Topic Seven: The Young Republic A New Republic In this topic, we need to discuss the creation the United States of America. In reality, winning the Revolution was the easy part. Creating a working government, a state, from the ground up, was the really difficult part. The questions and arguments that the founders encountered are still relevant today. What are the benefits of a Republic vs. a Democracy? How do we balance state vs. federal power? What should the nature of government be, and should it be large or small? What exactly is the role of government, at all levels? And who are “the people”? Were the framers of the Constitution “the people” or even representative of the people? How are the rights of the minority balanced vs. the will of the majority (again, back to the question of a republic vs. a democracy, which are not the same thing)? The founding fathers, in creating a new state, faced several contradictions, and they were well aware this. First, the Revolution was a successful attempt to overthrow “big government” and was presented to everyday Americans as such. Yet to govern a country the size of the United States, a large central government was necessary, even in 1783. To be a world power, you would have to have an even larger federal government. The United Stated wouldn’t face that problem in the late 18th century, but… Furthermore, Revolutionary documents stated that “all men are created equal”, yet all of the founding fathers were rich and white and male. There seemed to be an inconsistency between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. So the founders of our country had to create a strong central government, yet limit the powers of that government so it wouldn’t become a tyranny. They had to juxtapose the powers of the former individual colonies, now states, with the power of the new federal government. They had to ensure that a republican form of government would remain the rule of law (Article IV, Section 4). Americans, everyday Americans, came out of the Revolution with a sense that they had a special destiny that needed to be preserved. Citizens subscribed to public morality and a civic sense of duty. After all, it was what led them to rebel against Britain in the first place. But there was a sense that what they could create was something new, something special. And so, in the new United States, no aristocracy was allowed, no law of primogeniture or entail was allowed. Even today, the appearance of equality is important to Americans, even when inequality is apparent. Voting requirements were lowered, or even abolished. Since the majority of white males could vote, these laws were mostly symbolic. Suffrage was not expanded to women, African-Americans, or the very poor however. Westward migration changed voting patterns too. As more people moved west and the frontier expanded, state capitals moved away from the east coast into the interior of states to make it easier for new state representatives to travel to their legislatures. The frontier representatives also signified a shift away from the wealthy elite of the eastern seaboard counties. There was a concerted effort to keep the affairs of religion and government separate. This was as much to keep government out of religion, as to keep religion out of government. Also, the close ties between the British aristocracy and the state religion, Anglicanism, made the founding fathers wary of establishing an official state religion in the United States. This was a revolution for white males. Although the northern states moved to outlaw slavery, the southern states kept their “peculiar” institution. And in 1793, the cotton gin made cotton the premier crop of the South, and ensured the continuation of slavery. The status of women didn’t change after the Revolution either. Although they had a special status as “republican” mothers, women were not allowed political, economic or legal power. The Articles of Confederation The first government of the United States operated under the Articles of Confederation, which was ratified in November 1777. The Articles created a loose collection of 13 independent states, with a weak central government. A unicameral Congress was elected annually, with each state having only one vote. Amending the Articles required a unanimous vote. Congress had no economic power whatsoever; that was given over to the states. There was no executive officeholder. The Articles of Confederation did pass one piece of legislation that was important to the future of the United States. The Land Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 determined how future territories would become states. Not only did these laws survey western land, but they established that future states would become equal to the original thirteen, not colonies thereof. Furthermore, money from public land sales was set aside for public education. As important as the issue of western land management was, the failures of the Articles of Confederation were huge. The central government was massively in debt. It couldn’t raise revenue, couldn’t regulate the economy, it couldn’t force the states to pay its voluntary dues to the treasury. In foreign policy, the United States was helpless to evict the British from the Northwest Territory, and to negotiate with the Spanish over the closing of the port of New Orleans to American farmers. Obviously something had to be done. The Constitution When delegates arrived in Philadelphia in May of 1787 for a Constitutional Convention, their intent was to rework the Articles of Confederation. As they locked the doors behind them, they decided to completely start over. By the way, the delegates didn’t tell anyone about their decision, and to protect themselves from outside influence, kept their deliberations secret throughout the four months they worked in their conference room. They debated, ran through ideas, and eventually drafted a framework for the government we still operate under today. The writers of the Constitution decided that as soon as nine states ratified this new document, this new government, it would be implemented. When the delegates emerged in September of 1787, there was much anger. After all, they were supposed to fix the Articles of Confederation, not draft a whole new government. And the battle for ratification was not easy. There was much opposition to the Constitution; Virginia ratified it by ten votes, New York by only two. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution in June of 1788, and immediately a presidential election was held. George Washington was unanimously elected the first president of the United States. The Constitution of the United States has held for over two hundred years. In some ways, it is a “living document”, in that it was meant to be interpreted and interpretable. Although it was meant to address the failures of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was not without weaknesses itself, the most important of which was the failure to address the institution of slavery. Or maybe it was the failure of the founders themselves, and not the document, that caused a civil war less than a century after the founding of the United States. The First Administration: George Washington The Constitution was/is really only the barest framework of government. The first Congress and President had to work out the details of this new government, all from scratch. How would the president be addressed? At what rate would the national tariff rate be set at? How would the federal court system be set up? Congress quickly set to work. Five cabinet departments were created by Congress to round out the executive branch: Departments of State, Treasury, War, the Attorney General’s Office and the Postmaster General. The men appointed by President Washington for these posts were, in order, Thomas Jefferson (State), Alexander Hamilton (Treasury), Henry Knox (War), Edmund Randolph (Attorney General), and Samuel Osborne (Postmaster General). The Judiciary Act of 1789 was passed which created the Federal Court system. The Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, was formed with a chief justice and associate justices. John Jay was our first chief justice. In addition, 12 federal district courts and 3 circuit courts were created. Federal judges were appointed and served for life, a fact that disturbed Thomas Jefferson. He felt it gave them too much power. The Tariff of 1789 was passed, which raised import duties. The Bill of Rights was also approved, in order to quell suspicions that the federal government would take away the rights of the people. Once more, the Constitution only provided an outline for government. It was up to these first leaders to set precedent and procedure for the future. And so, President Washington created the role of a president who would not be just a figurehead for the United States. Instead, the president played, and still plays, an active role in the executive branch. Washington directed his cabinet members, worked with Congress, made foreign policy, and provided the guide for future presidents. He gave the first farewell address after two terms as president. Washington also had to contend with two cabinet member who had competing visions of the future of United States, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton saw a future United States with a strong central government, modeled after the British system in which American merchants carried U.S. manufactured goods all over the world. With a strong national economy that included a central bank, the United States could maintain a standing army and a federal bureaucracy. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson believed in an agrarian democracy, with power kept closer to the people. Jefferson feared that a standing army could “suppress the liberties of the people”. He wanted the United States to support the French in their new revolution. Historians sometimes make the argument that Hamilton represented northern, urban, mercantile/trade interests and Jefferson represented southern, rural, agrarian interests: a foreshadowing of the Civil War. The largest problem that the new country faced was the economy. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton calculated that the U.S. owed $54 million to its creditors. He designed a plan that not only solved the debt problem of the U.S. (in a way), but allowed the country to borrow even MORE money. Hamilton proposed that Congress pass legislation called Funding and Assumption. In Funding and Assumption, the United States promised to pay off its debts fully, i.e. it would be funded. How? Treasury would issue new bonds that would earn interest, say 4%, which bond holders would collect. Old bonds could be traded in for new bonds. The government wouldn’t pay the principal, only the interest, on these bonds. In addition, the bonds could be used as security for private loans. Assumption said that the federal government would assume the foreign debt of state governments and pay them off, again through the issue of bonds. This would tie investors to the federal government, not the states. There was debate in Congress over Hamilton’s proposal. One, it would benefit the wealthy. Two, it seemed to reward states who had already paid off their debts. And three, it would increase the power of the federal government (you would have to put treasury officials all over the United States to sell bonds). Opposition came especially from James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. A deal was brokered however, to put the new nation’s capital in the south, on the Potomac River, and Madison got the southern votes needed for Funding and Assumption to pass through Congress. Overnight, the United States’ credit rating went from dismal to sound, and the economy turned around. Hamilton then asked Congress to create a central bank, the Bank of the United States. This bank would hold government money, collect taxes, issue currency, and issue bonds. Again, Madison and Jefferson opposed Hamilton, saying that the Constitution did not give the government the power to create a bank. Hamilton responded with the “Doctrine of Implied Powers”. Since the Constitution gave the federal government the power to regulate the economy, it had the power to create a financial institution. Washington signed the bank bill, and the Bank of the United States was chartered for twenty years. Hamilton issued a third recommendation to Congress, the Report on Manufacturing. The Secretary of the Treasury asked Congress to pass high tariffs to protect American industry, to stimulate the growth of manufacturing with grants and subsidies and to finance internal improvements such as transportation systems to aid in commerce. Thomas Jefferson attacked Hamilton’s plan on moral grounds. Since commerce and industry depend on cities, Jefferson proclaimed that all immorality and vice occurred in cities. In reality, an industrial United States was opposite of Jefferson’s vision of an agrarian country. Following Jefferson’s warning, Congress ignored Hamilton’s recommendations and the United States remained primarily agricultural for the next seventy years. The political battles between Hamilton and Jefferson led to the creation of the first two political parties in the United States. The Federalists, led by Hamilton, believed that the Republicans, led by Jefferson, would ally the country with the French and their topsy-turvy revolution. The Republicans (NOT the same party as today) believed that the Federalists wanted to recreate the aristocratic British system here in the United States. The biggest conflict between the two parties was not over the economy, however, but over foreign policy. In 1789, the French Revolution started. It soon involved the other nations of Europe, who declared war on the new French government. Since the French had helped the United States during its own revolution, by treaty, the U.S. was bound to ally with the French. On the other hand, you could make the legal case that that government (the French monarchy) had been overthrown. The Federalists took the side of Britain and the Republicans took the side of France, even though the official U.S. position was one of neutrality. The British Navy, however, was stopping American merchant ships and seizing cargo headed for France. Furthermore, the British refused to vacate forts in the Northwest Territory and move to Canada. Chief Justice John Jay was sent to London to negotiate a deal with the British government. The treaty he came home with however, aptly named Jay’s Treaty, was not very favorable to the Americans. The British would leave the Northwest Territory and pay for American ships. They would also let the Americans trade with British colonies. The British rejected the American stance on neutral rights however. Jay’s Treaty was ratified by the Senate only because President Washington pressured them to do so. George Washington retired after two terms of office. While his Presidency remained in living memory, no one would dare serve more than two terms. He reminded Americans of the legend of Cincinnatus (Google it). His Farewell Address was not spoken but printed in newspapers. Since he warned of the dangers of making treaties with foreign nations, it set the foreign policy of Isolationism for almost one hundred years. The Second Administration: John Adams John Adams was elected the second president of the United States by three electoral votes. Because of backstage shenanigans by Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson was his vicepresident. Adams was handicapped by the fact that his VP was from a different political party, he was at odds with the leader of his own party and he kept much of Washington’s cabinet out of respect for the retired leader, and they had more loyalty to Hamilton than they did for Adams. The crisis of Adams' entire administration was what was happening in Europe. Although the United States had declared its neutrality, and had an ocean separating it from that warring continent, Adams found himself in a “Quasi-War” with the French. The French were unhappy with Jay’s Treaty, and they themselves started seizing American ships. When Adams sent negotiators to France, the foreign minister Talleyrand refused to meet with Americans. Instead, three emissaries were sent and they demanded bribes and a loan from the Americans. Incensed, the Americans went home. The whole episode was known as the XYZ Affair, since the three French emissaries were simply named as Mr. X, Mr. Y and Mr. Z in the official report to Congress. The XYZ Affair provoked a desire for war in the United States, but President Adams refused to ask Congress for a declaration. Since the Federalists controlled Congress, they did authorize a standing army. In addition, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed. These acts raised the probationary period before immigrants could become citizens, gave the president the power to deport or arrest suspicious foreign citizens and made it a criminal act to speak out against the government. The Republicans bitterly denounced the Quasi-War and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Madison and Jefferson wrote the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves, which said that the states must protect the rights of the people against the power of the federal government. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolves also asked if state legislatures had the power to overturn a federal law. Although it was political grandstanding at the time, the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves later became one of the center points of the states’ rights arguments of the South. John Adams lost the Election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson. Did he lose because of the Alien and Sedition Acts? Or did he lose because in September of 1800 the Treaty of Mortefontaine was signed with the French, ending the Quasi-War? Either way, when Jefferson was inaugurated in 1801, it was a smooth process between one political party to another, and has been ever since. During his lame duck months, Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 and Adams appointed several federal judges to the bench, the so-called “midnight appointments”. The most important of these was Chief Justice John Marshall. What, in your opinion, was the most difficult obstacle the Americans faced in building a nation?