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Transcript of Washington's Presidency
The Federalist Era
What are the characteristics of a leader?
Questions to guide our search:
What decisions did President Washington and the new cabinet have to make about the new government?
How did the economy develop under Alexander Hamilton?
The Washington Presidency:
On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States.
In a letter to James Madison he wrote:
"As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."
The right man for the job.
Washington was man of impeccable character. When it came time for the Second Continental congress to choose a leader for the colonial army, he was the man for the job.
When the war ended he made a significant statement when he returned control of the army to the congress.
When the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation became apparent he led the Framers in constructing a new Constitution.
When the nation needed its first President it was a no brainer, he was elected in a landslide.
He had an amazing insight knowing exactly the right thing to do or say at the exact time the country needed it.
His time in the office of the President was no different. Everything that he did helped to define the role of the President for generations to come.
Washington understood that everything he did would be setting a precedent for future Presidents to follow and he took his responsibilities very seriously.
Having been the President of the Constitutional Convention he understood the blueprint put into place by the framers and had a keen understanding of what the Constitution said and did not say and understood the importance of working within the framework established.
Washington had no one to look to for help in understanding his role as President.
He knew that the American public rejected the idea of a monarchy and that the states had a chief executive in the form of a governor who had little power.
Washington sought to strike a balance between making the office appear respectable without also appearing ostentatious; an office that was at the same time independent of the Congress, yet cooperative with them at times.
It was Washington that determined that people address him as Mr. President instead of your honor or your excellency.
Washington established the tradition of the President giving and Inaugural address as well as a Farewell address.
Washington understood the need for surrounding himself with talented individuals to advise him on issues concerning the young nation.
He chose the men that would advise him based on their ability not on their political affiliations and he met regularly with the groups which he called his cabinet.
Guidance in Foreign Affairs - Washington, knowing the country was in its fragile infancy stage, thought it best to remain neutral in foreign affairs.
Instead of getting the country involved in the volatile French Revolution he kept our nation neutral, he also reached out to England to re-establish relations damaged by the war.
Although not specifically stated in the Constitution at the time, Washington determined that two terms be the maximum time he should serve and this precedent eventually became part of the Constitution in the Twenty Second Amendment in 1951.
Washington reinforced the role of the Executive Branch in enforcing the law by using government troops to stop the Whiskey Rebellion backing up the Congress and their taxes to raise revenue.
He was the first to use the Presidential power of amnesty by pardoning those convicted and sentenced to death for their participation in the rebellion.
The First Executive Branch
Washington's Executive Branch began with three departments and 2 offices.
The Judiciary Act of 1789
In an answer to one of the glaring weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, Washington worked with congress to establish a national court system based on the parameters set out by the Constitution.
The system provided for district courts at the lowest level, courts of appeal at a mid tier level and a Supreme Court presiding over the highest level and having final say in many issues.
Local courts remained intact however the Supreme Court along with the Federal Courts would have the power to reverse state court decisions if they went against the spirit of the Constitution.
John Jay - Chief Justice
John Rutledge - Associate Justice
William Cushing - Associate Justice
James Wilson -Associate Justice
John Blair - Associate Justice
Robert Harrison - Associate Justice (Declined appointment)
In order to finance the Revolutionary War the confederation government borrowed a large amount of money and issued bonds as a promise to pay them back.
Alexander Hamilton, the nations first head of the Treasury department was of the opinion that the US government should work to pay back the money borrowed from other countries and private citizens.
Hamilton also believed that the federal government should pay off the war debts of the 13 states as well.
There was opposition to this plan because many individual investors sold their bonds for less than face value fearing they they would never be paid back.
The original bondholders worried that speculators would get rich and the original bondholders would get nothing.
Many Southern states opposed the plan because they built up much less debt than the Northern states and had paid most of it off.
They did not want to have to pay for the Northern state's portion of the revolutionary war debt.
Washington did not want to seem partisan but he agreed with Hamilton's plan and together they proposed a compromise to help sway the Southern states.
They offered to locate the nation's capital in the South in a new district created between Virginia and Maryland.
Hamilton had a vision for the new nation's economy, he felt that in order for our country to be strong economically there would have to be a national bank that could issue a single type of money to be used in all states.
The Anti-Federalist were in strict opposition to this idea feeling that the central government would become too powerful if allowed to control the nations economy.
Hamilton and his Federalist counterparts invoked the "Necessary and Proper" clause which stated:
Clause 18. The Congress shall have Power *** To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
This became one of the main points of contention by those who opposed big government and feared the potential for tyranny that could follow.
Hamilton also proposed a tariff to protect American products from competing goods made in other countries.
The tariff was designed to make goods imported to the new nation more expensive by adding a tax to them, making American goods more attractive to buyers.
Alexander Hamilton's many innovative contributions to the young nation are a direct reflection of the effectiveness of George Washington's leadership.
Washington's ability to surround himself with top tier talent enabled him to guide the young nation through its infancy.
Paid Back War Bonds
Created bank of the United States
Introduced Protective Tariffs to help American Companies
Supported Locating Capital in the South