Washington retired in 1797, firmly declining to serve for more than eight years as the nation's head. Vice President John Adams was elected the new President, narrowly defeating Jefferson. Even before he entered the presidency, Adams had quarreled with Alexander Hamilton—and thus was handicapped by a divided Federalist party.
These domestic difficulties were compounded by international complications: France, angered by American approval in 1795 of the Jay Treaty with its great enemy Britain proclaimed that food and war material bound for British ports were subject to seizure by the French navy. By 1797, France had seized 300 American ships and had broken off diplomatic relations with the United States. When Adams sent three other commissioners to Paris to negotiate, agents of Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (whom Adams labeled "X, Y and Z" in his report to Congress) informed the Americans that negotiations could only begin if the United States loaned France $12 million and bribed officials of the French government. American hostility to France rose to an excited pitch. Federalists used the "XYZ Affair" to create a new American army, strengthen the fledgling United States Navy, impose the Alien and Sedition Acts to stop pro-French activities, and enact new taxes to pay for it. the Alien and Sedition Acts, which had severe repercussions for American civil liberties. The Naturalization Act, which changed the residency requirement for citizenship from five to 14 years, was targeted at Irish and French immigrants suspected of supporting the Republican Party. One of the Alien acts, still in effect in the 21st century, gave the President the power to expel or imprison aliens in time of war. The Sedition Act proscribed writing, speaking or publishing anything of "a false, scandalous and malicious" nature against the President or Congress. The few convictions won under the Sedition Act only created martyrs to the cause of civil liberties and aroused support for the Republicans. Jefferson and his allies launched a counterattack, with two states stating in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that state legislatures could nullify acts of Congress. However, all the other states rejected this proposition, and nullification—or it was as it was called, the "principle of 98" -- became the preserve of a faction of the Republicans called the Quids.
In 1799, after a series of naval battles with the French (known as the Quasi-War), full-scale war seemed inevitable. In this crisis, Adams broke with his party and sent three new commissioners to France. Napoleon, who had just come to power, received them cordially, and the danger of conflict subsided with the negotiation of the Convention of 1800, which formally released the United States from its 1778 wartime alliance with France. However, reflecting American weakness, France refused to pay $20 million in compensation for American ships seized by the French navy.
In his final hours in office, Adams appointed John Marshall as chief justice. Serving until his death in 1835, Marshall dramatically expanded the powers of the Supreme Court and provided a Federalist interpretation of the Constitution that made for a strong national government.
Main articles: Presidency of Thomas Jefferson and Jeffersonian democracy
By 1800 Americans were ready for change. Under Washington and Adams the Federalists had established a strong government, but sometimes failed to honor the principle that the American government must be responsive to the will of the people; they had followed policies that alienated large groups of Americans. For example, in 1798, to pay for the national debt and an army and navy, Adams and Federalists had enacted a tax on houses, land and slaves, affecting every property owner in the country. Worse, after a single instance of tax revolt (a mob having freed two tax evaders from prison), Adams ordered the U.S. Army into action to collect the taxes. While the army could find no one to fight, Democratic-Republicans seized on this action as another example of Federalist tyranny.
Jefferson had steadily gathered behind him a great mass of small farmers, shopkeepers and other workers which asserted themselves as Democratic-Republicans in the election of 1800. Jefferson enjoyed extraordinary favor because of his appeal to American idealism. In his inaugural address, the first such speech in the new capital of Washington, DC, he promised "a wise and frugal government" to preserve order among the inhabitants but would "leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry, and improvement".
Jefferson encouraged agriculture and westward expansion, most notably by the Louisiana Purchase and subsequent Lewis and Clark Expedition. Believing America to be a haven for the oppressed, he reduced the residency requirement for naturalization back to five years again.
By the end of his second term, Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin had reduced the national debt to less than $560 million. This was accomplished by reducing the number of executive department employees and Army and Navy officers and enlisted men, and by otherwise curtailing government and military spending.
To protect its shipping interests overseas, the U.S. fought the First Barbary War (1801–1805) in North Africa. This was followed later by the Second Barbary War (1815).
Growth in the US 1800-10
Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812
Main articles: Louisiana Purchase and War of 1812
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 gave Western farmers use of the important Mississippi River waterway, removed the French presence from the western border of the United States, and provided U.S. settlers with vast potential for expansion. A few weeks afterward, war resumed between Britain and Napoleon's France. The United States, dependent on European revenues from the export of agricultural goods, tried to export food and raw materials to both warring Great Powers and to profit from transporting goods between their home markets and Caribbean colonies. Both sides permitted this trade when it benefited them but opposed it when it did not. Following the 1805 destruction of the French navy at the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain sought to impose a stranglehold over French overseas trade ties. Thus, in retaliation against U.S. trade practices, Britain imposed a loose blockade of the American coast. Believing that Britain could not rely on other sources of food than the United States, Congress and President Jefferson suspended all U.S. trade with foreign nations in the Embargo Act of 1807, hoping to get the British to end their blockade of the American coast. The Embargo Act, however, devastated American agricultural exports and weakened American ports while Britain found other sources of food.
James Madison won the U.S. presidential election of 1808, largely on the strength of his abilities in foreign affairs at a time when Britain and France were both on the brink of war with the United States. He was quick to repeal the Embargo Act, refreshing American seaports.
Battle of Lake Erie; American victory in 1813 meant control of the Northwest; painting by William H. Powell (1865)
In response to continued British interference with American shipping (including the practice of impressment of American sailors into the British Navy), and to British aid to American Indians in the Old Northwest, the Twelfth Congress—led by Southern and Western Jeffersonians—declared war on Britain in 1812. Westerners and Southerners were the most ardent supporters of the war, given their concerns about defending national honor and expanding western settlements, and having access to world markets for their agricultural exports. New England was making a fine profit and its Federalists opposed the war, almost to the point of secession. The Federalist reputation collapsed in the triumphalism of 1815 and the party no longer played a national role.
Tecumseh and Governor William Henry Harrison; Tecumseh's death in the Battle of the Thames in 1813 ended British hopes to create a neutral Indian state in the Midwest
The United States and Britain came to a draw in the war after bitter fighting that lasted even after the Burning of Washington in August 1814 and Andrew Jackson's smashing defeat of the British invasion army at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. The Treaty of Ghent, officially ending the war, returned to the status quo ante bellum, but Britain's alliance with the Native Americans ended, and the Indians were the major losers of the war. News of the victory at New Orleans over the best British combat troops came at the same time as news of the peace, giving Americans a psychological triumph and opening the Era of Good Feelings. The war destroyed the Federalist Party, and opened roles as national candidates to generals Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison among others, as well as civilian leaders James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay.
Era of Good Feelings and the Rise of Nationalism
Main articles: Era of Good Feelings and James Monroe
Following the War of 1812, America began to assert a newfound sense of nationalism. America began to rally around national heroes such as Andrew Jackson and patriotic feelings emerged in such works as Francis Scott Key's poem The Star Spangled Banner. Under the direction of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court issued a series of opinions reinforcing the role of the national government. These decisions included McCulloch v Maryland and Gibbons v Ogden; both of which reaffirmed the supremacy of the national government over the states. The signing of the Adams-Onis Treaty helped to settle the western border of the country through popular and peaceable means.
Even as nationalism increased across the country, its effects were limited by a renewed sense of sectionalism. The New England states that had opposed the War of 1812 felt an increasing decline in political power with the demise of the Federalist Party. This loss was tempered with the arrival of a new industrial movement and increased demands for northern banking. The industrial revolution in the United States was advanced by the immigration of Samuel Slater from Great Britain and arrival of textile mills beginning in Lowell, Massachusetts. In the south, the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney radically increased the value of slave labor. The export of southern cotton was now the predominant export of the U.S. The western states continued to thrive under the "frontier spirit." Individualism was prized as exemplified by Davey Crockett and James Fenimore Cooper's folk hero Natty Bumpo from The Leatherstocking Tales. Following the death of Tecumseh in 1813, Native Americans lacked the unity to stop white settlement.
Era of Good Feelings
Domestically, the presidency of James Monroe (1817–1825) was hailed at the time and since as the "Era of Good Feelings" because of the decline of partisan politics and heated rhetoric after the war. The Federalist Party collapsed, but without an opponent the Republican party decayed as sectional interests came to the fore.
The Monroe Doctrine was drafted by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in collaboration with the British, and proclaimed by Monroe in late 1823. He asserted the Americas should be free from additional European colonization and free from European interference in sovereign countries' affairs. It further stated the United States' intention to stay neutral in wars between European powers and their colonies but to consider any new colonies or interference with independent countries in the Americas as hostile acts towards the United States. No new colonies were ever formed.
Emergence of Second Party System
Main article: John Quincy Adams
Monroe was reelected without opposition in 1820, and the old caucus system for selecting Republican candidates collapsed in 1820. In the presidential election of 1824, factions in Tennessee and Pennsylvania put forth Andrew Jackson. From Kentucky came Speaker of the House Henry Clay, while Massachusetts produced Secretary of State Adams; a rump congressional caucus put forward Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford. Personality and sectional allegiance played important roles in determining the outcome of the election. Adams won the electoral votes from New England and most of New York; Clay won his western base of Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri; Jackson won his base in the Southeast, and plus Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey; and Crawford won his base in the South, Virginia, Georgia and Delaware. No candidate gained a majority in the Electoral College, so the president was selected by the House of Representatives, where Clay was the most influential figure. In return for Clay's support, which won him the presidency, John Quincy Adams appointed Clay as secretary of state in what Jacksonians denounced as The Corrupt Bargain.
During Adams' administration, new party alignments appeared. Adams' followers took the name of "National Republicans", to reflect the mainstream of Jeffersonian Republicanism. Though he governed honestly and efficiently, Adams was not a popular president, and his administration was marked with frustrations. Adams failed in his effort to institute a national system of roads and canals as part of the American System economic plan. His coldly intellectual temperament did not win friends.
Main articles: Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian democracy
Charismatic Andrew Jackson, by contrast, in collaboration with strategist Martin Van Buren rallied his followers in the newly emerging Democratic Party. In the election of 1828, Jackson defeated Adams by an overwhelming electoral majority. The election saw the coming to power of Jacksonian Democracy, thus marking the transition from the First Party System (which reflected Jeffersonian Democracy) to the Second Party System. Historians debate the significance of the election, with many arguing that it marked the beginning of modern American politics, with the decisive establishment of democracy and the formation of the two party system.
President Andrew Jackson
Suffrage of all white men
Starting in the 1820s, American politics became less aristocratic and enfranchisement increased as many state and local offices went from being appointed to elective, and the old requirements for voters to own property were abolished. Voice voting in states gave way to printed ballots, and by the 1830s only South Carolina did not have popularly chosen presidential electors. Jacksonian Democracy drew its support from the small farmers of the West, and the workers, artisans and small merchants of the East. They favored geographical expansion to create more farms for people like them, and distrusted the upper classes who envisioned an industrial nation built on finance and manufacturing. The entrepreneurs, for whom Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were heroes, fought back and formed the Whig party.
Political machines appeared early in the history of the United States, and for all the exhortations of Jacksonian Democracy, it was they and not the average voter that nominated candidates. In addition, the system supported establishment politicians and party loyalists, and much legislation was designed to reward rich men and businesses who supported a particular party or candidate. Also during this period, a series of reforms resulted in changes to the electoral system which rewarded winners or plurality getters in smaller districts instead of the old method of dividing state offices among the biggest vote getters. As a consequence, the chance of single issue and ideology-based candidates being elected to major office dwindled and so those parties who were successful were pragmatist ones with no fixed beliefs.
Examples of single issue parties included the Anti-Masons, who emerged as a group set to outlaw Freemasonry in the United States after a man who threatened to expose the Masons' secrets was kidnapped and murdered. They ran a candidate for president (William Wirt) in 1832, but succeeded in only winning the state of Vermont and then quietly disappeared. Others included abolitionist parties, socialists like the Workingmen's Party, the Locofocos (who opposed monopoly capitalism), and assorted nativist parties who's chief object was opposition to the Roman Catholic Church in the US. As pointed out above, none of these parties were capable of mounting a broad enough appeal to voters or winning major elections.
The election of 1828 was a significant benchmark marking the climax of the trend toward broader voter eligibility and participation. Vermont had universal male suffrage since its entry into the Union, and Tennessee permitted suffrage for the vast majority of taxpayers. New Jersey, Maryland and South Carolina all abolished property and tax-paying requirements between 1807 and 1810. States entering the Union after 1815 either had universal white male suffrage or a low taxpaying requirement. From 1815 to 1821, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York abolished all property requirements. In 1824, members of the Electoral College were still selected by six state legislatures. By 1828, presidential electors were chosen by popular vote in every state but Delaware and South Carolina. Nothing dramatized this democratic sentiment more than the election of Andrew Jackson.
Trail of Tears
Main article: Trail of Tears
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the President to negotiate treaties that exchanged Indian tribal lands in the eastern states for lands west of the Mississippi River. In 1834, a special Indian territory was established in what is now the eastern part of Oklahoma. In all, Native American tribes signed 94 treaties during Jackson's two terms, ceding thousands of square miles to the Federal government.
The Cherokees insisted on their independence from state government authority and faced expulsion from their lands when a faction of Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, obtaining money in exchange for their land. Despite protests from the elected Cherokee government and many white supporters, the Cherokees were forced to trek to the Indian Territory in 1838. Many died of disease and privation in what became known as the "Trail of Tears".