The period following the Revolutionary War marked an era of unprecedented turbulence for our newly constructed nation. The Constitution was beginning to come into effect, and a united administration under George Washington was suddenly split into two dueling parties following two of the most influential leaders in history "ÃÂ Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Domestic issues began to faction the country and soon the "federalists"ÃÂ under Hamilton and the "republicans"ÃÂ under Jefferson began to take form. Foreign conflicts such as the French Revolution further deepened the split, posing a serious challenge for the Constitution, testing its strengths as well as its weaknesses. Additional problems such as the Native Americans and settlement of western lands also came into play during this era, setting it apart as a major turning point in American history.
The most direct challenges and most significant changes were seen at home. Alexander Hamilton emerged in this time to be the leader of the Federalist Party, elected Secretary of the Treasury under Washington.
As a policy he distrusted people and feared their purposes. Hamilton was determined to promote the country's growth through government efforts to foster domestic manufacturing and goods. To achieve this he set proposed a series of taxes, including the highly disputed Whiskey Tax. Many fought the Whiskey Tax, but it most importantly led to the revolt of a group of Pennsylvania farmers against the tax, commonly called the "Whiskey Rebellion."ÃÂ Hamilton was politically conservative, though he believed in what is called "loose construction"ÃÂ of the Constitution, deeming actions such as the Whiskey tax "necessary and proper"ÃÂ for the nation's growth. Also included under the "elastic clause"ÃÂ was Hamilton's plan for repaying war debts that included the establishment of a national bank to control the nation's financial issues. Hamilton also wanted the federal government to assume state war debts to stabilize finances, build credit both domestic and foreign, and build a sense of confidence in the newly united states.
With all of this drastic action came much controversy. Hamilton's main opponent both politically and socially was Thomas Jefferson, who held a much stronger faith in the competency of the people. Jefferson wanted the country to become an agricultural republic based on the farmers, who the nation lived off of. Jefferson and his followers were strongly opposed to a national bank, fearing that it would give too much unlimited power to the central government at the expense of the states. Additionally, he was considered a "strict constructionist"ÃÂ of the Constitution, and he believed that the creation of a national bank and the passing of taxes was unconstitutional and did not fit under the elastic clause as Hamilton claimed. He saw Hamilton's plan subordinating southern farmers to the interests of northern commerce, and battled it throughout his service to the nation.
At home, Washington also faced conflicts with the Native Americans. As settlers began to cross the Alleghenies to the west, they encountered the land of the Native Americans who openly resisted their westward movement. Americans on the frontier became enraged that the British were supplying the Natives with arms to attack the settling Americans. In 1794 the US army led by General Wayne defeated the Shawnee and Wyandot at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in northwestern Ohio. In 1795, the chiefs of those tribes agreed to the Treaty of Greenville when they surrendered the Ohio Territory and promised to open it up to settlement.
Coincidentally, Washington's first presidency came at the same time as another monumental world event. The American people in its quest for democracy generally supported the French Revolution, and many saw it as an extension of their own fight for justice during the Revolution. However Hamilton's condemnation of its principles put a major scar in the country's unity. With Jefferson in support of aiding France's revolutionary efforts and Hamilton strongly opposing it, the country was again forced to make a disunifying decision for a political stance.
In 1796, Washington made a final decision to retire his presidency. After he delivered his final farewell address, advocating neutrality in conflict, John Adams took power. During his time in office, foreign conflict began to play a major role in the political division of power. With the trouble from the XYZ affair, the government became more and more separated by the dueling parties. In 1798, the Federalists passed what are called the Alien and Sedition Acts. They were three laws aimed to assault Republican power and included increasing the numbers of years required for an immigrant to naturalize, authorizing the president to deport any possibly dangerous aliens during a time of war, and making it illegal for newspapers to criticize the President or Congress. The Republicans felt that these laws were unconstitutional and had to be thwarted. In response, they passed the Kentucky-Virginia Resolution that would nullify these laws by judicial review.