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A New America: History Of America's Escape From England

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Although political divisions first emerged over domestic issues, they deepened during a series of crises over foreign policy that reopened the nagging 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) spans from the foreign affairs of Washington, to Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase. Between these times is the Election of 1796, Adams's administration, concerning various perspectives of historical figures on financial policies and foreign countries, the XYZ Affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, 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. He modeled his financial policies in part on those of William Pitt the younger, a great British minister who took office in 1783, when Britain was so burdened with debt that it seemed on the verge of bankruptcy, and whose 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 revenue, and most American imports came from Britain. Hamilton did not advocate 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 an amicable 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 part it was--based on a British model, one that to Jefferson was dangerous because it allowed abundant opportunity for corruption. Jefferson (like many contemporary Americans) fascinated with British technology, but he did not regard with pleasure an American future with large industrial manufacturing complexes like those of England--or that planned for Paterson, New Jersey. Americans' independence and "virtue" depended for Jefferson on the fact that so many of them were farmers who worked for themselves, not for others. 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 and America, whose Revolution, he thought, had inspired the French. Most Americans shared his enthusiasm for the French Revolution until it took a turn unlike anything the American Revolution brought, with escalating popular violence, the execution of King Louis XVI (1793), and the establishment not of regular constitutional government but the arbitrary violence of Maximilien Robespierre and the Terror. Events in France horrified Hamilton, who argued that the Franco-American Treaty of 1778 was with the French king and so ceased once he died. Jefferson justified the violence and declared that the treaty was with the French Nation, and so still binding. These differences widened as issues in foreign policy came to dominate Washington's administration, and they gradually marked a division not just in the cabinet but in Congress and the electorate. 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; and several issues stemming from the 1783 Treaty of Paris needed settling. The British had never evacuated heir posts in the Northwest, and westerners suspected the British of using those bases to provoke Indian attacks on the American frontier. The United States also sought compensation for slaves the British had carried off during the Revolutionary War, and hoped to persuade Britain to open its West Indian islands to American traders. 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. He was still in office, however, when a new French minister, Edmond Genet, arrived in the United States--and promptly began hiring American privateers to sail under the French flag against British ships in the North Atlantic, attempted to raise a military expedition against Spain, and in other ways violated American territorial sovereignty. Jefferson tried to correct the situation, but what could he do with a man like Genet? Finally, on July 12, 1793, Washington's cabinet decided to request Genet's recall. By the time the request arrived in France, the government that had appointed Genet had fallen, and the Jacobins under Robespierre were in control. As a result, his story had an odd ending. With the support of the Washington administration, Genet remained in the United States, married Cornelia Clinton, the daughter of NY's governor, by whom he had six children, and then, after her death, five more by a second American wife. Meanwhile, American relations with Britain moved into a state of crisis over trade. New British Orders in Council (regulations issued by the Crown) undercut the old rule that "free ships make free goods," which allowed American traders to carry goods to and from the ports of European belligerent powers. Instead, the British invoked the Rule of 1756, by which no neutral nation could engage in trade during war from which it was excluded during peacetime. Then, in December 1793, the British suddenly began seizing American ships in the West Indies. A cry went up for reprisals happened to lead to war, some Americans were ready. Mobs harassed British seamen, and volunteer corps began organizing for a possible return of the Revolutionary War.

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 in 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 shade of retirement is



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