Рефераты. George Washington

sway of any faction, thus assuring that every important group would have

some means of exerting influence and of protecting its interests in a

lawful manner. The federal government, as remodeled, was vested with powers

adequate for managing the common affairs of the Union, while leaving to the

states control over state-confined property and business, schools, family

relations, and nonfederal crimes and lesser offenses. Washington helped to

persuade the Virginia legislature to ratify the Constitution, making use of

The Federalist papers written in its defense by James Madison, Alexander

Hamilton, and John Jay.

The Presidency

Unanimously elected the first president, Washington was inaugurated in New

York City on April 30, 1789. Acting with a cooperative Congress, he and his

aides constructed the foundations on which the political institutions of

the country have rested since that time.

His qualifications for his task could hardly have been better. For 15 years

he had contended with most of the problems that faced the infant

government. By direct contact he had come to know the leaders who were to

play important parts during his presidency. Having traveled widely over the

country, he had become well acquainted with its economic conditions and

practices. Experience had schooled him in the arts of diplomacy. He had

listened closely to the debates on the Constitution and had gained a full

knowledge both of its provisions and of the ideas and interests of

representative leaders. He had worked out a successful method for dealing

with other men and with Congress and the states. Thanks to his innumerable

contacts with the soldiers of the Revolutionary army, he understood the

character of the American people and knew their ways. For eight years after

1775 he had been a de facto president. The success of his work in founding

a new government was a by-product of the qualifications he had acquired in

the hard school of public service.

The Executive Departments

The Constitution designated the president as the only official charged with

the duty of enforcing all the federal laws. In consequence, Washington's

first concern was to establish and develop the executive departments. In a

sense such agencies were arms of the president--the instruments by which he

could perform his primary duty of executing the laws. At the outset,

Washington and his co-workers established two rules that became enduring

precedents: the president has the power to select and nominate executive

officers and the power to remove them if they are unworthy.

Congress did its first important work in 1789, when it made provision for

five executive departments. The men heading these departments formed the

president's cabinet. One act established the war department, which

Washington entrusted to Gen. Henry Knox. Then came the creation of the

treasury department, its beginnings celebrated by the brilliant

achievements of its first secretary, Alexander Hamilton. The department of

state was provided for, and Thomas Jefferson took office as its first

secretary in March 1790. The office of postmaster general came into being

next, and the appointment went to Samuel Osgood. Washington's first

attorney general, Edmund Randolph, was selected after his office had been


In forming his CABINET Washington chose two liberals--Jefferson and

Randolph--and two conservatives--Hamilton and Knox. The liberals looked to

the South and West, the conservatives to the Northeast. On subjects in

dispute, Washington could secure advice from each side and so make informed


In constructing the new government, Washington and his advisers acted with

exceptional energy. The challenge of a large work for the future inspired

creative efforts of the highest order. Washington was well equipped for the

work of building an administrative structure. His success arose largely

from his ability to blend planning and action for the attainment of a

desired result. First, he acquired the necessary facts, which he weighed

carefully. Once he had reached a decision, he carried it out with vigor and

tenacity. Always averse to indolence and procrastination, he acted promptly

and decisively. In everything he was thorough, systematic, accurate, and

attentive to detail. From subordinates he expected standards like his own.

In financial matters he insisted on exactitude and integrity.

The Federalist Program

From 1790 to 1792 the elements of Washington's financial policies were

expounded by Hamilton in five historic reports. Hamilton was a highly

useful assistant who devised plans, worked out details, and furnished

cogent arguments. The Federalist program consisted of seven laws. Together

they provided for the payment, in specie, of debts incurred during the

Revolution; created a sound, uniform currency based on coin; and aimed to

foster home industries in order to lessen the country's dependence on

European goods.

The Tariff Act (1789), the Tonnage Act (1789), and the Excise Act (1791)

levied taxes, payable in coin, that gave the government ample revenues. The

Funding Act (1790) made provision for paying, dollar for dollar, the old

debts of both the Union and the states. The Bank Act (1791) set up a

nationwide banking structure owned mainly by private citizens, which was

authorized to issue paper currency that could be used for tax payments as

long as it was redeemed in coin on demand. A Coinage Act (1792) directed

the government to mint both gold and silver coins, and a Patent Law (1791)

gave inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for 14 years.

The Funding Act, the Excise Act, and the Bank Act aroused an accelerating

hostility so bitter as to bring into being an opposition group. These

opponents, the Republicans, precursors of the later Democratic party, were

led by Jefferson and Madison. The Funding Act enabled many holders of

government certificates of debt, which had been bought at a discount, to

profit as the Treasury redeemed them, in effect, at their face values in

coin. Washington undoubtedly deplored this form of private gain, but he

regarded it as unavoidable if the Union was to have a stable currency and a

sound public credit. The Bank Act gave private citizens the sole privilege

of issuing federal paper currency, which they could lend at a profit. The

Excise Act, levying duties on whiskey distilled in the country, taxed a

commodity that was commonly produced by farmers, especially on the

frontier. The act provoked armed resistance--the Whiskey Rebellion--in

western Pennsylvania, which Washington suppressed with troops, but without

bloodshed or reprisals, in 1794.

The Republicans charged that the Federalist acts tended to create an all-

powerful central government that would devour the states. A protective

tariff that raised the prices of imported goods, a centralized banking

system operated by moneyed men of the cities, national taxes that benefited

the public creditors, a restricted currency, and federal securities (as

good as gold) that could be used to buy foreign machines and tools needed

by manufacturers--all these features of Washington's program, so necessary

to industrial progress, repelled debtors, the poorer farmers, and the most

zealous defenders of the states.

The Judiciary System

Under Washington's guidance a federal court system was established by the

Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1789. The Constitution provided for its basic

features. Because the president is the chief enforcer of federal laws, it

is his duty to prosecute cases before the federal courts. In this work his

agent is the attorney general. To guard against domination of judges, even

by the president, the Constitution endowed them with tenure during good


The Judiciary Act of 1789 was so well designed that its most essential

features have survived. It provided for 13 judicial districts, each with a

district court of federal judges. The districts were grouped into three

circuits in which circuit courts were to hear appeals from district courts.

The act also created a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and five

associate justices to serve as the final arbiter in judicial matters,

excepting cases of impeachment. Washington's selection of John Jay as the

first chief justice was probably the best choice possible for the work of

establishing the federal judiciary on a sound and enduring basis.

Foreign Affairs

In foreign affairs, Washington aimed to keep the country at peace, lest

involvement in a great European war should shatter the new government

before it could acquire strength. He also sought to gain concessions from

Britain and Spain that would promote the growth of pioneer settlements in

the Ohio Valley. In addition, he desired to keep up the import trade of the

Union, which yielded revenue from tariff duties that enabled the government

to sustain the public credit and to meet its current expenses.

The British and French

The foreign policy of Washington took shape under the pressure of a war

between Britain and revolutionary France. At the war's inception Washington

had to decide whether two treaties of the French-American alliance of 1778

were still in force. Hamilton held that they were not, because they had

been made with the now-defunct government of Louis XVI. Washington,

however, accepted Jefferson's opinion that they were still valid because

they had been made by an enduring nation--a principle that has since

prevailed in American diplomacy.

Fearing that involvement in the European war would blight the infant

government, Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality on April 22,

1793. This proclamation urged American citizens to be impartial and warned

them against aiding or sending war materials to either belligerent.

Because Britain was the dominant sea power, France championed the doctrine

of neutral rights that was asserted in the French-American alliance. The

doctrine held that neutrals--the United States in this case--might lawfully

trade with belligerents in articles not contraband of war. Britain acted on

a contrary theory respecting wartime trade and seized American ships,

thereby violating rights generally claimed by neutrals. Such seizures

goaded the Republican followers of Jefferson to urge measures that might

have led to a British-American war. Washington then sent John Jay on a

treaty-making mission to London.

Jay's Treaty of Nov. 19, 1794, outraged France because it did not uphold

the French-American alliance and because it conferred benefits on Britain.

Although Washington disliked some of its features, he signed it (the Senate

had ratified it by a two-thirds vote). One reason was that keeping open the

import trade from Britain continued to provide the Treasury with urgently

needed revenues from tariff duties.

Unable to match Britain on the sea, the French indulged in a campaign to

replace Washington with their presumed partisans, in order to vitiate the

treaty. They also waged war on the shipping of the United States, and

relations between the two countries went from bad to worse.

The Western Frontier

Washington's diplomacy also had to deal with events in the West that

involved Britain and Spain. Pioneers in Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Ohio

country, who were producers of grain, lumber, and meats, sought good titles

to farmlands, protection against Indians, and outlets for their products

via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and New Orleans.

In the northern area, Britain held, within the United States, seven trading

posts of which the most important were Niagara, Detroit, and Mackinac. The

determination of the Indians to preserve their hunting lands against the

inroads of pioneers seeking farms encouraged the British in Canada in their

efforts to maintain their hold on the fur trade and their influence on the

Indians of the area north of the Ohio River.

The focus of the strife was the land south of present-day Toledo. The most

active Indian tribes engaged were the Ottawa, the Pottawatomi, the

Chippewa, and the Shawnee. Two American commanders suffered defeats that

moved Washington to wrath. British officials in Canada then backed the

Indians in their efforts to expel the Americans from the country north of

the Ohio River. A third U.S. force, under Gen. Anthony Wayne, defeated the

Indians so decisively in 1794 in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, at the site

of present-day Toledo, that they lost heart and the English withdrew their

support. Wayne then imposed a victor's peace. By the Treaty of Greenville

(1795) the tribes gave up nearly all their lands in Ohio, thereby clearing

the way for pioneers to move in and form a new state.

In 1796 the British evacuated the seven posts that they had held within the

United States. Because Jay's Treaty had called for the withdrawal, it

registered another victory for Washington's diplomacy.

The Spanish Frontier

On the southwestern frontier the United States faced Spain, then the

possessor of the land south of the 31st parallel, from the Atlantic coast

to the Mississippi River. Intent upon checking the growth of settlement

south of the Ohio River, the Spaniards used their control of the mouth of

the Mississippi at New Orleans to obstruct the export of American products

to foreign markets. The two countries each claimed a large area, known as

the Yazoo Strip, north of the 31st parallel.

In dealing with Spain, Washington sought both to gain for the western

settlers the right to export their products, duty free, by way of New

Orleans, and to make good the claim of the United States to the territory

in dispute. The land held by Spain domiciled some 25,000 people of European

stocks, who were generally preferred by the resident Indians (Cherokee,

Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw, with 14,000 warriors), to the 150,000

frontiersmen who had pushed into Kentucky, Tennessee, and western Georgia.

The selection of Jefferson as the first secretary of state reflected the

purpose of Washington to aid the West. But before 1795 he failed to attain

that goal. His task was complicated by a tangle of frontier plots,

grandiose land-speculation schemes, Indian wars, and preparations for war

that involved Spanish officials, European fur traders, and the Indian

tribes, along with settlers, adventurers, military chieftains, and

speculators from the United States.

Conditions in Europe forced Washington to neglect the Southwest until 1795,

when a series of misfortunes moved Spain to yield and agree to the Treaty

of San Lorenzo. The treaty recognized the 31st parallel as the southern

boundary of the United States and granted to Americans the right to

navigate the whole of the Mississippi, as well as a three-year privilege of

landing goods at New Orleans for shipment abroad.

When Washington left office the objectives of his foreign policy had been

attained. By avoiding war he had enabled the new government to take root,

he had prepared the way for the growth of the West, and by maintaining the

import trade he had safeguarded the national revenues and the public


Washington Steps Down

By the end of 1795, Washington's creative work had been done. Thereafter he

and his collaborators devoted their efforts largely to defending what they

had accomplished. A conservative spirit became dominant and an era of "High

Federalism" dawned. As his health declined, Washington became saddened by

attacks made by his Republican opponents, who alleged that Hamilton had

seized control of the administration, that a once-faithful ally, France,

had been cast aside, that the Federalists were plotting to create a

monarchy on the British model, and that they had corrupted Congress in

order to effect their program. The attack reached its high (or low) point

when Washington's foes reprinted forged letters that had been published to

impugn his loyalty during the Revolution. He made no reply to his


Washington had been reelected unanimously in 1792. His decision not to seek

a third term established a tradition that has been broken only once and is

now embedded in the 22d Amendment of the Constitution. In his Farewell

Address of Sept. 17, 1796, he summarized the results of his varied

experience, offering a guide both for that time and for the future. He

urged his countrymen to cherish the Union, to support the public credit, to

be alert to "the insidious wiles of foreign influence," to respect the

Constitution and the nation's laws, to abide by the results of elections,

and to eschew political parties of a sectional cast. Asserting that America

and Europe had different interests, he declared that it "is our true policy

to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign

world," trusting to temporary alliances for emergencies. He also warned

against indulging in either habitual favoritism or habitual hostility

toward particular nations, lest such attitudes should provoke or involve

the country in needless wars.

Last Years

Washington's retirement at Mount Vernon was interrupted in 1798 when he

assumed nominal command of a projected army intended to fight against

France in an anticipated war. Early in 1799 he became convinced that France

desired peace and that Americans were unwilling to enlist in the proposed

army. He successfully encouraged President John Adams to break with the war

party, headed by Hamilton, and to end the quarrel.

Washington's last public efforts were devoted to opposing the Virginia and

Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which challenged his conviction that the

Constitution decreed that federal acts should be the supreme law of the

land. Continuing to work at his plantation, he contracted a cold and died

on Dec. 14, 1799, after an illness of two days.

Among Americans, Washington is unusual in that he combined in one career

many outstanding achievements in business, warfare, and government. He took

the leading part in three great historic events that extended over a period

of 20 years. After 1775 he was animated by the purpose of creating a new

nation dedicated to the rights of man. His success in fulfilling that

purpose places him in the first rank among the figures of world history.

Curtis P. Nettels

Cornell University

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