George Washington Had The Hardest Job

ryanAmerican History(ML), Mini Lessons

Common Sense American History eBook: Constitutional Order

George Washington, elected as the first president of the new nation, provided exceptional leadership that allowed the republic to prosper and not fall into chaos or tyranny. Partisan divide arose quickly in his administration over the powers of the government. This divide was represented by Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who was joined by his ally Virginian congressman, James Madison. Hamilton proposed economic prosperity and the relief of the huge national debt through the creation of a national bank, high tariffs to promote manufacturing, the selling of national bonds and assumption of state debts. Jefferson and Madison viewed these measures as unconstitutional extensions of federal powers.

At the root of this fundamental difference, which would lead to the creation of the Hamiltonian Federalist Party and the Jeffersonian Republican-Democratic Party (later known as the Democratic Party), were two visions for the future of the new nation. Hamilton’s vision was a strong manufacturing nation

… Jefferson and Madison believed, to the contrary, that a strong republic should rest on small farmers – freeholders who owned their own property and were economically independent. States, not the federal government, should be the centers of power in America. …

  1. Have you ever “founded” anything (a club, a business, etc.)? How is that different from taking over something already existing?
  2. In some respects (but not others), the Republican Party today is a descendent of the Federalist Party. Today’s Democratic Party is the direct descendent of Jefferson’s. Based upon the description above, would you have labeled them this way? Why might party positions on central issues flip over time?

This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense American History eBook.  Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for students and teachers.  Click here to download the Common Sense American History materials.

Image Citation:

10, Sept. 2018, Jean Antoine Houdon’s full-figure sculpture of George Washington in Washington Square Park [Digital photograph].  Retrieved from <>.