolen slaves according to the treaty, Madison proposed that the tonnage duty on the English be 60 cents per ton but only 30 cents on their French ally. The British commerce with America was one-sixth of their total, but the United States depended on the British for three-quarters of their trade. Hamilton and others opposed this discrimination which could lead to a trade war, and the Senate rejected the House bill. Then the two houses agreed to put a 50-cent tonnage duty on all foreign shipping and 6 cents per ton on American-owned ships. In the fall Washington sent Gouverneur Morris as an envoy to England.
      Hamilton’s private Bank of New York was successfully paying dividends of 7%, and banks were becoming popular. Hamilton quickly began preparing reports on the economy, and he was eager to expand currency and credit. His “Report on the Public Credit” in January 1790 criticized the idea of repudiating the national debt, and he proposed that the federal government should assume the states’ debts too; those presently holding the securities would be compensated. The United States owed $11,710,387 to foreign countries and $42,414,085 to Americans. Hamilton also proposed assuming the state debts of about $21 million, making a total debt of about $75 million. He believed that a well funded national debt would be a foundation for paper money and loans. Competition between states and the national government for tax resources would be divisive and less efficient. The report calculated that the interest on the debt would be $2,839,163 plus $600,000 for governmental operations which could be raised from duties on imports and tonnage. With revenues Hamilton established a sinking fund to pay off the national debt at about 5% per year.
      This new revenue law and his report stimulated speculative purchases of government securities. Gouverneur Morris estimated that Dutch bankers had purchased £3 million of government certificates for about five shillings per pound. Hamilton’s opponents complained about the speculative bubble and leaks by his Assistant Secretary William Duer that helped the wealthy.

Washington & Hamilton’s Bank 1790

      In President Washington’s first annual message to Congress on 8 January 1790 he indicated his support of the public credit and asked for funds to provide for the common defense, notably against hostile Indians on the southern and western frontiers. He aimed to facilitate intercourse with other nations for the public good with compensation for those employed in diplomacy. He recommended “the advancement of agriculture, commerce and manufacturing,” and he encouraged using inventions from abroad and developing them at home. He advised attending to the post office and improving post-roads. He asked for promotion of science and literature because knowledge is “the surest basis of public happiness.” The President called for the “sense of the community” and for trust in public administration so that the government may have “the enlightened confidence of the people” by teaching them “to know and value their own rights.” He suggested cherishing “the spirit of liberty” and avoiding licentiousness while having “temperate vigilance against encroachments with an inviolable respect to the laws.” He asked the legislature to decide whether their goals may best be accomplished by aiding seminaries of learning, by instituting a national university, or by other ways.
      On January 14 Treasury Secretary Hamilton presented his controversial Report on Public Credit that the Congress had requested. The United States Supreme Court held its first session on February 1. General Knox came to Congress and asked for $1,152,000 to raise an army of 5,040 men to fight the Creek Indians. Madison opposed the assumption of all the debts because many had been purchased at low cost by speculators; but Hamilton argued that the debts should be honored and that it was too difficult to determine which ones should be denied. On February 22 the House defeated Madison’s proposal 36-13. Pennsylvania Quakers presented petitions asking for an immediate end to the slave trade, but the US Constitution had mandated that the slave trade could not be ended before 1808.
      Congress authorized the first census on March 1, and the 1790 census counted 3,699,525 people in the United States with 697,624 African slaves and 59,557 free Africans; but tens of thousands of Indians were not counted. Massachusetts and Vermont had no slaves. New York City with 33,131 people was second to Philadelphia’s 42,444, followed by Boston with 18,028, Charleston’s 16,359, and Baltimore’s 13,503. New York City as the first capital and growing financial center included 2,400 slaves and 1,100 free persons of color.
      On March 17 a delegation of Quakers presented to the House of Representatives a memorial asking that slavery be abolished. Southern Congressmen were very angry, and a motion to give Congress authority to end slavery was defeated 29-25. The Congress was prohibited from ending the slave trade before 1808 because of the Constitution. The American patent system was established on April 10. That month Hamilton asked for boats to protect the security of the revenue against smuggling, and Congress authorized two revenue cutters that later were expanded into the Coast Guard.
      The debate in the House was more controversial as Anti-Federalists such as James Jackson of Georgia warned of “imposing this enormous and iniquitous debt” that would “beggar the people and bind them in chains.” Madison moved away from the Federalist party as he led the opposition that defeated Hamilton’s proposal for the assumption of debts in the House on April 12. States with little debt would be helping those with large debts, but a compromise provided compensation for the low-debt states of Delaware, North Carolina, and Virginia. Southerners were concerned that Hamilton’s plans favored Easterners. A majority was opposing Hamilton’s plans, and the new delegation from North Carolina increased the Anti-Federalists. Hamilton hired the manufacturing expert Tench Coxe to replace Duer as assistant secretary in May.
      President Washington caught pneumonia on May 10 and nearly died before recovering in late June. On June 3 he wrote to Lafayette that he is being “supported by able coadjutors” and that he is harmonizing the opposing views of Jefferson at the State Department with those of Hamilton at Treasury and Knox in the War Department. Knox usually sided with Hamilton while Attorney General Edmund Randolph, who was from Virginia, would support Jefferson. Washington was striving to be President of all the people, but he usually was closer to Hamilton. The Senate passed an assumption bill, but the House had refused to include the debts in its funding bill, putting the Congress at an impasse. At a presidential dinner on June 20 Jefferson invited Hamilton and Madison for dinner and mediated a compromise between them to pass the assumption of debt by locating the capital more centrally by the Potomac River, a project Jefferson had been planning for years and which would please Washington because it was near Mount Vernon. Massachusetts and South Carolina had the most to gain by assumption of the debt, and their representatives at Hamilton’s request agreed to vote for locating the permanent capital on the banks of the Potomac. The capital would move to Philadelphia for ten years while the federal city was being built. The Continental debt, which had been 6%, was funded at 4%, and the Continental currency was retired at the rate of 100-1 rather than 40-1. The bill passed the Senate on July 16 and the House on the 26th.
      Many speculators became richer when more than $60 million in state and federal certificates, which had been practically worthless, were raised almost to face value. The new bonds soon circulating amounted to ten times the specie in the United States, providing what Hamilton called “an engine of business” and “an instrument of industry and commerce.” The national debt suddenly increased to more than $80 million. During the next ten years paying the interest on this debt accounted for more than 40% of national revenue which was averaging more than $6 million by the mid-1790s compared to $500,000 direct tax revenue in all the states. The states all together spent more than $1 million a year, and the Federal Government in 1795 spent $7.5 million.
      On August 4 and 12 Congress authorized the United States Treasury to borrow $14 million in Europe as it held its last session in New York. Hamilton negotiated loans of three million florins from the Dutch bank of Willinks, Van Staphorsts and Hubbard. During the year that ended on 30 September 1790 the United States exported at least $20 million of mostly agricultural goods while importing more than $15 million worth of largely manufactured products. Nearly half the exports went to England and less than a quarter to France.
      The capital was moved from New York to Philadelphia for ten years, and Congress reconvened in Philadelphia’s Congress Hall on 6 December 1790. Two days later President Washington gave his second annual address to Congress. He reported that the economy was recovering well, and he obtained a loan of three million florins from Holland. The district of Kentucky was applying to admitted as a state, and he advised the Congress to approve. Some Indian bandits northwest of the Ohio, and they plundered and took prisoners. As President he called out the militia. Conflicts in Europe have brought about the need to protect American commerce. At home the establishing of the judicial system was bringing justice to more people. He hoped that additional revenues from selling western land could help pay down the national debt.

Washington & Hamilton’s Bank 1791

      On 14 December 1790 Hamilton had submitted his report on a national bank, and he proposed an excise tax on whiskey and other domestically distilled alcoholic beverages. After establishing the nation’s credit, Hamilton in January 1791 proposed a Bank of the United States which could issue bank notes (paper money) to private citizens. He admired the Bank of England, and his plan called for private stockholders who appointed most of the directors so that they would not inflate the economy with too much paper money. The government would own one-fourth of the stock and would appoint five of the 25 directors. The Senate approved the bank bill on January 21, and a week later Hamilton submitted his “Report on the Mint.” On January 23 the General Assembly of Maryland ceded to the US Congress ten square miles for the new seat of the US Government. On February 8 the House passed the bank bill 39-20.
      Madison, Jefferson, and Randolph objected that the Constitution did not authorize the government to create a bank, but the Treasury Secretary argued that this and other powers were implied as “necessary and proper” for fulfilling its designated powers such as collecting taxes, borrowing money, regulating interstate trade, and supporting military forces. Jefferson suggested the useful idea of using the decimal system for the United States currency. President George Washington accepted Hamilton’s arguments and signed the bank bill into law on February 25. The vote had shown how divided the nation was regionally as 34 out of 35 northern Congressmen voted in favor while 20 out of 25 southerners were opposed.
      On February 28 Jefferson and Madison asked Philip Freneau to come to Philadelphia to help them establish a “vehicle of intelligence,” and Jefferson offered him a translating position in the State Department. In 1781 Freneau had written the poem “The British Prison-Ship” describing the brutal conditions he suffered as a prisoner during the Revolutionary War. In On False Systems of Government he wrote,

How can we call those systems just
Which bid the few, the proud, the first,
Possess all earthly good;
While millions robbed of all that’s dear
In silence shed the ceaseless tear,
   And leaches suck their blood.3

      On March 15 Jefferson submitted his report on America’s international commerce to the Congress. He advised duties on any nation that taxed or prohibited American goods to warn them. If they continued, he recommended prohibiting their goods.
      Jefferson persuaded a Senate committee to let the President have the discretion of deciding on salaries of diplomats to other countries. He agreed with Franklin that whatever people made beyond a “modest competence” and enough money to provide for their families and educate the children was a surplus made possible by the society which thus had a right to ask for it back through progressive taxes on excess income and inheritance. Jefferson believed that history shows that reform movements begin with high ideals but tend to deteriorate into exploitation and rigidity “with the governments preying on the people and the rich on the poor.” He was glad that wheat had replaced tobacco as a major crop in Virginia because it symbolized independence and self-reliance as well as being food.
      Many leaders of different persuasions such as Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Paine, and Patrick Henry were opposed to the factionalism of parties, but the controversial debates moved inexorably in that direction. Gradually the Anti-Federalists came to be called Republicans and were disparagingly referred to by Federalists as Democrats. Jefferson regularly opposed the views of the conservative Federalist Hamilton and became the leader of the Republican Party and was supported by Madison and James Monroe. Aaron Burr had been elected to the Senate by New York and became the Republicans’ political leader in that body. The new government was fortunate that the depression had ended. When George Hammond became the first British minister to the United States, Jefferson met him with coldness. Hammond turned to consulting with Treasury Secretary Hamilton.
      On July 4 offices in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Charleston began accepting subscriptions for bank stock for $25. The US Bank’s capital was set at $10 million with $8 million to be supplied by private investors, who were to put down one-quarter in specie. Within an hour all the available scrip was subscribed, and many investors doubled their money in a few days. On August 11 scrip in New York reached a high of $280, and in Philadelphia it went to $320. Speculators believing it was over-valued began selling, and the next day the bubble burst as the price fell to $150. Hamilton allowed the government to pay for its stock in ten annual installments, but private stock purchasers had to pay in 18 months. The bank scrip moved from $110 up to $140 while speculative scrip which had fallen to $67 rose to $145 in September. In October the Bank of the United States chose its 25 directors from various states and began doing business in Philadelphia. On August 17 Hamilton had written a critical letter to Duer because he had heard that he made “fictitious purchases” to fool the public. That summer the married Hamilton began a love affair with Mrs. Maria Reynolds, and in December he began making blackmail payments to her husband James Reynolds.
      The French revolution became a controversial issue, and the conservative Edmund Burke in England wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France. This made Thomas Paine so angry that in March he quickly published in London The Rights of Man dedicated to Washington. The American edition was published in Philadelphia in early May with a note by Jefferson printed without his permission. The Republicans adopted Paine’s work as their guide. Articles were published with the name “Publicola” in defense of John Adams, and eventually people learned that they were written by his son John Quincy Adams.
      On September 8 Jefferson and Madison met with the commissioners the President had appointed to plan the new capital on the Potomac, and they decided to name the federal district Columbia and the city Washington.
      At this time the United States had nearly 100 newspapers, though only eight were dailies. They printed foreign and national news and could fill them with political debates. Benjamin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, had started the General Advertiser in October 1790 to oppose the Federalist administration, and it later became the Aurora. Jefferson in July 1791 hired the poet Philip Freneau as a translator in the State Department and with Madison supported his National Gazette which published its first issue on October 31 accusing Hamilton of being the main person in the monarchist conspiracy while he called Jefferson the “colossus of liberty.” Hamilton had sponsored John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States in New York since 1789 with printing jobs for the Treasury and the Senate, and they published the “Discourses of Davila” by John Adams in 1790. The Gazette had moved to Philadelphia with Congress in December. Jefferson accused Fenno of favoring the “doctrines of monarchy, aristocracy, and the exclusion of the influence of the people.”4
      Thomas Paine was involved in the French Revolution, and he wrote The Rights of Man which was published in London in March. Then Thomas Jefferson helped get it published in Philadelphia, and a letter he wrote to the publisher was published as the preface without his permission, as Jefferson explained in a long letter to Washington.
      The annual debt service was $826,625, and current revenues were insufficient. The US Bank was authorized to issue notes up to $10 million beyond its deposits. To help pay off the debt Congress imposed an excise tax on the production of liquor and other luxuries such as snuff and sugar loaf, and the law passed on 3 March 1791.
      Washington met with a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, and the President toured the Carolinas and Georgia in April, May, and June of 1791. He was widely admired as the hero of the Revolution, but the fear of monarchy prevented people from giving him titles or putting his image on coins. As result of Hamilton’s persuasion in September King George III sent George Hammond as Britain’s first minister to the United States, and he arrived in the fall. On July 4 the Treasury began selling shares in the Bank of the United States. The par value of the stock was $400, but Hamilton allowed down payments as low as $25 for “scrip” which enabled them to buy full shares later. Most of this was sold in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, and this caused southerners to be afraid of northern control. By August 11 the bank scrip price had increased to $300.
      The United States Supreme Court met twice briefly in February and August 1790 but had no cases. The court had two cases in 1791 and five each in 1792 and 1793. In May 1791 a circuit court found invalid a Connecticut law that collected additional interest. In 1792 a circuit court in Georgia considered a treaty superior to a previous state law which had blocked recovery of the original debt. In Hayburn’s Case on August 11 the US Supreme Court struck down an act of Congress as unconstitutional because they did not believe the federal courts should have jurisdiction in all pension suits against the government.
      The second Congress began on 24 October 1791, and the next day Washington gave his third annual address to Congress. He reported happily that the new Bank of the United States became fully subscribed on its first day. He reviewed how depredations by Indians in the northwest required an “offensive operations” that were ongoing. General Arthur St. Clair governed the Northwest Territory and had assembled 2,387 regulars and militia by September. The President described how a new “act laying certain duties on distilled spirits” was being “carried into effect” to provide needed revenue. The census had been completed and found that the population of the United States was about four million people.
      The House of Representatives had asked Hamilton for an economic plan to develop manufacturing, and after nearly two years of research he submitted his Report on Manufactures on December 5. Government would aid businesses with protective tariffs by exempting essential raw materials from import duties, by giving subsidies and bounties for inventions, and by modernizing transportation. For Hamilton promoting the general welfare included education, agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce. The Tariff Act of 1792 included many of his ideas except for the fisheries. He and Coxe organized the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (SEUM) to engage in this with capitalization of $500,000, and New Jersey’s Governor William Paterson granted a charter founding the town of Paterson on 22 November 1791.
      James Madison began publishing a series of 18 essays in the National Gazette criticizing the Washington administration starting in November. On December 19 he wrote, “Public opinion sets bounds to every government and is the real sovereign in every free one.”5

Washington & Hamilton’s Bank 1792

         The United States Bank stimulated the founding of the Bank of the State of New York for $200 a share in early March 1792; but after going up to about $300 in a week, in the next two weeks they fell to $100. Republicans accused insiders of using manipulation. In the next few days Hamilton tried to stabilize the stock by drawing $150,000 from the Sinking Fund (established for paying off the national debt) and by persuading the Bank of New York’s cashier William Seton to buy $150,000 in government securities, which stabilized the market. About $5 million was lost in New York and about $1 million each in Philadelphia and Boston. The SEUM experiment failed when the speculative bubble inflated by Duer, Alexander Macomb, and two dozen other New York investors collapsed in the financial panic on March 9. By the next day 24 investors were bankrupt. Macomb and Duer had made a secret partnership for the year 1792, and Macomb and Melancton Smith had organized the Million Bank in January. Duer was imprisoned for huge debts and died in jail in 1799. Macomb was arrested on April 12, and even Robert Morris was put in a Philadelphia prison for debtors.
      Hamilton sent an explanation to reassure the American minister in Holland, William Short, who had negotiated a loan from the Dutch. Hamilton’s plan had unified the governments’ debt at the federal level, strengthening the federal government and preventing conflicts and uncertainty. Overall the war debt was being managed, and the economy was improving; the federal government had done much to create the financial stability that had been lacking under the weak Confederation.
      Congress tried to increase the number of members in the House of Representatives by having one representative for every 30,000 people instead of for 40,000, and they passed the bill in March 1792; but the Virginians Jefferson, Randolph, and Madison persuaded President Washington to veto a bill on constitutional grounds for the first time on April 5. That spring Jefferson submitted to Washington a detailed criticism of Hamilton’s policies without mentioning his name. He also spoke personally to the President about his concern that funding the national debt and the assumption of debts were corrupting legislation and could destroy republican government.
      The US Bank declined to loan money to southern planters using tobacco warehouse receipts as security. Eight state banks were founded in 1792, and 32 had been established by 1801. The Bank of the United States regulated them by requiring them to redeem their notes and checks with hard money. Congress authorized the mint in the spring of 1792, and it began producing gold and silver coins. The silver American “eagles” fled to England while unminted silver and gold escaped to India and China.
      The struggle between the Republicans led by Jefferson and Madison and the Federalists led by Hamilton was expressed through a newspaper war that heated up in 1792 while President Washington tried to reconcile the emerging parties. On January 12 Freneau began castigating Hamilton regularly in the National Gazette. That month Madison wrote an article arguing that parties could not be avoided and could help work out conflicts and be another check on power. On March 5 Hamilton made his report to the House defending the excise taxes. Freneau began publishing letters by “Brutus” on March 15 criticizing Hamilton’s scheme for national manufacturing, and in April the first of nine articles by “Sidney” appeared objecting to the excise taxes.
      Hamilton did not begin fighting back until July 25 when he published in the Gazette of the United States a paragraph signed “T.L.” accusing Freneau of using his government salary to run his National Gazette. Then Hamilton answered Jefferson’s criticisms of his financial policies in a long essay in August. The conflict had become one between Federalists who were financiers and merchants in the northern states who liked the British system and the Republicans who were farmers and artisans in the southern and middle states who admired the French Revolution. Jefferson believed the debt led to corruption and wanted it paid off as soon as possible while Hamilton wanted to use it to stimulate the economy. Jefferson believed limited government was best. Hamilton favored a broader interpretation of the implied powers of government in the Constitution.
      The South grew staple crops for market, and tobacco, not being perishable, could be distributed to Europe without processing. Yet planters including Washington in the Upper South were turning to wheat and other foods because tobacco depleted the soil. In the Lower South rice and indigo for dying cloth continued to be staples. Cotton had not yet become a major crop, but Georgians had obtained seeds of the rot-resistant, long-staple black-seed cotton from the Bahamas since 1786. The South had more than 90% of the African slaves in the United States, and they were nearly 60% of South Carolina’s population, 40% of Virginians, and 30% in Maryland and North Carolina. Concerned about the slave revolt in Haiti, South Carolina banned the importation of slaves in 1792 for two years, but many were smuggled in illegally. Republicans appealed to common people and the growing middle class and to religious and ethnic minorities who wanted equality and justice. They accused Federalists of admiring British monarchy and of using their wealth and power to exploit others. The Federalists were afraid that the popular radicalism stimulated by the French Revolution would challenge government and lead to anarchy. The Republicans opposed the concentration of power in government and the wealthy who used standing armies and debt to control people.
      On July 25 Hamilton published an anonymous essay in Fenno’s Gazette of the United States for the first time criticizing Jefferson. Washington after a trip home to Mount Vernon wrote a letter to Hamilton on July 29 listing 21 grievances about their administration he had heard. Hamilton responded by urging Washington to run for a second term. He wanted to retire after his first term, but all his advisors persuaded him to run once more to help keep the nation from being divided. Jefferson also wanted to retire at the end of the term in March 1793, but he stayed to the end of the year. In September the French revolutionaries had stopped the Austrian and Prussian invasion of France at Valmy and had declared France a republic. American republicans were delighted that their revolution was also taking hold in Europe. Opposition to the excise tax on alcohol aroused strong opposition in the west that intimidated tax collectors and anyone who helped them.
      On August 18 Hamilton wrote a long letter to Washington defending his policies. Washington responded by asking Hamilton to end is quarreling with Jefferson. On September 15 President Washington issued a proclamation warning that violators of the law would be brought to justice. Madison’s essay “A Candid State of Parties” appeared in the National Gazette on September 26, and he described the emerging parties as representing the different opinions in Congress. Jefferson had breakfast with Washington at Mount Vernon on October 1, and he affirmed Washington’s decision to run for a second term. Washington still considered resigning until he got a long letter from Eliza Powell who wrote, “I will venture to assert that, at this time, you are the only man in America that dares to do right on all public occasions.” Washington, who longed to go home to Mount Vernon, agreed to make another sacrifice for his country. Once again in the Electoral College he got all of the 132 votes. Adams was reelected as Vice President by getting 76 votes to 50 for the Jeffersonian New York Governor George Clinton.
      In the 1792 elections the incumbent Governor Clinton of New York barely defeated John Jay who was supported by Hamilton. Candidates did not run under party names, but Jefferson believed that his allies and friends had won a majority in the Congress. On November 6 Washington gave his state of the union address, noting that they had received three more loans for three million florins each, two from Amsterdam and one from Antwerp. That month Hamilton calculated that 1792 revenues would be about $4.3 million.

America & the French Revolution 1793-94

      Representative William Branch Giles of Virginia in December 1792 had challenged Hamilton’s bill to borrow money for payment of the French debt in order to finance the government’s 20% share of the US Bank’s stock, and on 23 January 1793 his nine resolutions initiated an investigation of the Treasury Department. Alexander Hamilton made reasonable and detailed responses to the charges, and they were all voted down in the House of Representatives on March 1. On February 4 Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law forcing judges to return runaway slaves to their masters wherever they were caught, and President Washington signed it into law on February 12.
      On January 23 James Madison published a short essay “Parties” that began as follows:

In every political society, parties are unavoidable.
A difference of interests, real or supposed,
is the most natural and fruitful source of them.
The great object should be to combat the evil:
1. By establishing a political equality among all.
2. By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few,
   to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate,
   and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches.
3. By the silent operation of laws, which,
   without violating the rights of property,
   reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity,
   and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort.
4. By abstaining from measures which operate differently on different interests,
   and particularly such as favor one interest at the expence of another.
5. By making one party a check on the other,
   so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented,
   nor their views accommodated.
   If this is not the language of reason, it is that of republicanism.6

      On 4 March 1793 George Washington and John Adams were inaugurated for their second terms as President and Vice President. Having been criticized for his birthday party on February 22, Washington gave the shortest inaugural address in US history. He said,

I am again called upon by the voice of my Country
to execute the functions of its Chief Magistrate.
When the occasion proper for it shall arrive,
I shall endeavour to express the high sense I entertain
of this distinguished honor, and of the confidence which
has been reposed in me by the people of United America.
Previous to the execution of any official act of the President,
the Constitution requires an Oath of Office.
This Oath I am now about to take, and in your presence,
that if it shall be found during my administration
of the Government I have in any instance violated willingly,
or knowingly, the injunction thereof, I may
(besides incurring Constitutional punishment)
be subject to the upbraidings of all
who are now witnesses of the present solemn Ceremony.

      Gouvernor Morris had become the US Minister to France in early 1792, and France had abolished its monarchy on September 21. Morris advised Washington not to try to help his imprisoned friend Lafayette because of his virulent enemies. Morris gave 100,000 livres to Lafeyette’s wife, and on March 16 Washington wrote a letter to her and deposited 2,300 guilders in Amsterdam for her.
      While Washington was at Mount Vernon in early April he received a letter from Hamilton telling him that a war had begun between England and France. Washington wrote to Secretary of State Jefferson that he wanted the United States to be strictly neutral, and he returned to the capital on April 17. Washington sent 13 questions on the crisis to the four department heads, and the cabinet met the next day. Jefferson had sympathy for the French, and he opposed neutrality, hoping the two nations would bid for America’s help. Hamilton argued for a neutrality proclamation, and on the 19th they all agreed to make a proclamation forbidding American citizens from participating in the hostilities on the seas or against belligerent powers. Attorney General Edmund Randolph wrote the neutrality proclamation that they issued with the President’s signature on April 22 which stated,

The duty and interest of the United States require,
that they should with sincerity and good faith
adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial
towards the belligerent powers.7

They also agreed that they should receive a minister from France.
      The German Republican Society in April formed at Philadelphia to watch elected officials, and a few weeks later the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania was organized by Benjamin Franklin Bache and others.
      Also in April news had arrived that the French had executed King Louis XVI for treason, and on February 1 they had declared war on England, Holland, and Spain. The Girondists were in power and sent Citizen Edmond Charles Genet as their minister to the United States. Blaming bad winds, his ship landed at Charleston on April 8. Citing the treaty of 1778 allying France and the United States, he began by fitting out four privateers with mostly American crews to attack British shipping. He had persuaded the French naturalist André Michaux to give up his planned expedition to travel across the continent to the Pacific Ocean that had been supported by the American Philosophical Society and Jefferson. Instead Genet urged him to join George Rogers Clark and Benjamin Logan in Kentucky in recruiting forces to attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana. The alcoholic Clark was hired as Genet gave commissions in the Armée du Mississippi and the Armée des Florides; but Spanish agents in Philadelphia warned President Washington, and Senator William Blount of Kentucky gave up his effort to work for England and scotched Clark’s expedition.
      Citizen Genet traveled by land to Philadelphia and was welcomed by enthusiastic crowds who supported the Republicans and favored the French Revolution over the British. He reached Philadelphia on May 16 and was invited to banquets. Genet wanted to negotiate a new treaty with the United States, and he insisted on at least fulfilling the previous one. He asked the United States to pay off its $5.6 million debt to France as soon as possible. Genet helped organize the Democratic Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in May, the first of more than forty such voluntary organizations that sprang up around the country. The President treated Genet coolly on May 18, and four days later Genet gave a letter to Secretary of State Jefferson with France’s requests. The next day he enclosed a decree of February 19 showing that France had opened the West Indies to American trade.
      Jefferson advised Genet and informed him that any new treaty would have to be confirmed by the Senate which was not in session. On June 5 Jefferson told him that every nation had the right to prohibit the arming of privateers or the recruiting of its citizens, and six days later Genet learned that the United States would maintain the schedule for paying the French debt. The young Genet wrote three letters to Jefferson which were received on the same day. He complained that Philadelphia authorities had stopped the sale of prizes taken by a French privateer and that another privateer had been detained in New York.
      On June 17 Jefferson sent Genet an explanation of neutrality, international law, the 1778 treaties, and the position of the American government which would not interfere with civil suits over control of a prize. Two days later he made it clear that the United States would not issue assignments on the debt for the payment of supplies. On the 22nd Genet expressed his anger in a letter, but Washington had left for Mount Vernon. The French minister would be given no reply until he returned on July 11.
      Jefferson realized that the Republicans should support the policy of neutrality to keep themselves in the right. He visited Genet and said the Little Sarah would be detained. When Washington returned, he learned that Genet was promoting the sailing of the Little Sarah which he had renamed the Petite Démocrate. If the United States protested, he threatened to appeal to the people. On July 12 Washington and his cabinet decided to ask France to recall this minister, and their minister Gouverneur Morris was recalled from France. Washington asked for the opinions of the Supreme Court justices about Genet’s activities. The American citizens Henfield and Singletary were arrested for serving on a French privateer in Charleston. During this crisis Madison argued that the President did not have the authority to proclaim neutrality while Hamilton writing seven newspaper essays as “Pacificus” believed that he did. The position of the United States was that the defensive alliance with France did not apply because the French had started an offensive war.
      The Federalists had held meetings in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia where they condemned Genet and defended the President in resolutions. The English had reacted on 8 June 1793 by ordering neutral ships going to France detained and purchased, and on November 6 they began seizing any vessel trading with the French West Indies; but the British foreign ministry modified the latter on 8 January 1794, and the American minister Thomas Pinckney wrote to Washington that the British foreign secretary William Grenville wanted to be “on good terms” with the United States.
      Jefferson warned Washington against declaring war on the Republican party because it would change him from being head of the nation to head of a party. Washington met with him on August 6 and agreed not to make the Genet affair a public issue. Two days later Chief Justice Jay informed the President that the Supreme Court would not offer an advisory opinion on the 29 questions Washington had submitted on July 18 about treaties and the French seizure of ships in American waters. He reasoned that the Constitution set up the legislative, executive, and judiciary as three independent branches of government. They declined to comment unless it was a legal case before them.
      Washington’s cabinet then issued rules prohibiting belligerents from arming privateers or bringing captured prizes in American waters which were defined as three miles from the coast, though Jefferson had recommended twenty miles. During the excitement over the French Revolution and the visit by Genet the Republicans in the South and Middle states formed several Democratic-Republican Societies, and they emulated the French ways they admired. Jefferson on July 31 submitted a letter of resignation that might become effective at the end of September. He persuaded Madison to take on Hamilton by writing his “Letters to Helvidius” in August and September. In the first five Madison argued that the presidential proclamation had violated Congress’s power to declare war. In August the entire cabinet agreed to demand the recall of Genet. When they learned that the Jacobins had sent Jean-Antoine Fauchet to arrest Genet for crimes against the revolution, Washington did not want to send him to his death in France and granted him asylum. Genet married Governor Clinton’s daughter, and spent the rest of his life in upstate New York.
      An epidemic of yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia in August, and on the 19th Dr. Benjamin Rush diagnosed that it was yellow fever. Although he noted that mosquitoes were bad that month, he said it was caused by rotten coffee imported from the West Indies. He saw hundreds of patients; but his purges and bleeding treatments resulted in many deaths, and he was severely criticized. Hamilton’s friend Ned Stevens advised patients to eat and drink liquids and use peppermint oils to avoid vomiting. Until cold weather killed off the mosquitoes in October, the disease took 4,000 lives in Philadelphia and spread in the other big cities of New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Charleston. Philadelphia newspapers stopped publishing except for Freneau’s National Gazette which had dwindling readers and closed after October 23.
      Jefferson influenced Washington’s special message to Congress on foreign affairs sent on December 5. On the 16th Jefferson submitted to Congress his “Report on the Privileges and Restrictions on the Commerce of the United States in Foreign Countries.” He challenged Sheffield’s 1783 Observations on the Commerce of the American States and the Hawkesbury Report, arguing that the British Navigation Law had robbed Americans and that only the threat of retaliation would get the British to give up their advantageous system. Jefferson’s resignation went into effect at the end of 1793, and he retired at Monticello. Hamilton and Knox also wanted to resign, but Washington persuaded them to stay on for another year. The President made Edmund Randolph Secretary of State on 2 January 1794, and he appointed as Attorney General William Bradford, the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.
      Exhilarated by the American and French revolutions, Jefferson came to believe that changes in debts, laws, and constitutions were needed every generation, estimated to be nineteen years by the French naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, the Comte de Buffon. Jefferson believed that his republican sentiments were shared by 99 out of 100 citizens.
      On 3 January 1794 Madison had presented a series of commercial resolutions based on Jefferson’s proposed remedies calling for duties on British ships and merchandise. American exports were increasing while imports from British ships were decreasing sharply and would continue to do so through 1796. Coached by Hamilton the Federalist William L. Smith of South Carolina opposed Madison’s resolutions in the House. Fisher Ames argued that since American trade was improving, Madison was proposing unnecessary self-denial.
      The new French minister Jean Fauchet arrived in Philadelphia on February 21. Robespierre’s Jacobins had taken power in France, and they ordered Genet arrested. President Washington offered him asylum, and he remained in the United States as a private citizen until his death. Genet recalled the commissions he gave to Clark and others, reducing the chance of war with Spain.
      In 1794 the British had 1,000 soldiers stationed in United States territory. The British Navy did not respect American neutrality and seized 130 of their ships at the island of St. Eustacia. Quebec’s Governor Guy Carleton (called Lord Dorchester) had made a speech on February 10 urging Indians to help the British redraw the border. That month the British captured Martinique and every American ship in the harbor, putting 250 sailors in a prison ship. On March 4 they funded repairing fortifications in all sea-coast ports. On the 7th news arrived of a British Order in Council issued on November 6 which imposed a blockade on the French West Indies and had been kept secret until late December. The British had seized more than 250 unsuspecting American ships, confiscating 150 already. Although the Federalists controlled the Senate, they passed the embargo resolution against British ships on March 26. The next day Washington signed the bill authorizing $688,889 for the building of six frigates, the beginning of the United States Navy, and on the 29th the President proclaimed a 30-day embargo.
      On April 3 a message arrived from Thomas Pinckney, the American minister to Britain, that foreign minister Grenville was being conciliatory. On April 16 the President appointed Chief Justice John Jay as Envoy Extraordinary to Britain, and the Senate confirmed him three days later. Republicans reacted angrily, and Democratic Societies burned Jay in effigy in many towns. Madison proposed an amendment to suspend trade with the British, and it passed the House 58-38; but on April 28 Vice President Adams broke the tie in the Senate by voting against that. The embargo was discontinued by general agreement on May 12.
      In May hundreds of artisans and tradesmen in Philadelphia protested the excise taxes on snuff (powdered tobacco), refined sugar, and carriages. Fauchet had asked Washington to recall Gouverneur Morris from France, and on May 27 the President nominated the Republican James Monroe to replace him. William Short was transferred from The Hague to be minister to Spain, and the Vice President’s son John Quincy Adams was confirmed as minister to the Netherlands. The United States had started its Navy, and the Senate confirmed the first six captains on June 3. On August 15 Monroe made an admiring speech to the French Convention. He also urged the United States to loan France $5,000,000 and advocated military action against the British while Jay was trying to negotiate with Grenville in England.
      Alexander Chisholm in South Carolina had tried to sue the state of Georgia on behalf of the estate of Robert Farquhar who had sold Georgia £64,000 worth of goods during the Revolution. Georgia denied jurisdiction, but the US Supreme Court in 1793 decided 4-1 for the plaintiff, upholding the right of citizens to sue another state in federal court. On 4 March 1794 the Congress proposed the following amendment to the Constitution:

The Judicial power of the United States
shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity,
commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States
by Citizens of another State,
or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

After it was ratified by twelve states the 11th amendment went into effect on 7 February 1795.
      James Hewitt came from England to the United States and in 1794 composed the ballad opera Tammany; or the Indian Chief which portrayed Indians as noble warriors and was performed in New York City by the Tammany Society that had been founded in 1786. Thomas Paine had published the first part of his Age of Reason in 1794, and it was published in eight American editions that year and seven more in 1795. Some Christian preachers objected to his challenges of organized religion and turned against supporters of the French Revolution such as Jefferson and Republicans. By 1795 the Democratic-Republican Societies formed in the previous two years had stopped meeting.

Whiskey Rebellion

     In March 1791 the United States enacted its first domestic excise tax on “distilled spirits” which was about one-quarter of the net price of a gallon of whiskey. On imports the tax ranged from 25 cents a gallon to 40 cents depending on the alcohol content, and domestic liquors were charged from 9 to 25 cents. This tax especially affected farmers in the west who gained much of their income from wheat and corn which they could not transport to markets as easily as they could the whiskey from stills. The excise tax was to go into effect on August 1, and farmers in western Pennsylvania met at Redstone Old Fort on July 27 to plan their resistance. They met again in two more conventions.
      Robert Johnson was appointed to collect the revenue in Washington and Allegheny counties in western Pennsylvania, and in early September in a forest at Pigeon Creek he was captured by a gang wearing dresses as disguises who took his horse, stripped him naked, and covered his body with hot tar and feathers. He was released and identified three men to the sheriff who was too intimidated to arrest them. Johnson also gave the name of Daniel Hamilton to the federal government in his complaint.
      Another man claiming he was a tax collector got similar treatment. After that, little effort was made to collect the tax. President Washington could not find anyone in Kentucky to enforce United States law. A conference met for three days in Pittsburgh, and they worked on a petition objecting to the whiskey tax. General John Neville was put in charge of collection in the four westernmost counties of Pennsylvania for a salary of $400 a year and one percent of what he and his deputies could collect.
       The US Congress had revised the excise tax on 8 May 1792 to remove the distinction between producers in cities or the country. Treasury Secretary Hamilton wanted effective enforcement, and a central excise office was to be established in each county where distillers must register all stills. Failure to register could mean forfeiting the still and paying a fine raised to $250. The four counties around the forks at Pittsburgh organized the Mingo Creek Association and planned their own enforcement to prevent collection of the tax. When Captain William Faulkner offered to rent Neville a room for his office in the town of Washington, he was warned and shunned. About forty delegates met at a convention in Pittsburgh in late August, and the prominent Albert Gallatin signed their resolutions. Two days later thirty armed men visited Faulkner’s house while he was gone and broke things.
      George Clymer was sent to Pittsburgh as the federal revenue inspector for all of Pennsylvania, but though thin he introduced himself as Henry Knox who was known to be fat. Clymer asked for protection at Fort Fayette. He asked the district judge Alexander Addison to take depositions, but he would not let a federal official dictate to a state court. Deputy collector Benjamin Wells wanted the money; but his house was attacked by disguised gangs, and in November he agreed to publish his resignation in the Pittsburgh Gazette. In 1793 he traveled to Philadelphia three times to report to the departments of Justice and Treasury. Tom the Tinker became a leader, and the gangs called themselves Tom the Tinker’s Men. In emulation of the revolution they met by liberty poles.
      On 24 February 1794 President Washington signed a proclamation offering a reward of $200 for detaining persons who had violently entered the office of the revenue collector. Congress then ended the requirement that farmers charged had to go to Philadelphia for trial. In April the Democratic Society of Washington County sent a petition to President Washington. William Rawle, the US attorney for Pennsylvania, was building a file on the Mingo Creek Association. Hamilton and Attorney General William Bradford planned a strategy to enforce the law, not charging those who agreed to register a still; but Rawle got some warrants on May 31 before the more lenient law went into effect on June 5. The rebels reacted by shutting down all tax offices, and they punished civilian collaborators as well as officials.
      US Marshal David Lenox went from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. When Lenox and Neville visited William Miller’s farm, Miller refused to accept the writ. A posse of vigilantes followed them; but Neville fled to Bower Hill while Lenox returned to Pittsburgh. The Mingo Creek Association elected John Holcroft to gather armed men and capture the marshal. He led 37 men with muskets to Bower Hill where Neville’s men mortally wounded Miller’s nephew. Holcroft’s men fired at the building and had six men wounded by return fire.
      On July 15 Marshal Lenox started trying to serve more than sixty writs on tax evaders to appear in a Philadelphia courthouse. Two days later about 600 men assembled at Couch’s Fort voted to attack Bower Hill which the US Army was defending. They demanded that the marshal turn over his writs and that Neville resign as excise inspector. Neville and a few soldiers defended his home, and the rebels set buildings on fire. Seeing a white flag, James McFarlane told his men to stop firing, and he was shot dead. Inside Major Kirkpatrick surrendered. The militia let his soldiers go and held Kirkpatrick hostage. Then they burned down the Bower Hill plantation. After a negotiation Lenox agreed not to serve any more writs in the west and surrendered. After four men warned the inhabitants of Pittsburgh that every house would be burned down if they did not support the resistance, 7,000 people gathered on Braddock’s Field on August 1. Washington met with his cabinet the next day.
      A congress was held at Parkinson’s Ferry on August 14 with 226 delegates from five Pennsylvania counties and Ohio County in Virginia with 250 armed men in the gallery. They demanded the excise tax be repealed and talked about redistribution of wealth. The next day representatives of President Washington sent them a message asking for a negotiation. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson had authorized him to invoke the Militia Act on August 4, but Pennsylvania’s Governor Thomas Mifflin objected to calling out the state militia and doubted they would come. The next day Hamilton gave Washington a report justifying military action. Secretary of War Knox agreed they needed at least 12,000 men.
      The Federalist Attorney General Bradford agreed with Randolph that they should negotiate first. On August 6 Washington assigned Bradford to lead a Presidential Commission to negotiate with the rebels. They left the next day, and Knox ordered the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia to call out 13,000 militiamen on September 1. Knox got permission to go to Maine to look into his land investments there, and Hamilton became acting Secretary of War. Bradford wrote advising no delay in sending troops. After a long war council on August 24 Hamilton began planning to send 15,000 men, and Virginia’s Governor Henry Lee III was to command under Washington. Hamilton also wrote newspaper articles as “Tully” to explain the need for military action.
      The Commission began negotiating with the moderate Hugh Henry Brackenridge in Pittsburgh, offering not to begin prosecuting anyone for treason until July 1795. If laws were obeyed by then, they would pardon any crimes not yet indicted. Brackenridge in 1781 had helped start the Pittsburgh Gazette, the first newspaper on the western frontier. In 1786 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly and the next year obtained state funding to found the Pittsburgh Academy which eventually became the University of Pittsburgh. His satirical novel Modern Chivalry about life in the west was published in four volumes 1792-97. Influenced by Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Captain Farrago travels around with his Irish bond-servant Teague O’Regan who tries to be a politician, a scientist, a minister, a husband, a comedian, a tax collector, and a newspaper editor; but from lack of education and experience, he fails in these, and eventually Farrago persuades him to give them up. Brackenridge criticized speculators who tried to profit by manipulation, and he warned that a free society cannot be preserved when the love of money is encouraged. The virtues of a republic are self-denial, humility, and justice. Brackenridge also wrote the account of the Whiskey Rebellion Incidents of the Insurrection in the Western Parts of Pennsylvania in the Year 1794. He became a judge in 1799 and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1801. On 23 August 1794 the committee of moderates agreed to present the President’s terms to a committee of 60 which five days later voted 34-23 to submit, and Brackenridge got a hundred copies of the committee’s report printed.
      Washington ordered the militia to report on September 9. A referendum was set for September 11, and males over 18 had to take an oath of submission to federal law by that date to gain amnesty. In Maryland the governor called out 700 men to defeat 90 rebels who had seized the armory at Frederick’s Town; but in Hagerstown the militia drove the officers out of town, and they put up a second liberty pole after the first was torn down. On September 25 the President’s final proclamation threatened the use of force, and on the 30th Washington and Hamilton left Philadelphia to join the army at Carlisle.
      Washington was in Carlisle by October 9 and began sending out troops the next day. On the 18th he paraded 3,000 soldiers in Bedford. Hamilton ordered Henry Lee to take command on the 20th, and the next day Washington left to go east. Hamilton ordered quartermasters to seize civilian property. Arrests already had begun with the radical evangelist Herman Husband, and about 150 had been arrested by November 17. Only twenty prisoners were in the first group that marched to Philadelphia where they paraded before 20,000 citizens. Twelve cases went to trial in 1795; but only two were convicted of treason, and Washington pardoned them. The town of Washington was occupied by 1,500 soldiers. Lee ordered a general pardon. Loyalty oaths were made, and stills were registered. Overt opposition to the whiskey tax had ended, but many managed to elude the tax in various ways. In 1801 President Jefferson appointed Albert Gallatin Secretary of the Treasury, and the whiskey tax was repealed.
      On 19 November 1794 in his 6th annual message to Congress President Washington reviewed the reaction to the excise tax on alcohol in  “four western counties of Pennsylvania” where he said that prejudice fostered “riot and violence,” and he suggested that “certain self-created societies assumed the tone of condemnation.” In the legal process a marshal was sent, and he was “fired upon,” arrested, and held as a prisoner. “A numerous body repeatedly attacked the house of the inspector, seized his papers of office, and finally destroyed by fire, his buildings.” The response of his administration to this rebellion is described above. James Madison criticized Washington’s speech in the House of Representatives for denouncing what he considered to be the censure of legitimate political clubs. The Genet affair and events in France dampened the enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and the Democratic Societies faded away. Washington concluded this message by saying,

My policy in our foreign transactions has been,
to cultivate peace with all the world;
to observe treaties with pure and absolute faith;
to check every deviation from the line of impartiality;
to explain what may have been misapprehended,
and correct what may have been injurious to any nation;
and having thus acquired the right,
to lose no time in acquiring the ability,
to insist upon justice being done to ourselves.
   Let us unite, therefore,
in imploring the Supreme Ruler of nations,
to spread his holy protection over these United States:
to turn the machinations of the wicked
to the confirming of our constitution:
to enable us at all times to root out internal sedition,
and put invasion to flight:
to perpetuate to our country that prosperity,
which his goodness has already conferred,
and to verify the anticipations of this government
being a safe guard to human rights.8

Washington & Peace 1795

      At the end of 1794 President George Washington accepted the resignation of Secretary of War Knox, and he moved the Postmaster Timothy Pickering to that position. In four years Pickering had implemented the expansion of post offices from 89 to 450. By 9 January 1795 the Senate had ratified treaties with the Cherokees and the Iroquois nations. Because there were so many political refugees coming to America, Congress required five years of residence before a person could be naturalized as a citizen. Hamilton left the cabinet on January 31 to return to his law practice in New York, and his able assistant Oliver Wolcott Jr. succeeded him at the Treasury.
      Washington promoted canals of the James and Potomac rivers. When he learned that the value of his land had increased by $32,000, he promised the money for a national university in Virginia. His gift of $20,000 in James River Canal shares went to Liberty Hall Academy which was renamed Washington Academy, and after the Civil War became Washington and Lee University.
      John Jay had reached London on 15 June 1794 and on July 15 he wrote to Washington that Lt. Col. John Simcoe had been ordered to leave Ohio. By August 1 the British had promised justice in regard to the American ships they had captured. Grenville learned from a dispatch in September from George Hammond, the British minister to the United States, that Hamilton had assured him that the Americans would not join the League of Armed Neutrality. Knowing this enabled Grenville to gain better terms from Jay. On November 19 Jay and Grenville agreed on a treaty, but the first two copies were captured by the French at sea, and the third did not reach the President until 7 March 1795. Financial claims on US war debts and British compensation for the ships were to be decided by two joint commissions, but there was to be no compensation paid for slaves taken away during the Revolutionary War. Canadian traders were allowed to operate south of the border, and furs brought back were not taxed differently.
      On March 25 the House of Representatives voted 62-37 to demand all the treaty papers, but Washington refused. After a month of debate the House majority switched from Madison to the President. Four French spies were traveling around the west opposing the treaty, and on May 25 Washington directed Secretary of War James McHenry to give the names of two to General Wayne. On June 8 President Washington gave the documents to the Senate. They quickly rejected Jay’s Treaty but then on June 24 approved it without the clause prohibiting molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa, or cotton from leaving the United States in American ships. Jay and the government had kept the terms of the treaty secret from the newspapers and the general public. The Jeffersonian press criticized the treaty, and Benjamin F. Bache’s Aurora in June objected to the people being kept in the dark. Finally Senator Pierce Butler of South Carolina leaked a copy of the treaty to Madison who sent it to be printed by Bache as a pamphlet on July 1.
      Jay returned to New York and learned that the state had elected him Governor. He resigned as Chief Justice on June 28. After Hamilton declined, Washington nominated John Rutledge while the Senate was in recess, making him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the 30th. On July 16 Rutledge made a speech at a meeting in Charleston vehemently attacking Jay and the treaty that was published in at least 13 newspapers. When the Senate reconvened in December, they rejected 10-14 Rutledge‘s nomination.
      On July 18 Hamilton tried to speak in favor of the treaty in front of New York’s city hall, but he was pelted with stones and fled. Two days later treaty opponents rallied in Philadelphia. Republican newspapers reported there were 5,000 people, but the Federalists estimated only 1,500. Robert R. Livingston of New York had been criticizing the treaty as “Cato,” and on July 22 Hamilton published the first of 38 essays, including some by Rufus King, defending the treaty using the name “Camillus.” They objected to public meetings that passed resolutions condemning the treaty without discussing its provisions. They argued that the treaty would be good for the United States, that it does not violate other treaties, and that not ratifying it could lead to war against England.
      Washington found that James Monroe was too partisan toward the French, and he recalled him in July. The President sent Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to France in the fall. Monroe would defend his years in France and criticize Washington in his 473-page A View of the Conduct of the Executive, in the Foreign Affairs of the United States: Connected with the Mission to the French Republic, During the Years 1794, 5, and 6 that would be published in 1798.
      Eli Whitney had graduated from Yale University in 1792, and he invented an inexpensive and more practical version of the roller cotton engine by spring 1793 that could produce 50 pounds of clean cotton in one day compared to one pound by hand. In March 1794 he was given a patent on his “cotton gin” as it was called, and American exports of cotton went from 6 million pounds in 1796 to 41 million in 1801. Whitney learned how to standardize parts and make them interchangeable by having them made by machines. By 1796 all but 7% of the Anglo-American carrying trade would be in American ships.
      Secretary of War Pickering made a treaty with the sachems and war chiefs of all the tribes northwest of the Ohio on 3 August 1795. Hamilton favored it, but Secretary of State Randolph objected to the order for capturing provisions. On August 18 Washington and Randolph signed the treaty. The next day Washington showed Randolph a letter from Fauchet stating that Randolph had given him valuable information and that France would give Randolph thousands of dollars if he helped French interests in the whiskey conflict. The British had captured Fauchet’s dispatches at sea and turned them over to the American government in July to influence the treaty debate. Pickering called Randolph a traitor. Randolph said he would explain. He threatened to resign and walked out. Washington accepted his resignation. War Secretary Pickering handled the State Department during the transition. Attorney General Bradford died four days later. Washington appointed the Virginia lawyer Charles Lee, and after Senate approval he became Attorney General on December 1 and remained in that position during the Adams administration.
      On September 20 General Wayne reported that the British forts at Michilimackinac, Niagara, and Oswego had been politely transferred to the Americans. Republicans continued to oppose the treaty with Britain, and on October 23 Bache’s Aurora of Philadelphia accused Washington of overdrawing his salary and suggested he be impeached.
      On October 27 the special envoy Thomas Pinckney signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo el Real with Spain, giving the United States large territory that would become Alabama and Mississippi north of the 31st parallel, navigation rights on the Mississippi River, and a trading post in New Orleans.
      On November 29 Washington met with warriors from the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, Ottawas, Chippewas, Miamis, Potawatomies, Weeas, Kickapoos, Piankashaws, and the Kaskaskias.
      On December 18 Randolph published A Vindication in 103 pages that was very critical of Washington. Washington made Pickering the Secretary of State, and he appointed James McHenry  as Secretary of War. In a letter to Dr. James Anderson on December 24 Washington wrote,

In politics, as in religion, my tenets are few and simple:
the leading one of which … is to be honest and just ourselves,
and to exact it from others; meddling as little as possible
in their affairs where our own are not involved.
If this maxim was generally adopted Wars would cease,
and our swords would soon be converted into reap-hooks,
and our harvests be more abundant, peaceful, and happy….
But alas! the millennium will not I fear appear in our days.
The restless mind of man cannot be at peace;
and when there is disorder within, it will appear without,
and sooner or later will show itself in arts.9

      Also in 1795 Supreme Court case Van Horne’s Lessee v. Dorrance over a territorial conflict between the states of Connecticut and Pennsylvania Justice Paterson argued that because of the social compact of the Constitution the government could not take property away from someone without giving compensation.

      Judith Sargent was born on 1 May 1751 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and her father Winthrop Sargent had brought her up as a Universalist. She was primarily self-taught. She and her family joined the forming Universalist Church in 1777. In 1781 fifteen Universalists refused to pay taxes for the First Parish Church of Gloucester, and she had joined their petition to the Massachusetts Supreme Court that allowed them to support their church and not pay taxes to the First Parish, a judgment that affected many religious groups. In 1782 Judith Sargent Stevens published her Universalist catechism, and she helped the Universalist Church to accept women as ministers. Her husband John Stevens died in 1787, and the next year she married the Universalist preacher John Murray.
      In 1790 Judith Sargent Murray published her essay “On the Equality of the Sexes” and explained how women are equally capable of using imagination, reason, memory, and judgment. She also wrote “On the Domestic Education of Children.” She urged the wider education of girls and argued that happiness in America depended on families and their education. In 1792 the Massachusetts General Assembly recognized the charter of the Gloucester Universalist Church, ending the lawsuits against it. That year Judith Sargent Murray began publishing her “Gleaner and Repository” essays in the Massachusetts Magazine. In 1795 her play The Medium or Virtue Triumphant was performed at the Federal Street Theater in Boston, and the next year they did her play The Traveler Returned. She also had her play Africa performed there in 1808. She published The Gleaner in three volumes in 1798. She is best known for her four-part essay “Observations on Female Abilities” in which she argued that the intellectual and literary abilities of women are equal to men’s. She believed that women could achieve economic independence and all the rights of citizenship. She maintained that educated women make the best mothers and wives.

Washington & Peace in 1796

      In January 1796 McHenry was confirmed as Secretary of War, and Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut became Chief Justice with Samuel Chase of Maryland as an Associate Justice. British creditors brought litigation to collect debts from Americans, and an appeal reached the Supreme Court in Ware v. Hylton. The court upheld the treaty as the supreme law that made the government responsible for its obligations. In Hylton v. United States on 8 March 1796 the court defended the federal government’s authority to impose an indirect tax on carriages. That summer the Supreme Court heard a case involving the French privateer La Vengeance asserting its admiralty jurisdiction beyond the limits of common law. In this case rather than each justice giving his opinion in turn, for the first time Chief Justice Ellsworth delivered the opinion for the majority, and Justice Chase dissented.
      On August 19 President Washington released his “Address to the Cherokee Nation” advising them to give up the traditional hunting and gathering for the farming and ranching of civilization. The women could spin and weave. Washington himself was going to be retiring to his farm to take care of his corn, wheat, and other grain and his cattle, sheep, and other useful animals.
      In the recent treaties about 600,000 square miles had been added to the territory of the United States. The Jay-Grenville Treaty had been signed by George III, and Washington proclaimed it going into effect on 1 March 1796. Two days later the Senate approved the treaty with Spain. On March 7 Washington proclaimed a treaty that had been made with the Dey Hassan Pasha of Algiers on 5 September 1795. To prevent the Barbary pirates from attacking American ships the United States paid him a $642,000 ransom and promised him $21,600 a year worth of gunpowder, shot, oak planking, pine masts, and other supplies. The Senate ratified the treaty without objections.
      Republicans in the House of Representatives in March opposed to the Jay Treaty tried to prevent funding its implementation. They voted 61-38 for the President to turn over all papers related to the treaty. The documents had already been submitted to the Senate which made them available to the House. Washington, because of separation of powers, refused to comply with their request. The French minister Pierre Adet urged opposition to the treaty and even sent General Victor Collot to explore how the French could conquer Louisiana with possible help from western American states he hoped would secede. The Federalist Fisher Ames spoke eloquently for the treaty in the House on April 28. The next day the Pennsylvania Republican Frederick Muhlenberg, chairman of the House Committee of the Whole, broke a tie vote to get the issue out of committee, and later his brother-in-law, a fanatical Republican, slashed him with a knife. Finally on April 30 the House in a sectional vote of 51-48 funded the treaty. By 1796 the United States had a standing army of about 3,000 men.
      President Washington had consulted with Madison, Hamilton, and Jay on his “Farewell Address” and published it on September 19 as “To the PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES,” and it begins “Friends and Fellow Citizens.” He recognized interest and emphasized duty, and he warned against permanent alliances. The speech had originated with advice from Madison in 1792 when Washington was hoping to retire before he was persuaded to serve for a second term. By retiring rather than dying in office, he set an important precedent that a republic could change its head by election rather than by death. He mentioned the treaties with Britain and Spain that had improved foreign relations. Washington also wrote about republican government.

Heaven may continue to you
the choicest tokens of its beneficence;
that your Union and brotherly affection may be perpetual;
that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands,
may be sacredly maintained;
that its Administration in every department
may be stamped with wisdom and Virtue;
that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States,
under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete
by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use
of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory
of recommending it to the applause, the affection,
and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it….
While, then, every part of our country thus feels
an immediate and particular interest in Union,
all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass
of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource,
proportionably greater security from external danger,
a less frequent interruption of their Peace by foreign nations;
and, what is of inestimable value,
they must derive from Union an exemption
from those broils and Wars between themselves,
which so frequently afflict neighboring countries
not tied together by the same governments,
which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce,
but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments,
and intrigues would stimulate and embitter.
Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity
of those overgrown Military establishments which,
under any form of Government, are inauspicious to liberty,
and which are to be regarded as
particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.
In this sense it is that your Union
ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty,
and that the love of the one
ought to endear to you the preservation of the other….
Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws,
acquiescence in its measures,
are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people
to make and to alter their constitutions of government.
But the Constitution which at any time exists,
until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people,
is sacredly obligatory upon all.
The very idea of the power and the right of the people
to establish government presupposes the duty
of every individual to obey the established government….
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations;
cultivate peace and harmony with all.
Religion and morality enjoin this conduct;
and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it?
It will be worthy of a free, enlightened,
and at no distant period, a great Nation,
to give to mankind the magnanimous
and too novel example of a People
always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.
Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things,
the fruits of such a plan would richly repay
any temporary advantages which might be lost
by a steady adherence to it?
Can it be that Providence has not connected
the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue?
The experiment, at least, is recommended
by every sentiment which ennobles human nature.
Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
   In the execution of such a plan,
nothing is more essential than that permanent,
inveterate antipathies against particular Nations,
and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded;
and that, in place of them,
just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.
The Nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred
or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.
It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection,
either of which is sufficient to lead it astray
from its duty and its interest.
Antipathy in one Nation against another
disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury,
to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage,
and to be haughty and intractable,
when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.
Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate
envenomed and bloody contests.
The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment,
sometimes impels to War the Government,
contrary to the best calculations of policy.
The Government sometimes participates
in the national propensity, and adopts through passion
what reason would reject;
at other times it makes the animosity of the Nation
subservient to projects of hostility instigated
by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives.
The peace often, sometimes perhaps the Liberty, of Nations,
has been the victim….
   ’Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances
with any portion of the foreign world;
so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it;
for let me not be understood as capable of
patronizing infidelity to existing engagements.
I hold the maxim no less applicable
to public than to private affairs,
that honesty is always the best policy.
I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements
be observed in their genuine sense.
But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary
and would be unwise to extend them.
   Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable
establishments on a respectable defensive posture,
we may safely trust to temporary alliances
for extraordinary emergencies.
   Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations,
are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest….
   The duty of holding a Neutral conduct may be inferred,
without anything more, from the obligation which
justice and humanity impose on every Nation,
in cases in which it is free to act,
to maintain inviolate the relations of Peace
and amity towards other Nations.10

Washington considered virtue or ethics as necessary for popular government, and therefore he recommended promoting institutions of learning and the diffusion of knowledge. As democratic government depends on public opinion, those opinions should be enlightened. In foreign relations he urged “good faith and justice toward all nations,” cultivating peace and harmony with all. Although he favored extending commercial relations, he advised having as little political connection as possible. They should “steer clear of permanent alliances,” and he accepted that “honesty is always the best policy” in public as well as in private affairs.
      France’s minister Adet in November published diplomatic notes to try to persuade Americans to elect Jefferson president. Washington allowed Secretary of State Pickering to answer his claims in the newspapers, though Hamilton disagreed with this strategy.
      Before the Congressional election the Republicans had a slight majority 58-57 in the House, but after the 1796 voting the Federalists outnumbered them 64-53. In the presidential election John Adams received 71 electoral votes to 68 for Jefferson, making them president and vice president. The Federalist Thomas Pinckney was given 59 votes, the Republican Aaron Burr 30, and the Republican Samuel Adams 15.
      In Washington’s state of the union speech on December 7 he described how diplomacy had made peace with the Indians of the northwest, the Creeks and Cherokees in the south, Morocco, Spain, and Britain. Agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing were prospering more than ever before, and the governments based on rational liberty were using “mild and wholesome laws.” Trade by shipping had tripled since Washington became president as American imports per capita had become 60% higher than any other nation. He also called for a national university in the new capital.
      Samuel Harrison Smith wrote his essay “Remarks on Education” and won a prize in a contest the next year for his ideas on liberal education. He recommended education from age five to eighteen for every male child without exception in a system of primary schools, colleges, and universities promoting literature and science.
      George Washington had been the most prominent Freemason. The Masons grew from about two hundred local lodges under nine state grand lodges in 1793 to more than 500 lodges with about 25,000 members by 1800 as Republicans became more influential.

American Frontier 1789-96

      The British maintained their forts at Michilimackinac and Detroit in the northwest, Niagara and Oswego on Lake Ontario, Oswegatchie on the St. Lawrence seaway, and at Dutchman’s Point and Point-au-Fer on Lake Champlain. The British justified keeping them because they believed they had not recovered their debts from American citizens. In the mid-1780s William Cooper and his partner had purchased tens of thousands of acres in upstate New York, and in the early 1790s he was the richest man in Otsego County where he raised his son James Fenimore Cooper, the famous novelist. Most speculators in the west did not do as well as they had hoped because settlers found so much land available for free. Also Indian hostilities limited the number of settlers. Many Americans believed that no one had a right to own land they did not farm.
      By fall 1789 an Indian war had broken out in the Ohio territory. General Josiah Harmar led Pennsylvania troops to build forts northwest of the Ohio River. On 30 September 1790 he took 320 regulars and 1,133 militia from Fort Washington (now Cincinnati), and on October 22 Col. John Hardin with about 540 men attacked about 1,050 Miami and Shawnee warriors led by Little Turtle. After three hours of fighting the Americans retreated; 129 were killed, and 94 were wounded. The Indians’ casualties were less than 150.
      On 23 May 1791 Brigadier General Charles Scott led a raid that killed 32 Indians, took 58 prisoners, and destroyed several villages while only five of his men were wounded. General Arthur St. Clair governed the Northwest Territory and assembled 849 regulars and 1,538 militia by September. Then he led 1,400 regulars a hundred miles north of Fort Washington where they attacked Miami villages and then camped south of the Maumee. On November 4 Miami Chief Little Turtle of the Northwestern Confederacy led 1,100 warriors from various tribes who killed or captured 632 American soldiers and 24 workers while wounding 277. Most of the 200 camp followers were also slaughtered. The Indians had only 61 casualties, and they stuffed soil into the mouths of the dead Americans to mock their hunger for land. This slaughter has been called the worst defeat of the US Army by Indians in US history. The War Department responded by doubling its budget to create a standing army of 5,000 men while the government tried to negotiate a new treaty.
      In the spring of 1792 Secretary of War Knox sent six messengers to the Miamis and Shawnees that they wanted to negotiate peace, but they were all killed as spies. During the summer the Iroquois Chief Red Jacket led a delegation and met with nearly a thousand Indians from a dozen tribes in Shawnee villages; but the western tribes blamed the Iroquois for not defending their land, and they demanded that the Americans keep their agreement by withdrawing from all territory north of the Ohio River and by paying the Shawnees for taking their hunting grounds in Kentucky.
      Canadian governors Carleton (Dorchester) and John G. Simcoe sent agents to persuade Indians to be a buffer between them and the Americans, and in the spring of 1793 in a conference at Sandusky the Indians met with American commissioners and demanded the Ohio River as the boundary. The commissioners returned and told the President there would be war.
      Washington had appointed General “Mad” Anthony Wayne in 1792, and he spent two years training his soldiers, building Fort Greenville in 1793. Using 3,229 of the 3,861 in the standing army, he began an expedition to the Ohio frontier with the 2,600 fit for duty on 7 October 1793. In February 1794 Governor Carleton told the Indians that the British would fight on their side against the Americans. On June 20 Blue Jacket led 1,200 warriors in an attack on the Americans at Fort Recovery, but they were driven off by cannons with heavy losses. Wayne’s legionnaires moved north and established Fort Defiance before going down the Maumee River. Knowing the Indians fasted before fighting, he waited several days until they went to the British Fort Miami to eat. Then on August 20 they defeated Blue Jacket and more than 2,000 Indians at Fallen Timbers in one hour. The Americans lost 31 men and killed 50 Indians. Wayne did not attack the British at Fort Miami; but he ordered Indian towns and crops pillaged, and they burned 5,000 acres. The British did not want a war with the United States and did not defend the Indians, though they did help prevent them from starving in the winter and discouraged them from negotiating with the Americans. After establishing Fort Wayne, the American army withdrew for the winter so that the Indians could prepare for a peace council.
      On 8 April 1795 Secretary of War Timothy Pickering sent a long letter to General Wayne advising him what terms to offer the Indians based on the Treaty of Fort Harmar. He noted that the main reasons why the Indians had not adhered to the treaties of Fort McIntosh, Fort Miami, and Fort Harmar were the following:

1. That the Chiefs who treated were not an adequate
representation of the Nations to whom the lands belonged.
2. That they were compelled by threats
to subscribe some of the treaties.
3. That the claim of the United States
to the full property of the Indians’ lands,
under colour of the treaty of 1783 with Great Britain
was unfounded and unjust.11

In Wayne’s treaty at Greenville on August 3 about 1,100 chiefs and warriors from the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Wyandot, Miami, Chippewa, Kickapoo, Wea, Piankashaw, and Kaskaskia tribes ceded 25,000 square miles in southern Ohio to the United States for $25,000 and a promise of $10,000 a year if they behaved. To avoid war and get a commercial treaty with the United States the British promised to evacuate their posts on the frontier by 1 June 1796. American troops occupied Detroit and Fort Miami on July 11, and the last British outpost at Michilimackinac was taken over in October.

      Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham had bought six million acres from Massachusetts in the west for £300,000 on 1 April 1788 over three years, and in July 1789 Gorham persuaded the Senecas to sell 2,500,000 acres by the Genesee River for $5,000 and a $500 annuity. In March 1790 Phelps and Gorham gave back to Massachusetts the western two-thirds, and on November 18 they sold the other third for £30,000 to Robert Morris who eventually sold most of it to English and Dutch speculators. In 1791 Alexander Macomb bought four million acres in St. Lawrence County for eight cents an acre. Charles Williamson went there in 1792 and built roads, stores, taverns, gristmills, and sawmills, spending $1,000,000 while taking in $146,000 from land sales. In 1795 the Connecticut Land Company organized by Phelps bought 500,000 acres on the western edge of the Reserve for $1,200,000. In 1796 Congress financed the Zane’s Trace road across Ohio.
      Kentucky, where John Breckinridge was establishing slavery, became the 15th state on 1 May 1792. In 1793 the Spanish Governor Carondelet reduced the duty on imports from Kentucky to only 6% from the 15% established by royal order in 1788. The population of Kentucky increased from about 12,000 in 1783 to some 120,000 in 1795.
      In the southwest General James Wilkinson secretly received an annual salary of $2,000 from the Spanish government for 15 years as their Agent 13. With his Second Memorial on 24 September 1789 at New Orleans he tried to establish an alliance with Spain, but this second conspiracy also failed.
      Shortly after President Washington was inaugurated, he received a letter from Secretary of War Knox advising him as follows:

The disgraceful violation of the Treaty of Hopewell
with the Cherokees requires the serious consideration of Congress.
If so direct and manifest contempt of the authority
of the United States be suffered with impunity,
it will be vain to attempt to extend
the arm of government to the frontiers.
Indian tribes can have no faith in such imbecile promises,
and the lawless whites will ridicule a government
which shall, on paper only, make Indian treaties
and regulate Indian boundaries.12

      On 21 December 1789 the Georgia legislature had sold 25,400,000 acres in the Mississippi, Tombigbee, and Tennessee valleys to the Yazoo companies in South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee for $207,580. On 8 June 1790 President Washington appointed William Blount to govern the newly created Southwestern Territory and made John Sevier and James Robertson brigadier generals in the western army and James Wilkinson a lieutenant colonel in the US Army.
      Washington sent a peace emissary south in the spring of 1790 to the Creek leader Alexander McGillivray, and in the summer they came back with 26 chiefs to New York and were welcomed with lavish dinners and ceremonies for weeks. In a treaty signed on August 7 the Creeks ceded two-thirds of the land claimed by Georgia, and a secret clause made McGillivray an agent of the United States and a brigadier general with an annual salary of $1,200 and gave him a trade monopoly. President Washington proclaimed that no one should encroach on the Creek territory. The Yazoo companies had already started selling the land in January 1790, and Georgia legislators were bribed to cancel the New York treaty and ignore the President’s proclamation.
      Washington considered land speculators a major problem and threatened to send the army to uphold the rights of Indians. Instead he summoned Cherokees, and on 2 July 1791 forty chiefs and 1,200 Cherokees agreed to the Treaty of Holston, ceding their lands east of the Clinch River for an annuity of $1,000. The United States gained the exclusive right to regulate Cherokee trading and prohibited their having any diplomatic relations with any other nation, state, or individual. Americans committing crimes against Cherokees could be tried by Cherokee laws. The United States also promised to provide useful farming tools and to assist the Cherokee nation in their pursuits. Dragging Canoe participated and died in 1792, succeeded by John Watts.
      Bloody Fellow wrote to Louisiana’s Spanish Governor Hector, Baron de Carondelet, but went to Philadelphia with a Cherokee delegation which met with Washington and Knox and gained a new treaty increasing the annual subsidy from $1,000 to $1,500. Carondelet in the summer of 1792 sent emissaries who promised guns, ammunition, land guarantees, and trading rights to the Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Chickamaugas. McGillivray accepted from Spaniards a larger pension than he had from the United States.
      Bloody Fellow was a Chickamauga and had told Washington they wanted plows and hoes for growing corn and raising cattle, but in late August 1793 Chickamaugas led by Doublehead and others attacked settlers in the Cumberland Valley. A month later John Watts led Creek, Chickamauga, and Cherokee warriors, and they killed 13 men defending Alexander Cavet’s station near Knoxville. Sevier with 700 men retaliated by destroying Creek and Lower Cherokee towns. Annoyed by this unauthorized expedition which cost the federal government over $29,000, Washington’s administration refused to pay Sevier’s militia for several years. In three years Indians had killed 200 settlers and destroyed property worth more than $100,000, and in February 1794 elected representatives at Knoxville wanting to make Tennessee a state petitioned for more federal protection.
      Washington and Knox had an American warship bring Doublehead and a delegation to Philadelphia, and on June 26 a new treaty increased the Cherokee’s annuity from $1,500 to $5,000. General James Robertson sent Major James Ore with 550 mounted troops, and on September 13 they burned the Chickamauga towns of Nickajack and Running Water. Federal troops garrisoned Tellico Blockhouse, and the Chickamauga wars ended with a peace treaty signed on November 8.
      Governor Blount summoned a territorial assembly in June 1795 to work for Tennessee statehood. Peace increased the number of settlers, and a census counted 77,262 non-Indian people that included 10,613 slaves and 973 free blacks, more than enough people for statehood. Blount called elections in December for a constitutional convention that met in Knoxville in January 1796 and wrote a document that included a Declaration of Rights. The convention voted not to abolish slavery, but free black males were allowed to hold some kinds of property and could vote. Candidates for the legislature had to own at least 200 acres in the county represented, and Christian ministers and atheists were barred from holding offices.
      Blount speculated in land, but he could not get the Federalist administration in Philadelphia to go to war against the Creeks, and he became a Republican. On April 8 the President asked the Congress to admit Tennessee as the 16th state, and they did so on June 1. Voters elected Sevier governor, and the legislature elected Blount and William Cocke as senators and Andrew Jackson as their one representative. To rescue his collapsing real estate empire Blount conspired with the British Indian agent John Chisholm to try to get the United States to attack Spanish territory, and in March he had paid Chisholm’s expenses to travel to England.
      In January 1795 the Georgia legislature sold 35 million acres to four Yazoo companies for $500,000, but according to one legislator all the other lawmakers had been bribed. Only one of twenty partners paid more than £2,000. Several grand juries objected to the grants, and in 1796 the legislature repealed the statute and expunged the legal records. In the spring of 1795 Carondelet had the forts strengthened at St. Louis, Nogales, Natchez, St. Stephens, and Fort Confederation, and a new fort built at Chickasaw Bluffs. He granted Wilkinson an additional $16,000 beyond his $2,000 pension to enlist other leaders; but by the end of the year Carondelet realized he was being manipulated by Kentuckians. In the Treaty of San Lorenzo signed on October 27 Spain gave up the Yazoo Strip and promised to evacuate garrisons north of the 31st parallel within six months. The Mississippi River was opened to American shipping in December 1796.
      That year Washington appointed Benjamin Hawkins the agent for the southern Indians, and he visited the Cherokees and found them driving cattle with the women spinning and weaving cotton. His report arrived in December when Representative Andrew Jackson was sponsoring a bill to pay for John Sevier’s unauthorized attacks against Cherokees in 1793. Jackson speculated in land and wanted Washington impeached.


1. Basic Writings of George Washington ed. Saxe Commins, p. 560.
2. Writings by Thomas Jefferson, p. 963.
3. Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon Louis Parrington, Volume 1, p. 376-377.
4. Wilentz, Sean, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln by Sean Wilentz, p. 49.
5. Madison Letters, IV: “Public Opinion.”
6. National Gazette, January 12, 1792.
7. The Founding Fathers by Nathan Schachner, p. 242.
8. Writings by George Washington, p. 895.
9. Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation by Richard Norton Smith, p. 250.
10. Writings by George Washington, p. 963-964, 966, 968, 972-973, 975.
11. The Indian and the White Man ed. Wilcomb E. Washburn, p. 347.
12. The Cherokees by Grace Steele Woodward, p. 112.

Copyright © 2011, 2021 by Sanderson Beck

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United States Democracy & Slavery 1801-1844

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