Chapter 7:
Democracy in Distress
Popular Political Culture
• partisan – partial to a specific party or purpose
• even though members of Congress were voting
as Republicans or Federalists they condemned
the partisan spirit as a threat to the stability of
the United States
– viewed a “party” with “faction” and “faction” with
“conspiracy to overthrow legitimate authority”
• created an atmosphere that bred suspicion
Partisan Newspapers and Political Clubs
• more than any other element,
newspapers transformed the
political culture
• Americans were voracious
readers
• John Fenno – Gazette of the
United States
• Philip Freneau – National Gazette
– tone of the two publications was
quite different, they were fiercely
partisan journals presenting rumor
and opinion as fact
• some of the precursor to ‘yellow
journalism’
• Noah Webster
– spent the 1790s editing
a Federalist journal
called the American
Minerva
– would later publish An
American Dictionary of
the English Language
• during this time you
also had the birth of
political clubs
“Democratic” or
“Republican”
associations
Whiskey Rebellion Linked to
Republican Conspiracy
• the Federalists convinced themselves that the
Republicans were prepared to use violence against
the U.S. government
• farmers in Pennsylvania protested an excise tax on
distilled whiskey passed by Congress in 1791
– excise – an internal tax or duty on certain commodities,
levied on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of the
product
• were making good money distilling their grain into
whiskey and didn’t want the excise to put them
out of business
• the insurrection represented a direct political challenge
• President Washington called out 15,000 militiamen and
marched against the rebels
– expedition was an embarrassing fiasco resulting in minimum
violence as the distillers disappeared
• victory in the rebellion and the rebellion itself
intensified the split between the two parties
Washington’s Farewell
• in September 1796, Washington published his
Farewell Address declaring his intention to
retire from the presidency
– set the precedent for presidents to serve 2 terms
• in the address, Washington warned against all
political factions, counseled the US to avoid
any permanent alliances
– would become the basis for American neutrality
and isolationist sentiment for many years
The Adams Presidency
• Federalists agreed that John
Adams should stand against
the Republican Thomas
Jefferson
– Hamilton feared thought
that an independentminded Adams would be
difficult to manipulate
• each elector cast 2 ballots
and the person who gained
the most votes became
president
• runner-up, regardless of
party affiliation became
vice-president
The Election of 1796
Candidate
Party
Electoral Vote
J. Adams
Federalist
71
Jefferson
Republican
68
T. Pinckney
Federalist
59
Burr
Republican
30
• Hamilton secretly urged southern Federalists to
support only Pinckney, even if that meant throwing
away their second vote
• when New Englanders heard of Hamilton’s plan,
they dropped Pinckney and voted only for Adams
– this would heighten tensions within the Federalist party
• Adams was saddled with
the members of
Washington’s old cabinet
– a group that would
regularly consult Hamilton
behind Adams’s back
– but, if Adams had
dismissed them and
called his own cabinet he
would have called
Washington’s judgment
into question and Adams
would not take that highly
public risk
John Adams – Second President
• Adams also had to work
with a Republican vicepresident
The XYZ Affair and Domestic Politics
• French government regarded Jay’s Treaty (with
Great Britain) as an affront
– allowing Great Britain to define the conditions for
neutrality, the US had sided with them against France
• in 1797, French privateers began seizing
American ships
– neither the US or France officially declared war, and
this became known as the Quasi-War
• Adams did not want to escalate the conflict
– he dispatched a special commission in a final attempt
to solve the problem
• negotiating team was made up of Charles
Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry
– were instructed to obtain compensation for the ships
seized as well as release from the treaties of 1778
– the group would also offer France the same
commercial privileges as Great Britain
• while the diplomats negotiated in France, Adams
talked of strengthening American defenses to
placate the more militant members of his own
party
• when the commission arrived in
France, instead of dealing with
Talleyrand (the minister of foreign
relations), they met with obscure
intermediaries who demanded
huge bribes
– Talleyrand would not open
negotiations unless he was given
$250,000
– the French government also
expected a “loan” of millions of
dollars
• the American negotiators refused
to play along
– “Millions for defense, not one cent
for tribute.”
French Minister Talleyrand
• when Adams presented the official
correspondence from the
negotiations, the names of
Talleyrand’s lackeys was changed to
X, Y, and Z
A 1798 political cartoon, depicting America – the young maiden, being plundered by five
Frenchmen who represent the five directors of the French government.
Crushing Political Dissent
• Federalists assumed that Adams would be asking
Congress for a formal declaration of war
• began pushing for a general rearmament
– new fighting ships
– additional harbor fortifications
– greatly expanded U.S. Army
• Adams remained skeptical and saw no likelihood
of French invasion
• the army was not necessarily
to stop French aggression,
but to stop internal
opposition
• in the summer of 1798, a
provisional army was
created under the leadership
of George Washington
Alexander Hamilton
– who agreed to take the
position if Hamilton was
appointed his second in
command
– Hamilton wanted military
glory for himself, but
continued to treat the
president with contempt
• Hamilton could make no move without
presidential cooperation – Adams was in fact the
Commander in Chief
– whenever questions about the army came up, Adams
was nowhere to be found
• he supported the navy and pushed Congress to
establish the Navy Department
– selecting Benjamin Stoddert for this new cabinet
position – a person who did not take orders from
Hamilton
• Adams refused to ask Congress for a formal
declaration of war
• the American people increasingly regarded the
idle army as an expensive extravagance
Silencing Political Opposition:
the Alien and Sedition Acts
• group of bills known as the
Alien and Sedition Acts
authorized the use of federal
courts and the powers of the
presidency to silence the
Republicans
• were born of fear and
vindictiveness and would
become the nation’s first
major crisis over civil liberties
Alien Acts
• 1. Alien Enemies Law – gave the
president extraordinary wartime powers
– could detain or deport citizens of nations
which the US was at war and who behaved
in a suspicious manner
• 2. Alien Law – empowered the president
to expel any foreigner from the US simply
by executive decree
– was limited to two years, but the mere
threat of arrest caused some Frenchmen to
flee the country
• 3. Naturalization Law – established a
fourteen year probationary period before
foreigners could apply for full US
citizenship
– designed to keep “hordes of wild Irishmen”
away from the polls as long as possible
Sedition Act
Cutout of a newspaper broadside on
the trial of Thomas Cooper, a lawyer
and newspaper editor who was
indicted, prosecuted, and convicted
of violating the Sedition Act.
• defined criticism of the U.S.
government as criminal
libel and citizens found
guilty by a jury were subject
to fines and imprisonment
– many Republicans were
concerned that the Sedition
Law undermined rights
guaranteed in the First
Amendment
– were also worried about the
federal judiciary’s expanded
role in punishing sedition
• believed such matters were
best left to state officials
• Matthew Lyon
– Republican congressman who publicly accused Adams
and his administration of mishandling the Quasi-War
• was known as the “Spitting Lyon” after who spat in
the eye of a Federalist congressman
– also took part in a fistfight on the floor of Congress
• Federalist court was happy to have the opportunity
to convict him of libel
– but while he sat in jail, his constituents re-elected him
• federal courts had
become political tools
• the efforts at enforcing
the Sedition Law did not
silence opposition – they
actually sparked more
criticism and created
martyrs
• Republicans feared that
the survival of free
government was at stake
Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions
James Madison
• Thomas Jefferson and James
Madison were convinced
that the Federalists wanted
the creation of a police state
• some extreme republicans
like John Taylor of Virginia
recommended secession
from the Union
• others supported armed
resistance
• Jefferson counseled against
extreme measures
• Jefferson and Madison would draft separate protests
known as the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
– vigorously defended the right of individual state assemblies
to interpret the constitutionality of federal law
– Jefferson would flirt with the doctrine of nullification
• a concept as dangerous to the survival of the U.S. as anything
advanced by Hamilton or the High Federalists
• Kentucky Resolution (Thomas Jefferson)
– described the federal union as a compact
– states did give the national government explicit
powers, but rights not specifically mentioned in
the Constitution belonged to the states
– the “general welfare” clause
– Kentucky legislators believed that the Alien and
Sedition Acts were unconstitutional and ought to
be repealed
• Virginia Resolution (James Madison)
– took a more temperate stand
– urged the states to defend the rights of the American
people
– resisted the notion that a single state legislature
could or should have the authority to overthrow
federal law
15 Star 15 Stripe Flag used after
Vermont and Kentucky joined the
Union in 1791 and 1792.
• the resolutions were not
intended as statements
of abstract principles and
most certainly not a
justification for southern
secession
• showed American voters
that the Republicans
offered a clear
alternative to Federalist
rule
Adam’s Finest Hour
• President Adams declared
his independence from the
Hamiltonian wing of the
Federalist party, he had
little enthusiasm for war
• after the XYZ Affair, Adams
received reports that
Talleyrand had changed his
tune
– the bribery episode had been
an unfortunate
misunderstanding and if the
US sent new representatives,
he was prepared to negotiate
in good faith
• with peace in the future, American taxpayers
complained more and more about the cost of
maintaining an army
– the president was only too happy to dismantle
Hamilton’s dream
• William Vans Murray, Oliver Ellsworth, and
William Davie arrived in France November of
1799 and found a new government in power, led
by Napoleon Bonaparte
• Convention of Morfontaine
– French refused to compensate the Americans for vessels
taken during the Quasi War
– did declare the treaties of 1778 null and void
– removed annoying French restrictions on U.S. commerce
– Adams efforts would also create an atmosphere of mutual
trust that paved the way for the purchase of the Louisiana
Territory
The Peaceful Revolution:
The Election of 1800
• on the eve of election, the Federalists were
divided
– Adams enjoyed popularity among the everyday
Federalist
– party leaders like Hamilton wanted to punish him
for his betrayal of their militant policies
• Hamilton attempted to rig the election again
so that the Federalist party vice-presidential
candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney would
receive more ballots than Adams and save
America from Jefferson
The Election of 1800
Candidate
Party
Electoral Vote
Jefferson
Republican
73
Burr
Republican
73
J. Adams
Federalist
65
C. Pinckney
Federalist
64
• things did not go as Hamilton had planned
– Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr tied
• the election then went to the House of
Representatives, a lame-duck body still
controlled by members of the Federalist party
• each state delegation cast a single vote, with
nine votes needed for election
• after dozens of ballots the
House had still not selected a
president and the drama
dragged on for days
– Burr refused to withdraw
• leading Federalists decided
that Jefferson would make a
more responsible President
and James Bayard of Delaware
switched his vote giving
Jefferson the election
• Twelfth Amendment – ratified
in 1804, saved America from
repeating the election of 1800
– the electoral college would now
cast separate ballots for
president and vice-president
Aaron Burr
• in the final days of his
presidency, Adams
appointed as many
Federalists as possible
to the federal bench the “midnight judges”
– one of these, John
Marshall, would become
chief justice of the
United States
• Adams never forgave
Hamilton for his actions
during Adams term of
office
Chief Justice John Marshall
Danger of Political
Extremism
• the election of 1800
needs to be
remembered for what
did not occur:
– no riots in the streets
– no attempted military
coup
– no secession from the
Union
– nothing but the
peaceful transfer of
power from one
political party to an
opposition party