Between the years of 1789 – 1800, there were two people given the job of being the President of these United States of America, George Washington, the first president, and John Adams, the second president. Between the years of 1789 – 1800, the United States of America was a very young country who was searching for its identity, a leader, and an economic basis on which to run the country. Before, 1789, when George Washington took office, the Constitution of the United States was a very new document.
It had just been ratified 1 year earlier, which meant that the Articles of Confederation, which ruled the country between the years 1783 – 1788, was thrown out. It is based on this new document that George Washington and John Adams were allowed to take office. During their times as President of the United States, both Washington and Adams had similar and different approaches on how to handle the position and all the responsibilities that followed. Both had domestic and foreign policies that were similar and different during their administration. During George Washington’s administration began in 1792.
During this time period, the United States was a very young nation that had no identity, no way of making money, and no domestic policies. During his first years in office, Washington used his cabinet to help form the domestic policies that his administration would use. Washington‘s domestic policies ranged from creating the Departments of State, War, and Treasury to stopping the Whiskey Rebellion from getting out of hand. Washington left a great imprint on the national government that he is honored by being on the one dollar bill, and having a monument named after him.
While in office, Washington surrounded himself with the best and brightest minds of the time as his cabinet to make sure the country that he had fought for would be able to continue to have its independence that it fought for against the British. One of the greatest achievements and legacies that George Washington has left us with today is the separation between the legislative and executive branch of the government. Washington took a hands on approach to the countries domestic policy, making sure that everything ran smoothly.
He realized through information from his Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton that in income was needed for the nation if it is to survive and pay off the debts that it had accumulated during the revolution. For this reason, an excise tax on whiskey was authorized by Washington and Congress to charge people so they can have an income coming in. Also, Washington and Congress agreed that they would sell land which would also increase bring in money. This was very much the opposite of what John Adams did for his administrations domestic policy.
There was not much that Adams did during his time in office that was comparable to what Washington but there are many differences that exist between Adam’s administration and Washington’s in domestic policy. During his presidency, John Adam’s style of dealing with domestic policy was to leave it to Congress and have them deal with everything that was going on inside the country. Adam’s had the belief that those who were in Congress had his best interests in mind since they were all of the same party, the Federalists.
He believe that the seat of the President should deal with the foreign affairs while the Congress should deal with the domestic affairs. Only after the XYZ affair, which was the French trying to extort money from the Americans, did Adam’s finally show some interest in domestic policies. He used the XYZ, which caused a great outcry throughout all the states, to create the Alien and Sedition Acts which would help him crush the French loving Anti-Federalist party headed by Thomas Jefferson. Congress created supposedly created these acts to stop the United States of America from aiding the French people within the states.
But in actuality, these acts targeted most people who were immigrants who usually were supporters of the Anti-Federalist party. These acts increased the time required for a person to become a citizen from 5 years in the nation to 14 years. Next, the Alien act which allowed the President to either imprison or deport any “alien” whom he deemed to be a danger to our national security. This sounds familiar doesn’t it, well that is because it is exactly like the Patriot Act that was passed right after September 11, 2001.
Than following the passing of these laws and the XYZ affair, America almost went to war with France which prompted the Adam’s administration to raise taxes. During Washington’s administration, we see that only out of necessity were taxes raised so that the country would not drown in red ink like we are today. Adam’s increased taxes by enacting a new stamp tax and a house tax. These new taxes brought a great deal of unrest among the people because they believe that the taxes were being used to create a standing army, not to send them overseas to France.
This brought about a revolt in Pennsylvania where the leaders were arrested and tried for treason. We see that Adam’s and Washington had very different approaches on how to deal with domestic policy and how their administration should handle any situations. We see during the Whiskey Rebellion that when Washington came to break it up, nobody was around and the people who were caught were pardoned almost immediately which is unlike during Adam’s administration where the people who revolted against the new taxes were pardoned about a year after they were caught.
The only reason they were pardoned was because Adam’s wanted more votes from the people during the election which was occurring the next day. The domestic policies that Washington ran, were more about strengthening the country and allowing the country to float while Adams took a hands off approach until he saw a way in which he could have a personal benefit. When Adams realized that he could have a personal benefit for himself and his party, he jumps right into the domestic policy hoping that he can curb those who were writing out against him and his party.
Adams was a president who was more focused on foreign policy because it seems that he believes that a president should be able to talk to foreign powers easily. It doesn’t help his case that he was one of the most decorated foreign ambassadors of the time who took over as President. Through the comparison of only the domestic policy, we see there is a huge difference between how Adams and Washington ran their administrations. Looking at foreign policy, we see again there are more differences than similarities between these two men.
We see that Washington was a man who believe that the less you are involved with what is going on in the world, the more you can focus on your own nation and help improve it, especially if it is such a young nation as America was at that time. He wanted to make friends with the Europeans nations so that America could have trading partners so that the economy could be built up. In comparison, Adam’s presidency started out with chaos and ended with chaos. When Adams took over office, the French Revolution was in full swing, no winner had come out and the French and the British were both mad at us for not choosing a side.
Washington did receive a bit of the chaos for not choosing a side, but Adams was stuck with most of it. During Washington’s presidency, we see he had many difficult decisions that had to be made about foreign policy. First, it was if he should get involved with the French revolution. Two of his advisors had two different ideas for him and he had to decide which one he should take. In the end, when Washington decides to do nothing, he sets a precedent that it is ultimately the President’s decision if the country does go to war.
Comparing that to Adams, who flip flops between what he wants to do for foreign policy. At first, because of the XYZ affair Adams wants to go to war, but then at the last minute, he changes from going to war to peacefully ending the quarrel. His flip-flop decision made the American public really mad because they felt that the XYZ affair had really been a slap to the face and they all wanted to retaliate against the French. This flip-flop decision on foreign policy caused problems for Adams during the rest of his administration.
Even though Adams was very proud of resolving the issue with France peacefully, creating a new treaty with France, and getting out of the old treaty with France which was made during the Revolution, the public did not have faith in Adams anymore. Even though both men were from the same time period, followed each other as being the leader of this nation, they both had different ideas on how to handle things. We see that during Washington’s two terms as President he faced many issues, which he handled to the best of his abilities and in a way that he thought would help the country.
He tried to resolve everything peacefully if he could, like Jay’s Treaty, and take up arms if it was necessary, like the Whiskey Rebellion. Compare that to Adam’s administration where he started off in chaos because of the French revolution. He started off his administration with the XYZ controversy and ended with the Midnight Judges. Both events were a cause of chaos in the nation, but both did set precedents that have been almost been held up till today.