(HRS) The Early Republic , 1789-1800


HRS Chapter 8 Study Guide

In 1790, as Americans faced the task of putting their new government into operation, they optimistically expected a future of prosperity, expansion, national unity, and independence from Europe. In each of these areas, they experienced a measure of disappointment. Congress was able to handle the immediate problems facing the country, but as it tried to deal with the nation's financial problems, it faced the dilemma of defining the role of government in a republican society. Supporters of self-sacrificing republicanism, such as John Adams, and of economic republicanism, such as Alexander Hamilton, although seemingly at odds, became allies because of their shared belief in a strong central government. Besides, both groups were nationalist in their outlook, believing that state interests and state power should be subordinated to national interests. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams, who were Federalists, accepted this definition of the role of government.

The Republicans, under the leadership of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, emerged in opposition to this nationalist republican philosophy. Republicans took the view that the central government should have limited power, and they moved toward the democratic definition of republicanism. Believing that the elite could not speak for the masses, they opposed Hamilton?s economic program and expressed a strict-constructionist view of the Constitution. Hamilton and Washington, in turn, advocated a broad interpretation of the Constitution.

The disagreement between the two groups over domestic policy soon spread to foreign policy, provoking more tension. Each group became convinced that the other was out to destroy the republic. Acting on this belief, the Federalists enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts to silence the Republicans. The Republicans responded with an extreme states rights philosophy contained in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. In the midst of this disunity, the Federalists split over the republic's relations with France. This split and the reaction of the country to the Alien and Sedition Acts led to Republican triumph in the election of 1800.

In the chapter's penultimate section, The West in the New Nation, we look at the war with the Miami Confederacy in the Northwest Territory, an attempt to organize the Old Southwest through the Southwest Ordinance of 1790, and at the assumptions and goals embodied in the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1793. After dealing with the consequences of this act, we turn in the chapter's last section to a discussion of the causes and consequences of Fries Rebellion and Gabriel's Rebellion and look at the outcome of the congressional and presidential elections of 1800.

Norton (2008). A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, 8th Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Establishing the New Nation 1789-1800

1788 George Washington is elected the first president of the United States.

1789 Washington takes office in New York City. Congress creates a cabinet with three departments. The Judiciary Act of 1789 creates the judicial branch of government. French Revolution threatens an international war in Europe and North America.

1789?90 North Carolina and Rhode Island ratify the Constitution.

1790?91 Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton issues four economic reports to Congress.

1790 Compromise moves national capital southward.

1791 The states ratify the Bill of Rights.

1792 George Washington reelected as president.

1793 Washington issues the Proclamation of Neutrality. Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin. Samuel Slater builds a spinning mill at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. France opens its empire to American trade.

1794 Westerners protest Hamilton's excise taxes in the Whiskey Rebellion.
Western Indian tribes defeated at Battle of Fallen Timbers.

1795 Jay's Treaty with England. Pinckney's Treaty with Spain. Treaty of Greenville with western Indian tribes.

1796 John Adams defeats Thomas Jefferson in presidential election.

1797 Spain opens its empire to American trade.

1798 Undeclared war with France. Congress creates Department of the Navy.
Alien and Sedition Acts target antiwar dissent. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson write the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.

1800 Jefferson defeats Adams in presidential election, the "Revolution of 1800."

America now had to deal with politics and economics in the Atlantic world as an independent nation. As both France and England vied for hegemony, the United States wished to engage in commerce and trade while remaining neutral in political affairs.

Politics and Citizenship: This chapter focuses on the creation of the republic based on the Constitution. The intent of the founders was often changed by others in the early years, but those patterns set lasting precedents. A major development was the formation of political parties whose basic ideologies animate our political system today.

War and Diplomacy: Neither Europe nor America had unabashed confidence that the United States would last, and a major task of the new government was to show the world that the American republic was viable. Despite efforts to steer clear of European politics it proved impossible. Conflicts with both Britain and France arose during Federalist rule, and treaties with foreign nations sometimes led to conflict at home between regions.

George, J. & Brown, J. (2007). AP achiever: Advanced placement american history exam preparation guide.  McGraw Hill.

Digital History

The Federalist Era 1790s

In 1789, it was an open question whether the Constitution was a workable plan of government. It was unclear whether the new nation could establish a strong national government, a vigorous economy, or win the respect of foreign nations. For a decade, the new nation battled threats to its existence, including serious disagreements over domestic and foreign policy and foreign interference with American shipping and commerce.

During the first 12 years under the new Constitution, the Federalists established a strong and vigorous national government. Alexander Hamilton's economic program attracted foreign investment and stimulated economic growth. The creation of political parties was an unexpected development that involved the voting population in politics. Presidents George Washington and John Adams succeeded in keeping the nation free from foreign entanglements during the nation's first crucial years. Despite bitter party battles, threats of secession, and foreign interference with American shipping and commerce, the new nation had overcome every obstacle it had faced.

Biography of America

A New System of Government (series 5)

After the War for Independence, the struggle for a new system of government begins. Professor Maier looks at the creation of the Constitution of the United States. The Republic survives a series of threats to its union, and the program ends with the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the Fourth of July, 1826. 

Lecture Outlines

The Federalist Era 1789-1801

The Presidents 

George Washington

John Adams

Multimedia Presentations

The Articles of Confederation

The Confederation Faces Challenges

Philadelphia Convention

Federalists vs. Antifederalists

Development of the Two Party System

John Adams

Student Assignments 
BOA#5  A New System of Government

Web Links 

Student Learning Center