EQ: how did the domestic and foreign policies of George Washington’s presidency bridge the new nation together or tear it apart? George Washington was a president upon a hill. He set a first-rate example for future presidents by making difficult yet necessary decisions for the developing nation. His words and actions have resonated throughout history and can be seen through feats of other presidents. Some notable acts of Washington include his domestic and foreign policies, selection of the first presidential cabinet, helping the nation’s financial crisis, deciding whether to follow in Great Britain’s or France’s footsteps, his dealings with rebellion, and he even made a lasting impression through his farewell speech of which the words have echoed through centuries. Washington’s prolonged stay in office helped bridged the nation and gave it its foundation for what it is today. Washington was a wise man; he knew he couldn’t run the nation by himself so he appointed a cabinet. It was composed of Vice President John Adams, Secretary of War Henry Knox, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and perhaps the two most dissimilar members, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
This was a landmark decision on Washington’s part because Hamilton and Jefferson were polar opposites; Hamilton was a Federalist and Jefferson was an Antifederalist. Hamilton believed in a loose interpretation of the constitution so that anything that needed to be done that would improve that state of the nation could be accomplished. Since America was in such bad debt from the American Revolution, Hamilton came up with the idea of a National Bank. Washington was definitely for this idea because of his foreign policy: he believed that when it came to other countries, you should stay neutral; neither support them too much nor start conflicts with them. In other words, he wanted to repay America’s debt in order to stay on good terms with the countries and wealthy Americans that helped finance the war. The way this National Bank worked is that it would assume all of the nation’s debt, including debt from individual states. This methodology angered Antifederalists, such as Jefferson, because they felt it was unfair to make states that already paid their debts, such as Virginia, continue to give money to the federal government. However, creditors were given incentive to support the new federal government because they were issued bonds (money invested in the bank for more than a year with the purpose of raising capital.) They way their bonds would increase in value is that the bank would loan out the money — that was invested by stockholders — to farmers, merchants, shippers, and many others. When they paid back their loans, they would also have to pay interest. The stockholders would get back their money plus some interest and the profit would go towards helping the nation’s debt.
Another issue raised by the Jefferson versus Hamilton dispute was whether America would support Great Britain or France in the war that was waged between them. Hamilton was in support of the English while Jefferson supported the French. Washington, given his opinion on foreign affairs, felt that they should not have entangling alliances because other countries’ problems would become America’s and America was still too weak to get involved. Washington served another term in office to prevent Hamilton and Jefferson from tearing the nation apart. The main concern of Washington was still the nation’s financial crisis. In order to bring in more revenue, Hamilton proposes an excise tax on whiskey. This angered settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains because they made their own whiskey and didn’t want to pay a tax on something they made themselves for themselves. This started the whiskey rebellion. This was first big test for the federal government; would it be able to enforce its own laws? Washington sent out a force of 13,000 militiamen to stop the rebellion. He arrested 150 Pennsylvanians and pardoned 2 people who were sentenced to death. This all ties in with Washington’s domestic policies: he didn’t view himself as better than the people but he still needed to be viewed and respected as a leader.
This kept the nation together because it showed that Washington was a strong leader and was able to enforce the laws. As Washington left office in 1797, he left America with parting words that have been repeated by many other presidents throughout history: “so help me god”. This illustrates the impact Washington had on America. He truly was a president upon a hill in that he had no reference of how to run a stable democratic republic where every citizen would be satisfied. He had to make difficult decisions that were both necessary and proper to further the nation as a whole and gain international trust. He had the help of his cabinet members to solve the nation’s economic problems, stop rebellions, and avoid potentially dangerous alliances. Washington’s presidency helped bridge the new nation together by appropriately dealing with tasks at hand and preventing unnecessary involvement in conflicts between other countries.