Washington's Presidency, from 1789 to 1797


IN 1791 the capital of the country was removed to Philadelphia, to remain there until it should be permanently fixed on the Potomac. President Washington lived in Philadelphia, and there Congress held its sessions.

Washington was elected by the unanimous vote of the country, and he was reelected in 1792 without opposition. He kept himself aloof from political parties, and tried to be impartial. But his preference for a strong central government attached him rather to the party called Federalist than to its opponents.

The Federalist party had first taken its name in the struggle to secure the adoption of the Constitution which that party favored. Federalists were generally in favor of strengthening the central government. They also liked to see the government conducted with some pomp and ceremony, after the English way. The Federalist party was strong in the cities, and among people of wealth and those devoted to commerce. Such people in that day were generally aristocratic in their feelings, and leaned to English ways. In the war between England and France the sympathies of the Federalists were in favor of England and against France.

The party opposed to the Federalists was called at first the Republican and afterward the Democratic party. (It is not to be confounded with the Republican party of our time.) The members of this party were afraid that the central government would grow too strong, and perhaps overthrow the liberties of the people. They wished to increase the power of the States and diminish that of the United States. They cherished ideas of individual liberty and equality, and were afraid of an aristocracy. The old Republican or Democratic party of that day sympathized with France, which had, in the great Revolution of 1789, overthrown the monarchy and set up a republic, and the Republicans disliked England. Many of them at one time showed their partisanship by wearing the tri-colored cockade worn by republicans in France. The Republican party in America wished to bring in republican manners and simple tastes, and they objected to the stately ceremonies which Washington and the Federalists liked. Hamilton and The great leader of the Federalists was General Alexander Hamilton, who did everything in his power to strengthen the government of the United States. The Republicans were led by Thomas Jefferson, the author of  the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury and Jefferson was Secretary of State in Washington's first cabinet, so that both parties were represented in the cabinet at the. same time, a state of things seldom seen nowadays.

During Washington's administration there began those troubles with the Indian tribes which have plagued the government and the people of the frontiers from that day to this. The English government refused to surrender forts which it held among the Indian tribes in what is now Ohio, and encouraged the savages to hostilities. There arose in consequence a most deadly and cruel war between the white settlers in Kentucky and the tribes living on the north side of the river. More than fifteen hundred Kentucky settlers had been killed in seven years, and very many carried away into a cruel captivity. The horrible slaughters of men, women, and children in Kentucky gave that State the name of "the Dark and Bloody Ground."

General Harmer was sent against the Indians in 1790, but from carelessness on his part, and a lack of discipline among his troops, the white soldiers were cut to pieces by the savages under Little Turtle.

General St. Clair was sent against these same Indians in the following year. He allowed himself to be surprised by Little Turtle and a strong force of Indians, who routed and almost ruined his army. The Indians butchered the wounded with the most brutal cruelty while St. Glair's army was in flight.

Washington was greatly distressed at this defeat. He now selected General Wayne, who had gained distinction in the Revolution, and whose courage was such that he was called "Mad Anthony Wayne." But he was as prudent as he was brave. The Indians called him " The Black Snake," and they also called him "The Chief who never Sleeps." After trying in vain to make peace with the Indians, Wayne attacked and defeated them, driving them from their hiding places by a bayonet charge. This battle was fought in 1794, on the banks of the Maumee River, in northern Ohio. It brought peace to the frontier for a while.

There was about this time a rebellion in western Pennsylvania, known as " the Whisky Insurrection." The people of western Pennsylvania raised Indian corn. The roads over the mountains were such that they could not well haul this corn to market, so they fell to making it into whisky, in which shape it was less bulky and more easily carried. The new United States tax on
whisky interfered with this business, and the people rose against the revenue officers. Washington sent troops to enforce the law, and the people submitted after the ring-leaders of the rebellion had fled.

Washington declined to be a candidate for the third time, and in September, 1796, the "Father of his Country" issued a farewell address, full of good advice. At the end of his term, in March, 1797, he retired to Mount Vernon, where he spent his closing years in peace. Washington died on the fourteenth of December, 1799. Of the many great men of the eighteenth century, he was, though not the most gifted, probably the most illustrious. The whole United States paid honor to his memory, and to this time he is the only American whose birthday is honored as a public holiday.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Washington's Presidency, from 1789 to 1797
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A History of the United States and Its People by Edward Eggleston; American Book Company-New York 1899
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