The Evolution of US Domestic and Foreign Policy (1789-1803) under Washington and Jefferson

Category: George Washington
Last Updated: 30 Mar 2023
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Shaina Fober Although political divisions first emerged over domestic issues, they deepened during a series of crises over foreign policy that reopened the troublesome issue of America’s relationship with Great Britain. Domestic and foreign policy were, however, never entirely separate, since decisions in one area frequently carried implications for the other. Foreign and domestic policy (1789-1803) ps from the foreign affairs of Washington, to Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. Between these times is the Election of 1796, Adams’s administration, concerning a variety of perspectives of historical figures n financial policies and foreign countries, such as the Alien Act and Louisiana Purchase Treaty, were all in relation to the restrictions and powers of the United States Constitution. Under the term of Washington, there were many affairs to deal with, mainly foreign. Hamilton saw much to admire in Britain, and when Britain was so burdened with debt that it seemed on the verge of bankruptcy, his reforms restored his country’s financial health. The success of Hamilton’s financial program, moreover, depended on smooth relations with Britain: duties on imports provided a major source of federal evenue, and most American imports came from Britain. Hamilton did not believe in returning the Americans to British rule; he had, after all, fought for independence as an officer of the Continental army. Nor did he seek to establish a monarchy in the United States. But he thought a friendly relationship with the onetime mother country would best serve American interests. In contrast, Jefferson remained deeply hostile to Britain, and his Anglophobia played a central role in his growing opposition to Hamilton. The treasury secretary’s method of finance, with a bank and large funded debt, seemed, as in art it was, based on a British model, one that to Jefferson was dangerous because it allowed abundant opportunity for corruption. For example, Jefferson stated, “The incorporation of a bank, and the powers assumed by this bill, have not, in my opinion, been delegated to the United States, by the Constitution. ” (Document C). Jefferson was also deeply loyal to France, the Americans’ old ally in the War for Independence. While serving as minister to France during the 1780’s, Jefferson had witnessed the beginnings of the French Revolution, which in his opinion only tightened the bond between France nd America, whose Revolution, he thought, had inspired the French. These differences widened as issues in foreign policy came to dominate Washington’s administration, and they gradually marked a division. In 1790, Britain and Spain seemed likely to go to war; then Britain seemed headed for the war with France that finally broke out in 1793. Jefferson argued that Britain’s situation gave the United States an opportunity to secure concessions in return for American neutrality. The British had never evacuated their posts in the Northwest, and westerners suspected the British of sing those bases to provoke Indian attacks on the American frontier. But on April 22, 1793, Washington, influenced by Hamilton, who desperately wanted to avoid any altercation with Britain, issued a proclamation that essentially announced American neutrality without even trying to secure any concessions in return. A few months later, Jefferson submitted his resignation as secretary of state, which took effect at the end of the year. Since the Farewell Address was understood as Washington’s parting advice to his country, it was widely read and remains one of the most frequently reprinted documents n American history. It was a moving document, beginning with expressions of the sixty- four-year-old Washington’s gratitude to his “beloved country” for the honors and confidence it had invested in him and a reference to “the increasing weight of years” that admonished him “more and more, that the gloom of retirement is as necessary to me as it is welcome. ” Then the president offered advice, based on “much reflection,” that might “contribute to the permanency of your felicity as a People. ” He urged his countrymen to support the public credit, to “observe good faith and justice towards all Nations” while voiding permanent alliances with any, and to disdain “over-grown Military establishments,” which were always “inauspicious to liberty. ” But the thrust of his message concerned the country’s political divisions. However, it seems strange in retrospect, that the Adams administration had a president from one party (Federalist) and vice-president from another (Republican). But Adams and Jefferson had been allies in the struggle for independence and, in the 1780’s, deepened their bonds while serving together as diplomats in Europe. Most important, problems with France remained pressing.

After hearing about Jay’s Treaty, the French, who began seizing American ships bound for England, would not recognize the neutral rights of American ships and in December 1796 refused to accept the new American minister to France. As the war fever grew, Adams fell into Washington’s old position, regarding critics of his government as rebellious people who put their confidence in France rather than their own government. Federalists in Congress went further, passing a series of laws for the suppression of the Republicans. Three Alien Acts, passed in June and July of 798, moved against immigrants, who were often members of the Republican Party. The first, an Alien Enemies Act that allowed the president to arrest or banish enemy aliens, would rake effect only if war was declared. Another Alien Act allowed the president to deport any foreigners he considered dangerous to the public peace and safety, and a Naturalization Act increased the time of residence before immigrants could become Citizens, and therefore acquire voting rights. The Alien Act also stated that, “…whenever there shall be a declared war between the United States, by any foreign ation or government, or any invasion or predatory incursion shall be perpetrated, attempted, or threatened against the territory of the United States, by any foreign government, and the President of the United States shall make public proclamation of the event…” (Document E). As America’s population grew and increasing numbers of white settlers looked westward for affordable land, events were unfolding that would dramatically change the map of America and influence the nation’s political, economic, and social development for much of the nineteenth century.

At issue was the so-called Louisiana Territory, an enormous area that stretched from the Mississippi River in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West and north to Canada. Like most Americans, Jefferson harbored the belief that Louisiana would some day belong to the United States. It was thought that control of Louisiana, long considered a natural extension of the United States, loomed critical in defending the country’s expanding frontier against Indian raids and foreign adventurers as well as serving as a valuable source of raw materials, most notable the worthwhile western fur trade.

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Most important, in Jefferson’s view, the Louisiana Territory would be America’s ultimate safety valve: a seemingly limitless territory to which Indians could be removed ahead of white settlement and, above all, a place where landless immigrants from the East might move to carry on the American tradition that he deemed so essential to the well-being of the Republic. The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, also came out of this purchase. Which was a positive boost to the relationship between the United States and France, because as stated, “ The First Consul of the French

Republic desiring to give to the United a strong proof of his friendship doth hereby cede to the United States in the name of the French Republic…” (Document F). Altogether, a new American nation emerged solely on these incidences in history. They helped pave the way for future and current political parties, and influenced their beliefs in domestic and foreign issues. Though these perspectives are represented on a wide scale, they are related in that all Americans seek perfection whether it is concerning domestic and foreign policies, and how that relation is always connected to our supreme United States Constitution.

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The Evolution of US Domestic and Foreign Policy (1789-1803) under Washington and Jefferson. (2018, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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