Proclamation of Neutrality, 1793. In the war between France, on one side, and Britain, Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, and the Netherlands, on the other, President Washington in 1793 declared the United States to be "friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers." Although he avoided using the word neutrality, his intention was clear. Critics denounced the proclamation as reneging on the U.S. commitment to its first ally, France. However, it kept the nation out of a war it was ill-prepared to fight. The French minister to the United States, Edmond Genet, pointedly ignoring Washington's policy, fomented pro-French sentiment among Americans and arranged for American privateers to harass British ships-activities that prompted President Washington to demand his recall.
Whiskey Rebellion, 1794. To help pay off the national debt and put the nation on a sound economic basis, President Washington approved an excise tax on liquor. Pennsylvania farmers, who regularly converted their corn crop to alcohol to avoid the prohibitive cost of transporting grain long distances to market, refused to pay it. On Hamilton's advice, Washington ordered 15,000 militia to the area and personally inspected troops in the field. This show of strength crushed this first real challenge to federal authority.
Jay'5 Treaty, 1795. Washington was roundly criticized by Jeffersonians for this treaty with Great Britain. To forestall further conflict with the former mother country and impel Britain to withdraw its forces from outposts in the Northwest Territory, as it had promised under the terms of the Treaty of Paris concluding the American Revolution, Washington relinquished the U.S. right to neutrality on the seas. Any American ship suspected of carrying contraband to the shores of Britain's enemies was subject to search and seizure by the British navy. And Britain regarded as contraband virtually any useful product, including foodstuffs. Moreover, Jay's Treaty failed to resolve one of the key disputes standing in the way of rapprochement with Britain-impressment. Britain's policy of "once an Englishman, always an Englishman" meant that even after renouncing allegiance to the crown and becoming a duly naturalized U.S. citizen, a British immigrant was not safe from the king's reach. If while searching an American ship for contraband, the British spotted one of their own among the crew, they routinely dragged him off and pressed him into the Royal Navy. But for all this, and despite the added strain on relations with France in the wake of Jay's Treaty, the pact did postpone the inevitable conflict with Britain until 1812, when America was better prepared militarily. After the Senate ratified the treaty, the House asked the president to release all pertinent papers relating to its negotiation. Washington refused on the constitutional ground that only the upper chamber had approval rights over treaties. He thereby set the precedent for future presidents to resist such congressional petitions.
Pinckney's Treaty, 1795. Under its terms, Washington normalized relations with Spain by establishing the boundary between the United States and Spanish Florida at the thirty-first parallel. Even more importantly for the future of American commerce, the pact granted U.S. vessels free access to the entire length of the Mississippi River and to the port of New Orleans for the purpose of export.
In other acts of lasting importance, President Washington signed into law bills creating or providing for:
1789 Oaths of allegiance to be sworn by federal and state officials
First tariffs to protect domestic manufacturers
Department of State and War and the Treasury
Office of postmaster general
Supreme Court, circuit and federal district courts, and position of
attorney general (Judiciary Act). Washington, of course, appointed
all the first judges to these courts.
1790 First federal census
Patent and copyright protection
Removal of the capital to Philadelphia in December 1790 and to Washington
10 years later
1791 Bank of the United States
1792 Presidential succession, which placed the president pro tempore of the
Senate and the Speaker of the House next behind the vice president in
line of succession to the presidency
U.S. Mint of Philadelphia
1795 Naturalization law, which lengthened residency requirement from two to
Farewell Address, 1796 President Washington announced his retirement in his celebrated Farewell Address, a pronouncement that was printed in the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser on September 17, 1796, but never was delivered orally. In it he warned against the evils of political parties and entangling alliances abroad. Throughout his term he had tried to prevent the rise of partisanship, but he had succeeded only in postponing such division by serving a second term. The Federalists under Hamilton and Adams and the Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson joined battle soon after he announced his retirement. Washington's warning to remain aloof from European struggles Was better heeded. "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations," he advised, "is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop." Isolationism remained the dominant feature in American foreign policy for the next 100 years.
States Admitted to the Union. Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), Tennessee (1796).
Constitutional Amendments Ratified. Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments, 1791): (1) Freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, to assemble and petition for redress of grievances. (2) Right to bear arms. (3) Restrictions on quartering soldiers in private homes. (4) Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. (5)Ban on double jeopardy and self-incrimination; guarantees due process of law. (6) Right to speedy and public trial. (7) Right to trial by jury. (8) Ban on excessive bail or fines or cruel and unusual punishment. (9) Natural rights unspecified in the Constitution to remain unabridged. (10) Individual states or the people retain all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government or denied to states by the Constitution.