Chapter 6
THE AMERICAN STAR Frederick Kemmelmeyer painted this tribute to George Washington sometime in the 1790s.
It was one of many efforts by artists and others to create an iconography for the new republic. (The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1962. (62.256.7) Photograph © 1981 The Metropolitan
Museum of Art)
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BY THE LATE 1780S, MOST AMERICANS had grown deeply dissatisfi ed with
the defi ciencies of the Confederation: with the government’s apparent
inability to deal with factiousness and instability; with its failure to handle
economic problems effectively; and perhaps most of all with the frightening
powerlessness it had displayed in the face of
Shays’s Rebellion. A decade earlier, Americans had
deliberately avoided creating a genuine national
government, fearing that it would encroach on the sovereignty of the individual
states. Now they reconsidered. In 1787, they created a new government defi ned
by the Constitution of the United States.
The American Constitution derived most of its principles from the state
documents that had preceded it. But it was also a remarkable achievement in its
own right. Out of the contentious atmosphere of a fragile new nation, Americans
fashioned a system of government that has survived for more than two centuries
as one of the stablest and most successful in the world. William Gladstone, the
great nineteenth-century British statesman, once called the American Constitution
the “most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose
of man.” The American people in the years to come generally agreed. Indeed, to
them the Constitution took on some of the characteristics of a sacred document.
Later generations viewed its framers as men almost godlike in their wisdom.
The framers of the Constitution were far from perfect, but they included men
of unusual talent and brilliance—among them Benjamin Franklin, the senior
statesman of the Revolutionary generation; James Madison, the intellectual leader
of the framers; and George Washington, whose reputation and character gave
legitimacy to the project. Many Americans have described the Constitution’s
provisions as unassailable “fundamental law,” from which all public policies, all
political principles, all solutions of controversies must spring. Few of the framers
attributed such power to the document.
The adoption of the Constitution did not complete the creation of the
republic. It only defi ned the terms in which debate over the future of government
would continue. Americans may have agreed that the Constitution was a nearly
perfect document, but they disagreed—at times fundamentally—on what that
document meant. They still do. Out of such disagreements emerged the fi rst great
political battles of the new nation.
1783 â—— Confederation Congress leaves Philadelphia
1785 â—— Confederation Congress settles in New York
1786 â—— Annapolis Conference meets
1787 â—— Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia meets
â—— Constitution adopted (September 17)
1787–1788 ◗ States ratify Constitution
1789 â—— First elections held under Constitution
â—— New government assembles in New York
â—— Washington becomes fi rst president
â—— Bill of Rights adopted by Congress
â—— Judiciary Act of 1789 is passed
â—— French Revolution begins
1791 ◗ Hamilton issues “Report on Manufactures”
â—— First Bank of the United States chartered
â—— Vermont becomes fourteenth state
1792 â—— Washington reelected without opposition
â—— Kentucky becomes fi fteenth state
1793 â—— Citizen Genet affair challenges American neutrality
1794 â—— Whiskey Rebellion quelled in Pennsylvania
◗ Jay’s Treaty signed
1795 ◗ Pinckney’s Treaty signed
1796 â—— John Adams elected president
â—— Tennessee becomes sixteenth state
1798 â—— XYZ Affair precipitates state of quasi war with
â—— Alien and Sedition Acts passed
â—— Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions passed
1800 â—— Jefferson and Burr tie vote in electoral college
1801 â—— Jefferson becomes president after Congress
confi rms election
â—— Judiciary Act of 1801 passed
Defi ciencies of the
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So unpopular and ineffectual had the Confederation Congress become by the mid-1780s that it began to lead an
almost waifl ike existence. In 1783, its members timidly
withdrew from Philadelphia to escape from the clamor of
army veterans demanding back pay. They took refuge for a
while in Princeton, New Jersey,
then moved to Annapolis, and
in 1785 settled in New York.
Through all of this, the delegates were often conspicuous
largely by their absence. Only with great diffi culty did
Congress secure a quorum to ratify the treaty with Great
Britain ending the Revolutionary War. Eighteen members,
representing only eight states, voted on the Confederation’s most important piece of legislation, the Northwest
Ordinance. In the meantime, a major public debate was
beginning over the future of the Confederation.
Advocates of Centralization
Weak and unpopular though the Confederation was, it had
for a time satisfi ed a great many—probably a majority—of
the people. They believed they had fought the Revolutionary War to avert the danger of what they considered
remote and tyrannical authority; now they wanted to keep
political power centered in the states, where they could
carefully and closely control it.
But during the 1780s, some of the wealthiest and most
powerful groups in the country began to clamor for a
more genuinely national government capable of dealing with the
nation’s problems—particularly
the economic problems that most directly affl icted them.
Some military men, many of them members of the exclusive and hereditary Society of the Cincinnati (formed by
Revolutionary army offi cers in 1783), were disgruntled at
the refusal of Congress to fund their pensions. They
began aspiring to infl uence and invigorate the national
government; some even envisioned a form of military
dictatorship and fl irted briefl y (in 1783, in the so-called
Newburgh Conspiracy) with a direct challenge to Congress, until George Washington intervened and blocked
the potential rebellion.
American manufacturers—the artisans and “mechanics” of the nation’s cities and towns—wanted to replace
the various state tariffs with a uniformly high national
duty. Merchants and shippers wanted to replace the thirteen different (and largely ineffective) state commercial
policies with a single, national one. Land speculators
A Weak Central
GEORGE WASHINGTON AT MOUNT VERNON Washington was in his fi rst term as president in 1790 when an anonymous folk artist painted this
view of his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Washington appears in uniform, along with members of his family, on the lawn. After he retired from
offi ce in 1797, Washington returned happily to his plantation and spent the two years before his death in 1799 “amusing myself in agricultural
and rural pursuits.” He also played host to an endless stream of visitors from throughout the country and Europe. (Gift of Edgar William and Bernice
Chrysler Garbisch, © 1998 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Supporters of a Strong
National Government
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wanted the “Indian menace” fi nally removed from their
western tracts. People who were owed money wanted to
stop the states from issuing paper money, which would
lower the value of what they received in payment. Investors in Confederation securities wanted the government
to fund the debt and thus enhance the value of their securities. Large property owners looked for protection from
the threat of mobs, a threat that seemed particularly menacing in light of such episodes as Shays’s Rebellion. This
fear of disorder and violence expressed a tension between
the resolute defense of individual rights, which was a core
principle of the Revolution and found refl ection in the
Bill of Rights, and the public concern for safety and security, which the occasional chaos of the Confederation
period had reinforced. Frequent confl icts between liberty
and order became, and remain, a central feature of American democracy.
By 1786, these diverse demands had grown so powerful
that the issue was no longer whether the Confederation
should be changed but how drastic the changes should be.
Even the defenders of the existing system reluctantly came
to agree that the government needed strengthening at its
weakest point—its lack of power to tax.
The most resourceful of the reformers was Alexander
Hamilton, political genius, New York lawyer, onetime
military aide to General Washington, and illegitimate son
of a Scottish merchant in the
West Indies. From the beginning,
Hamilton had been unhappy with the Articles of Confederation and the weak central government they had created. He now called for a national convention to overhaul
the entire document. He found an important ally in James
Madison of Virginia, who persuaded the Virginia legislature to convene an interstate conference on commercial
questions. Only fi ve states sent delegates to the meeting,
held in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1786; but the delegates
approved a proposal drafted by Hamilton (who was representing New York) recommending that Congress call a
convention of special delegates from all the states to
gather in Philadelphia the next year and consider ways to
“render the constitution of the Federal government adequate to the exigencies of the union.”
At that moment, in 1786, there seemed little possibility that the Philadelphia convention would attract any
more interest than the meeting at Annapolis had attracted.
Only by winning the support of George Washington, the
centralizers believed, could they hope to prevail. But
Washington at fi rst showed little interest in joining the
cause. Then, early in 1787, the news of Shays’s Rebellion
spread throughout the nation. Thomas Jefferson, then the
American minister in Paris, was not alarmed. “I hold,” he
confi ded in a letter to James Madison, “that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the
political world as storms in the physical.” But Washington
took the news less calmly. In May, he left his home at
Mount Vernon in Virginia for the Constitutional
A BROADSIDE AGAINST “NOBILITY” This 1783 pamphlet was one
of many expressions of the broad democratic sentiment that the
Revolution unleashed in American society. The Society of the
Cincinnati was an organization created shortly after the Revolution
by men who had served as high-ranking offi cers in the Patriot
army. To many Americans, however, the society—membership in
which was to be hereditary—looked suspiciously like the inherited
aristocracies of England. This pamphlet, printed in Philadelphia
but intended for South Carolinians, warns of the dangers the
society supposedly posed to the “Freedom and Happiness of the
Republic.” (New York Public Library)
Alexander Hamilton
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Convention in Philadelphia. His support gave the meeting immediate credibility.
A Divided Convention
Fifty-fi ve men, representing all the states except Rhode
Island, attended one or more sessions of the convention
that sat in the Philadelphia State House from May to September 1787. These “Founding
Fathers,” as they would later become known, were relatively young men; their average
age was forty-four, and only one delegate (Benjamin
Franklin, then eighty-one) was of advanced age. They were
well educated by the standards of their time. Most represented the great propertied interests of the country, and
many feared what one of them called the “turbulence and
follies” of democracy. Yet all were also products of the
American Revolution and retained the Revolutionary suspicion of concentrated power.
The convention unanimously chose Washington to preside over its sessions and then closed its business to the
public and the press. The members then ruled that each
state delegation would have a single vote. Major decisions
would not require unanimity, as they did in Congress, but
only a simple majority. Virginia, the most populous state,
sent the best-prepared delegation to Philadelphia. James
Madison (thirty-six years old) was its intellectual leader.
He had devised a detailed plan for a new “national” government, and the Virginians used it to control the agenda
from the moment the convention began.
Edmund Randolph of Virginia began the discussion by
proposing that “a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive,
and Judiciary.” Despite its vagueness, it was a drastic proposal. It called for the creation of a government very different from the existing Confederation, which, among
other things, had no executive branch. But so committed
were the delegates to fundamental reform that they
approved this resolution after only perfunctory debate.
Then Randolph introduced the details of Madison’s plan.
The Virginia Plan (as it came to
be known) called for a new
national legislature consisting of two houses. In the
lower house, the states would be represented in proportion to their population; thus the largest state (Virginia)
would have about ten times as many representatives as
the smallest (Delaware). Members of the upper house
were to be elected by the lower house under no rigid
system of representation; thus some of the smaller states
might at times have no members at all in the upper
The proposal aroused immediate opposition among
delegates from Delaware, New Jersey, and other small
states. Some responded by arguing that Congress had
called the convention “for the sole and express purpose
of revising the Articles of Confederation” and had no
authority to do more than that. Eventually, however,
William Paterson of New Jersey submitted a substantive
alternative to the Virginia Plan, a proposal for a “federal” as
opposed to a “national” government. The New Jersey Plan
preserved the existing one-house legislature, in which
each state had equal representation, but it gave Congress
expanded powers to tax and to regulate commerce. The
delegates voted to table Paterson’s proposal, but not without taking note of the substantial support for it among
small-state representatives.
The Virginia Plan remained the basis for discussion. But
its supporters realized they would have to make concessions to the small states if the convention was ever to
reach a general agreement. They soon conceded an important point by agreeing to permit the members of the
upper house to be elected by the state legislatures rather
than by the lower house of the national legislature. Thus
each state would be sure of always having at least one
member in the upper house.
But many questions remained. Would the states be
equally represented in the upper house, or would the
large states have more members
than the small ones? Would slaves
(who could not vote) be counted
as part of the population in determining the size of a
state’s representation in Congress, or were they to be considered simple property? Delegates from states with large
and apparently permanent slave populations—especially
those from South Carolina—wanted to have it both ways.
They argued that slaves should be considered persons in
determining representation. But they wanted slaves to be
considered property if the new government were to levy
taxes on each state on the basis of population. Representatives from states where slavery had disappeared or was
expected soon to disappear argued that slaves should be
included in calculating taxation but not representation.
No one argued seriously for giving slaves citizenship or
the right to vote.
The delegates bickered for weeks. By the end of June, as
both temperature and tempers rose to uncomfortable
heights, the convention seemed in danger of collapsing.
Benjamin Franklin, who remained a calm voice of conciliation through the summer, warned that if they failed, the
delegates would “become a reproach and by-word down
to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter,
from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing
governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance,
war and conquest.” Partly because of Franklin’s soothing
presence, the delegates refused to give up.
Finally, on July 2, the convention agreed to create a
“grand committee,” with a single delegate from each state
(and with Franklin as chairman), to resolve the disagreements. The committee produced a proposal that became
The Founding Fathers
The Virginia Plan
Small States Versus
Large States
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the basis of the “Great Compromise.” Its most important achievement was resolving the diffi cult problem of representation.
The proposal called for a legislature in which the states
would be represented in the lower house on the basis of
population, with each slave counted as three-fi fths of a
free person in determining the basis for both representation and direct taxation. (The three-fi fths formula was
based on the false assumption that a slave was three-fi fths
as productive as a free worker and thus contributed only
three-fi fths as much wealth to the state.) The committee
proposed that in the upper house, the states should be
represented equally with two members apiece. The proposal broke the deadlock. On July 16, 1787, the convention voted to accept the compromise.
Over the next few weeks, the convention as a whole
agreed to another important compromise on the explosive issue of slavery. The representatives of the southern
states feared that the power to regulate trade might interfere with their agrarian economy, which relied heavily on
sales abroad, and with slavery. In response, the convention agreed that the new legislature would not be permitted to tax exports; Congress would also be forbidden to
impose a duty of more than $10 a head on imported
slaves, and it would have no authority to stop the slave
trade for twenty years. To those delegates who viewed the
continued existence of slavery as an affront to the principles of the new nation, this was a large and diffi cult concession. They agreed to it because they feared that without
it the Constitution would fail.
The convention disposed of other differences of opinion it was unable to harmonize by evasion or omission—
leaving important questions alive that would surface again
in later years. The Constitution provided no defi nition of
citizenship. Most important was the absence of a list of
individual rights, which would restrain the powers of the
national government in the way that bills of rights
restrained the state governments. Madison opposed the
idea, arguing that specifying rights that were reserved to
the people would, in effect, limit those rights. Other delegates, however, feared that without such protections the
national government might abuse its new authority.
The Constitution of 1787
Many people contributed to the creation of the American
Constitution, but the single most important of them was
James Madison—the most creative political thinker of his generation. Perhaps Madison’s most important achievement
was in helping resolve two important philosophical questions that had served as obstacles to the creation of an
effective national government: the question of sovereignty
and the question of limiting power.
The question of sovereignty had been one of the chief
sources of friction between the colonies and Great
Britain, and it continued to trouble Americans as they
attempted to create their own
government. How could both the
national government and the
state governments exercise sovereignty at the same time?
Where did ultimate sovereignty lie? The answer, Madison
and his contemporaries decided, was that all power, at all
levels of government, fl owed ultimately from the people.
Thus neither the federal government nor the state governments were truly sovereign. All of them derived their
authority from below. The opening phrase of the Constitution (devised by Gouverneur Morris) was “We the people
of the United States”—an expression of the belief that the
James Madison
“THE GRAND CONVENTION” The engraver John Norman created
this imagined view of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 for the
Weatherwise’s Federal Almanack, whose title suggested its proConstitution political leanings. Norman was familiar with the interior
of the hall in Philadelphia where the convention took place, which
gave this engraving a sense of reality—even though Norman never
attended a session of the convention.
The Question
of Sovereignty
The Great Compromise
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new government derived its power not from the states
but from its citizens.
Resolving the problem of sovereignty made possible
one of the distinctive features of the Constitution—its
distribution of powers between the national and state
governments. It was, Madison wrote at the time, “in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a
composition of both.” The Constitution and the government it created were to be the “supreme law” of the land;
no state would have the authority to defy it. The federal
government was to have broad powers, including the
power to tax, to regulate commerce, to control the currency, and to pass such laws as would be “necessary and
proper” for carrying out its other responsibilities. Gone
was the stipulation of the Articles that “each State shall
retain every power, jurisdiction, and right not expressly
delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”
On the other hand, the Constitution accepted the existence of separate states and left important powers in
their hands.
In addition to solving the question of sovereignty, the
Constitution produced a solution to a problem that was
particularly troubling to Americans: the problem of concentrated authority. Nothing so frightened the leaders of
the new nation as the prospect of creating a tyrannical
government. Indeed, that fear had been one of the chief
The Background of the Constitution
The Constitution—America’s most
powerful symbol of national identity and the nation’s most important source of authority—has
inspired debate from the moment
it was drafted. Today, as throughout
American national history, views of the
Constitution refl ect the political views
of those who seek to interpret it.
Some argue that the Constitution is a
fl exible document intended to evolve
in response to society’s evolution.
Others argue that it has a fi xed meaning, rooted in the “original intent” of
the framers, and that to move beyond
that is to deny its value.
Historians, too, disagree about why
the Constitution was written and what
it meant; and their debate has also
refl ected contemporary beliefs about
what the Constitution should mean. To
some scholars, the creation of the federal system was an effort to preserve
the ideals of the Revolution by eliminating the disorder and contention
that threatened the new nation; it was
an effort to create a strong national
government capable of exercising real
authority. To others, the Constitution
was an effort to protect the economic
interests of existing elites, even at the
cost of betraying the principles of
the Revolution. And to still others, the
Constitution was designed to protect
individual freedom and to limit the
power of the federal government.
The fi rst infl uential exponent of
the heroic view of the Constitution as
the culmination of the Revolution was
John Fiske, whose book The Critical
Period of American History (1888)
painted a grim picture of political life
under the Articles of Confederation.
The nation, Fiske argued, was reeling under the impact of a business
depression; the weakness and ineptitude of the national government; the
threats to American territory from
Great Britain and Spain; the inability
of either the Congress or the state
governments to make good their
debts; the interstate jealousies and
barriers to trade; the widespread use
of infl ation-producing paper money;
and the lawlessness that culminated
in Shays’s Rebellion. Only the timely
adoption of the Constitution, Fiske
claimed, saved the young republic
from disaster.
Fiske’s view met with little dissent
until 1913, when Charles A. Beard
published a powerful challenge to it
in An Economic Interpretation of
the Constitution of the United States,
which became one of the most infl uential works of American history in
the twentieth century. According to
Beard, the 1780s had been a “critical
period” not for the nation as a whole
but only for certain conservative business interests who feared that the
decentralized political structure of the
republic imperiled their fi nancial position. Such men, he claimed, wanted a
government able to promote industry
and trade, protect private property,
and perhaps most of all, make good
the public debt—much of which
was owed to them. The Constitution
was, Beard claimed, “an economic
document drawn with superb skill by
men whose property interests were
immediately at stake” and who won
its ratifi cation over the opposition of a
majority of the people. Were it not for
their impatience and determination,
he argued in a later book (1927), the
Articles of Confederation might have
formed a perfectly satisfactory, permanent form of government.
Beard’s view of the Constitution
infl uenced more than a generation
of historians. As late as the 1950s,
for example, Merrill Jensen argued
in The New Nation (1950) that the
1780s were not years of chaos and
despair, but a time of hopeful striving.
He agreed with Beard that only the
economic interests of a small group
of wealthy men could account for the
creation of the Constitution. To them,
the Constitution was notable chiefl y
for the way it abridged the democratic
possibilities of the new nation.
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obstacles to the creation of a national government at all.
Drawing from the ideas of the French philosopher Baron
de Montesquieu, most Americans had long believed that
the best way, perhaps the only way, to avoid tyranny was
to keep government close to the people. A republic, they
thought, must remain confi ned to a relatively small area; a
large nation would breed corruption and despotism
because the rulers would be so distant from most of the
people that there would be no way to control them. In
the fi rst years of the new American nation, these assumptions had led to the belief that the individual states must
remain sovereign and that a strong national government
would be dangerous.
But in the 1950s—in the aftermath
of a great world crisis that many
scholars believed called into question
the desirability of giving free rein to
popular passions—a series of powerful
challenges to the Beard thesis emerged.
The Constitution, many scholars now
began to argue, was not an effort to
preserve property, but an enlightened
effort to ensure stability and order.
Robert E. Brown, for example, argued
in 1956 that “absolutely no correlation”
could be shown between the wealth
of the delegates to the Constitutional
Convention and their position on the
Constitution. Forrest McDonald, in
We the People (1958), looked beyond
the convention itself to the debate
between the Federalists and the
Antifederalists and concluded similarly
that there was no consistent relationship between wealth and property and
support for the Constitution. Instead,
opinion on the new system was far
more likely to refl ect local and regional
interests. Areas suffering social and
economic distress were likely to support the Constitution; states that were
stable and prosperous were likely to
oppose it. There was no intercolonial
class of monied interests operating in
concert to produce the Constitution.
The cumulative effect of these attacks
greatly weakened Beard’s argument;
few historians any longer accepted his
thesis without reservation.
In the 1960s, a new group of scholars began to revive an economic interpretation of the Constitution—one
that differed from Beard’s in important
ways but that nevertheless emphasized social and economic factors as
motives for supporting the federal
system. Jackson Turner Main argued,
in The Anti-federalists (1961), that
supporters of the Constitution, while
not perhaps the united creditor class
that Beard described, were nevertheless economically distinct from critics
of the document. The Federalists, he
argued, were “cosmopolitan commercialists,” eager to advance the
economic development of the nation;
the Antifederalists, by contrast, were
“agrarian localists,” fearful of centralization. Gordon Wood’s important
study, The Creation of the American
Republic (1969), de-emphasized
economic grievances but nevertheless suggested that the debate over
the state constitutions in the 1770s
and 1780s refl ected profound social
divisions and that those same divisions helped shape the argument
over the federal Constitution. The
Federalists, Wood suggested, were
largely traditional aristocrats. They
had become deeply concerned by the
instability of life under the Articles of
Confederation and were particularly
alarmed by the decline in popular
deference toward social elites. The
creation of the Constitution was part
of a larger search to create a legitimate
political leadership based on the existing social hierarchy; it refl ected the
efforts of elites to contain what they
considered the excesses of democracy.
In recent years, as contemporary
debates over the Constitution have
intensifi ed, historians have continued
to examine the question of “intent.”
Did the framers intend a strong, centralized political system; or did they
intend to create a decentralized system
with a heavy emphasis on individual
rights? The answer, according to Jack
Rakove’s Original Meanings (1996), is
both—and many other things as well.
The Constitution, he argues, was not
the product of a single intelligence or
of a broad consensus. It was the result
of a long and vigorous debate through
which the views of many different
groups found their way into the document. James Madison, generally known
as the father of the Constitution, was
a strong nationalist, who believed that
only a powerful central government
could preserve stability in a large
nation and keep narrow factionalism in
check. Alexander Hamilton, Madison’s
ally in the battle, also saw the Constitution as a way to protect order
and property, as a way to defend the
nation against the dangers of too much
liberty. But if Madison and Hamilton
feared too much liberty, they also
feared too little. And that made them
receptive to the vigorous demands of
the “Antifederalists” for protections of
individual rights, which culminated in
the Bill of Rights.
The framers differed as well in
their views of the proper relationship between the federal government
and the state governments. Madison
favored unquestioned federal supremacy, and even tried to insert a clause
in the Constitution giving Congress
the right to invalidate state laws. Many
others involved in the debate wanted
to preserve the rights of the states
and saw in the federal system—and
in its unusual division of sovereignty
among different levels and branches of
government—a guarantee against too
much national power. The Constitution
is not, Rakove argues, “infi nitely malleable.” But neither does it have a fi xed
meaning that can be a reliable guide to
how we interpret it today.
Madison, however, helped break the grip of these
assumptions by arguing that a large republic would be
less, not more, likely to produce tyranny, because it would
contain so many different factions that no single group
would ever be able to dominate it. (In this, he drew
from—among other sources—the Scottish philosopher
David Hume.) This idea of many centers of power “checking each other” and preventing
any single, despotic authority
from emerging not only made possible the idea of a large
republic, but also helped shape the internal structure of
the federal government. The Constitution’s most distinctive feature was its “separation of powers” within the
Separation of Powers
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government, its creation of “checks and balances” among
the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The array
of forces within the government would constantly compete with (and often frustrate) one another. Congress
would have two chambers, the Senate and the House of
Representatives, each with members elected in a different
way and for different terms, and each checking the other,
since both would have to agree before any law could be
passed. The president would have the power to veto acts
of Congress. The federal courts would have protection
from both the executive and the legislature because
judges and justices, once appointed by the president and
confi rmed by the Senate, would serve for life.
The “federal” structure of the government, which
divided power between the states and the nation, and the
system of “checks and balances,” which divided power
among various elements within the national government
itself, were designed to protect the United States from the
kind of despotism Americans believed had emerged in
England. But they were also designed to protect the nation
from another kind of despotism, perhaps equally menacing: the tyranny of the people. Fear of the “mob,” of an
“excess of democracy,” was at least as important to the
framers as fear of a single tyrant. Shays’s Rebellion had
been only one example, they believed, of what could happen if a nation did not defend itself against the unchecked
exercise of popular will. Thus in the new government,
only the members of the House of Representatives would
be elected directly by the people. Senators, the president,
and federal judges would be insulated in varying degrees
from the public.
On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine delegates signed the
Constitution, doubtless sharing the feelings that Benjamin
Franklin expressed at the end: “Thus I consent, Sir, to this
Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am
not sure it is not the best.”
Federalists and Antifederalists
The delegates at Philadelphia had greatly exceeded their
instructions from Congress and the states. Instead of making simple revisions to the Articles of Confederation, they
had produced a plan for a completely different form of
government. They feared, therefore, that the Constitution
might never be ratifi ed under the rules of the Articles of
Confederation, which required unanimous approval by
the state legislatures. So the convention changed the rules.
The Constitution specifi ed that the new government
would come into existence among the ratifying states
when any nine of the thirteen had ratifi ed it. The delegates
recommended to Congress that special state conventions,
not state legislatures, consider the document. They were
required to vote “yes” or “no” on the document. They could
make no changes until after the Constitution was ratifi ed
by the required number of states, at which point the Constitution’s amendment process could be used (as it was
for the Bill of Rights).
The old Confederation Congress, now overshadowed
by the events in Philadelphia, passively accepted the convention’s work and submitted it to the states for approval.
All the state legislatures except Rhode Island’s elected
delegates to ratifying conventions, most of which began
FEDERALIST #1 The Federalist Papers, gathered
together here in a book distributed to the people
of New York, began as essays, letters, and articles
published in newspapers throughout America
during the debate over the Constitution. Its
authors—James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and
John Jay—were defenders of the new Constitution
and wrote these essays to explain its value and
importance. They remain today one of the most
important American contributions to political
theory. (The Granger Collection, New York)
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meeting by early 1788. Even before the ratifying conventions convened, however, a great national debate on the
new Constitution had begun—in the state legislatures, in
mass meetings, in the columns of newspapers, and in ordinary conversations. Occasionally, passions rose to the
point that opposing factions came to blows. In at least
one place—Albany, New York—such clashes resulted in
injuries and death.
Supporters of the Constitution had a number of advantages. They were better organized than their opponents,
and they had the support of the two most eminent men
in America, Franklin and Washington. And they seized an
appealing label for themselves:
“Federalists”—the term that
opponents of centralization had once used to describe
themselves—thus implying that they were less committed to a “nationalist” government than in fact they were.
The Federalists also had the support of the ablest political
philosophers of their time: Alexander Hamilton, James
Madison, and John Jay. Those three men, under the joint
pseudonym “Publius,” wrote a series of essays—widely
published in newspapers throughout the nation—explaining the meaning and virtues of the Constitution. They did
so in an effort to counter the powerful arguments that
those opposed to the Constitution—those who became
known as the Antifederalists—were making. Without a
powerful defense of the new Constitution, they feared,
the Antifederalists might succeed in several crucial states,
and most notably in New York. The essays were later
issued as a book, and they are known today as The Federalist Papers. They are among the most important American
contributions to political theory.
The Federalists called their critics “Antifederalists,”
implying that their rivals had nothing to offer except
opposition and chaos. But the
Antifederalists had serious and
intelligent arguments of their own. They presented themselves as the defenders of the true principles of the Revolution. The Constitution, they believed, would betray
those principles by establishing a strong, potentially
tyrannical, center of power in the new national government. The new government, they claimed, would increase
taxes, obliterate the states, wield dictatorial powers, favor
the “well born” over the common people, and put an end
to individual liberty. But their biggest complaint was that
the Constitution lacked a bill of rights, a concern that
revealed one of the most important sources of their
opposition: a basic mistrust of human nature and of the
capacity of human beings to wield power. The Antifederalists argued that any government that centralized authority would inevitably produce despotism. Their demand
for a bill of rights was a product of this belief: no government could be trusted to protect the liberties of its citizens; only by enumerating the natural rights of the people
could there be any assurance that those rights would be
At its heart, then, the debate between the Federalists
and the Antifederalists was a battle between two fears.
The Federalists were afraid, above all, of disorder, anarchy,
chaos; they feared the unchecked power of the masses,
and they sought in the Constitution to create a government that would function at some distance from popular
passions. The Antifederalists were
not anarchists. They too recognized the need for an effective
government. But they were much more concerned about
the dangers of concentrated power than about the dangers of popular will. They opposed the Constitution for
some of the same reasons the Federalists supported it:
because it placed obstacles between the people and the
exercise of power.
Despite the Antifederalist efforts, ratifi cation proceeded
quickly (although not without occasional diffi culty) during
the winter of 1787–1788. The Delaware convention was
the fi rst to act, when it ratifi ed the Constitution unanimously. The New Jersey and Georgia conventions did the
same. In the larger states of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, the Antifederalists put up a more determined struggle
but lost in the fi nal vote. New Hampshire ratifi ed the document in June 1788—the ninth state to do so. It was now
theoretically possible for the Constitution to go into effect.
A new government could not hope to fl ourish, however,
without the participation of Virginia and New York, the two
biggest states, whose conventions remained closely divided.
By the end of June, fi rst Virginia and then New York had
consented to the Constitution by narrow margins. The New
York convention yielded to expediency—even some of the
most staunchly Antifederalist delegates feared that the
state’s commercial interests would suffer if, once the other
states gathered under the “New Roof,” New York were to
remain outside. Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York all
ratifi ed, on the assumption that a bill of rights would be
added to the Constitution. The North Carolina convention
adjourned without taking action, waiting to see what happened to the amendments. Rhode Island, whose leaders
had opposed the Constitution almost from the start, did
not even call a convention to consider ratifi cation.
Completing the Structure
The fi rst elections under the Constitution took place in the
early months of 1789. Almost all the newly elected congressmen and senators had favored ratifi cation, and many had
served as delegates to the Philadelphia convention. There
was never any real doubt about who would be the fi rst
president. George Washington had presided at the Constitutional Convention, and many delegates who had favored ratifi cation did so only because they expected him to preside
over the new government as well. Washington received the
votes of all the presidential electors. John Adams, a leading
Federalist, became vice president. After a journey from
Mount Vernon marked by elaborate celebrations along the
The Federalist Papers
The Antifederalists
Debating the
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way, Washington was inaugurated in New York—the national
capital for the time being—on April 30, 1789.
The fi rst Congress served in many ways almost as a
continuation of the Constitutional Convention, because
its principal responsibility was fi lling in the various gaps
in the Constitution. Its most important task was drafting a
bill of rights. By early 1789, even
Madison had come to agree that
some sort of bill of rights was essential to legitimize the
new government in the eyes of its opponents. Congress
approved twelve amendments on September 25, 1789;
ten of them were ratifi ed by the states by the end of 1791.
What we know as the Bill of Rights is these fi rst ten
amendments to the Constitution. Nine of them placed
limitations on Congress by forbidding it to infringe on
certain basic rights: freedom of religion, speech, and the
press; immunity from arbitrary arrest; trial by jury; and
others. The Tenth Amendment reserved to the states all
powers except those specifi cally withheld from them or
delegated to the federal government.
On the subject of the federal courts, the Constitution
said only: “The judicial power of the United States shall be
vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as
the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
It was left to Congress to determine the number of Supreme
Court judges to be appointed and the kinds of lower courts
to be organized. In the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress provided for a Supreme Court of six members, with a chief justice and fi ve associate justices; thirteen district courts with
one judge apiece; and three circuit courts of appeal, each
to consist of one of the district judges sitting with two of
the Supreme Court justices. In the same act, Congress gave
the Supreme Court the power to make the fi nal decision in
cases involving the constitutionality of state laws.
The Constitution referred indirectly to executive
departments but did not specify what or how many there
should be. The fi rst Congress created three such departments—state, treasury, and war—
and also established the offi ces of
the attorney general and the postmaster general. To the
offi ce of secretary of the treasury, Washington appointed
Alexander Hamilton of New York, who at age thirty-two
was an acknowledged expert in public fi nance. For secretary of war he chose a Massachusetts Federalist, General
Henry Knox. As attorney general he named Edmund
Randolph of Virginia, sponsor of the plan on which the
Constitution had been based. As secretary of state he
chose another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, who had
recently served as minister to France.
The resolution of these initial issues, however, did not
resolve the deep disagreements about the nature of the
new government. On the contrary, for the fi rst twelve
years under the Constitution, American politics was
characterized by a level of acrimony seldom matched in
any period since. The framers of the Constitution had
dealt with many disagreements not by solving them but
by papering them over with a series of vague compromises; as a result, the confl icts survived to plague the
new government.
At the heart of the controversies of the 1790s was the
same basic difference in philosophy that had been at the
heart of the debate over the Constitution. On one side
stood a powerful group that believed America required
a strong, national government:
that the country’s mission was to
become a genuine nation-state, with centralized authority,
a complex commercial economy, and a proud standing in
world affairs. On the other side stood another group—a
minority at fi rst, but one that gained strength during the
decade—that envisioned a far more modest central
government. American society should not, this group
believed, aspire to be highly commercial or urban. It
should remain predominantly rural and agrarian, and
it should have a central government of modest size and
powers that would leave most power in the hands of the
states and the people. The centralizers became known as
the Federalists and gravitated to the leadership of Alexander
Hamilton. Their opponents took the name Republicans and
gathered under the leadership of James Madison and
Thomas Jefferson.
Hamilton and the Federalists
For twelve years, control of the new government remained
fi rmly in the hands of the Federalists. That was in part
because George Washington had always envisioned a
strong national government and as president had quietly
supported those who were attempting to create one. His
enormous prestige throughout the nation was one of the
Federalists’ greatest assets. But Washington also believed
that the presidency should remain above political controversies, and so he avoided any personal involvement in
the deliberations of Congress. As a result, the dominant
fi gure in his administration became his talented secretary
of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who exerted more
infl uence on domestic and foreign policy than anyone
else both during his term of offi ce and, to an almost equal
extent, after his resignation in 1794.
Of all the national leaders of his time, Hamilton was
one of the most aristocratic in personal tastes and political philosophy—ironically, perhaps, since his own origins
as an illegitimate child in the Caribbean had been so humble. Far from embracing the republican ideals of the virtue of the people, he believed that a stable and effective
government required an enlightened ruling class. Thus
the new government needed the support of the wealthy
and powerful; and to get that support it needed to give those elites
The Bill of Rights
The Cabinet
Competing Visions
Assuming the Debt
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a stake in its success. Hamilton proposed, therefore, that
the new government take responsibility for the existing
public debt. Many of the miscellaneous, uncertain, depreciated certifi cates of indebtedness that the old Congress
had issued during and after the Revolution were now in
the hands of wealthy speculators; the government should
call them in and exchange them for uniform, interestbearing bonds, payable at defi nite dates. (This policy was
known as “funding” the debt.) He also recommended that
the federal government “assume” (or take over) the debts
the states had accumulated during the Revolution; this
assumption policy would encourage state as well as federal bondholders to look to the central government for
eventual payment. Hamilton did not, in other words, envision paying off and thus eliminating the debt. He wanted
instead to create a large and permanent national debt,
with new bonds being issued as old ones were paid off. The
result, he believed, would be that creditors—the wealthy
classes most likely to lend money to the government—
would have a permanent stake in seeing the government
Hamilton also wanted to create a national bank. At the
time, there were only a few banks in the country, located
principally in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. A new,
national bank would help fi ll the void that the absence of
a well-developed banking system had created. It would
provide loans and currency to businesses. It would give
the government a safe place to deposit federal funds. It
would help collect taxes and disburse the government’s
expenditures. It would keep up the price of government
bonds through judicious bond purchases. The bank would
be chartered by the federal government, would have a
monopoly of the government’s own banking business,
and would be controlled by directors, of whom one-fi fth
would be appointed by the government. It would provide
a stable center to the nation’s small and feeble banking
The funding and assumption of debts would require new
sources of revenue, since the government would now have
to pay interest on the loans it was accepting. Up to now,
most government revenues had come from the sale of public
lands in the West. Hamilton proposed two new kinds of taxes.
One was an excise to be paid by
distillers of alcoholic liquors, a tax that would fall most heavily on the whiskey distillers of the backcountry, especially in
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina—small farmers
who converted part of their corn and rye crop into whiskey. The other was a tariff on imports, which not only would
raise revenue but also would protect American manufacturing from foreign competition. In his famous “Report on
Manufactures” of 1791, he laid out a grand scheme for stimulating the growth of industry in the United States and
wrote glowingly of the advantages to the nation of a healthy
manufacturing base.
The Federalists, in short, offered more than a vision of
how to stabilize the new government. They offered a
vision of the sort of nation America should become—a
nation with a wealthy, enlightened ruling class, a vigorous,
independent commercial economy, and a thriving industrial sector; a nation able to play a prominent role in world
economic affairs.
Enacting the Federalist Program
Few members of Congress objected to Hamilton’s plan for
funding the national debt, but many did oppose his proposal to accept the debt “at par,”
that is, at face value. The old certificates had been issued to merchants and farmers in payment for war supplies during the
Revolution, or to offi cers and soldiers of the Revolutionary
army in payment for their services. But many of these original holders had sold their bonds during the hard times of
the 1780s to speculators, who had bought them at a fraction of their face value. Many members of Congress
believed that if the federal government was to assume
responsibility for these bonds, some of them should be
returned to the original purchasers. James Madison, now a
representative from Virginia, proposed dividing the federally funded bonds between the original purchasers and
the speculators. But Hamilton’s allies insisted that such a
plan was impractical and that the honor of the government
BANK NOTE How to create a stable
currency was one of the greatest
challenges facing the new American
nation. This fi fty-dollar bank note
illustrates the principal form paper
money assumed in the early republic.
It was issued in 1797 by a bank
in Philadelphia, and its value was
directly tied to the stability of the
bank itself. Only many years later
did the national government assume
control of printing and distributing
currency. (Newman Money Museum,
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Meseum)
Debating Hamilton’s
Hamilton’s Report on
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required that it pay the bondholders themselves, not the
original lenders who had sold their bonds of their own
accord. Congress fi nally passed the funding bill Hamilton
Hamilton’s proposal that the federal government assume
the state debts encountered greater diffi culty. His opponents argued that if the federal government took over the
state debts, the people of states with few debts would have
to pay taxes to service the larger debts of other states.
Massachusetts, for example, owed far more money than did
Virginia. Hamilton and his supporters struck a bargain with
the Virginians to win passage of the bill.
The deal involved the location of the national capital.
The capital had moved from New York back to Philadelphia in 1790. But the Virginians wanted a new capital near
them in the South. Hamiton met with Thomas Jefferson
and agreed over dinner to provide northern support for placing
the capital in the South in exchange for Virginia’s votes
for the assumption bill. The bargain called for the construction of a new capital city on the banks of the
Potomac River, which divided Virginia and Maryland, on
land to be selected by Washington himself. The government would move there by the beginning of the new
Hamilton’s bank bill sparked the most heated debate,
the fi rst of many on this controversial issue. Hamilton
argued that creation of a national bank was compatible
with the intent of the Constitution, even though the document
did not explicitly authorize it. But
Madison, Jefferson, Randolph, and others argued that Congress should exercise no powers that the Constitution
had not clearly assigned it. Nevertheless, both the House
and the Senate fi nally agreed to Hamilton’s bill. Washington
displayed some uncertainty about its legality at fi rst, but
he fi nally signed it. The Bank of the United States began
operations in 1791, under a charter that granted it the
right to continue for twenty years.
Hamilton also had his way with the excise tax, although
protests from farmers later forced revisions to reduce the
burden on the smaller distillers. He won passage, too, of a
new tariff in 1792, although it raised rates less than he
had wished.
Once enacted, Hamilton’s program had many of the
effects he had intended and won the support of infl uential segments of the population. It quickly restored public
credit; the bonds of the United States were soon selling at
home and abroad at prices even above their par value.
Speculators (among them many members of Congress)
reaped large profi ts as a result. Manufacturers profi ted
from the tariffs, and merchants in the seaports benefi ted
from the new banking system.
Others, however, found the Hamilton program less
appealing. Small farmers, who formed the vast majority
of the population, complained that they had to bear a
disproportionate tax burden. Not only did they have to
pay property taxes to their state governments, but they
bore the brunt of the excise tax on distilleries and, indirectly, the tariff. A feeling grew among many Americans
that the Federalist program served the interests not of the
people but of small, wealthy elites. Out of this feeling an
organized political opposition arose.
The Republican Opposition
The Constitution had made no reference to political parties, and the omission was not an oversight. Most of the
framers—George Washington in particular—believed that
organized parties were dangerous and should be avoided.
Disagreement on particular issues was inevitable, but
most of the founders believed that such disagreements
need not and should not lead to the formation of permanent factions. “The public good is disregarded in the confl icts of rival parties,” Madison had written in The Federalist
Papers (in Number 10, perhaps the most infl uential of all
the essays), “and . . . measures are too often decided, not
according to the rules of justice and the rights of the
minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and
overbearing majority.”
Yet, within just a few years after ratifi cation of the Constitution, Madison and others became convinced that
Hamilton and his followers had
become just such an “interested
and overbearing majority.” Not
only had the Federalists enacted a program that many of
these leaders opposed. More ominously, Hamilton himself
had, in their eyes, worked to establish a national network
of infl uence that embodied all the worst features of a party.
The Federalists had used their control over appointments
and the awarding of government franchises to reward
their supporters and win additional allies. They had encouraged the formation of local associations—largely aristocratic in nature—to strengthen their standing in local
communities. They were doing many of the same things,
their opponents believed, that the corrupt British governments of the early eighteenth century had done.
Because the Federalists appeared to be creating such a
menacing and tyrannical structure of power, their critics
felt, there was no alternative but
to organize a vigorous opposition. The result was the emergence of an alternative political organization, which
called itself the Republican Party. (This fi rst “Republican”
Party is not a direct ancestor of the modern Republican
Party, which was born in the 1850s.) By the late 1790s,
the Republicans were going to even greater lengths than
the Federalists to create an apparatus of partisan infl uence. In every state they formed committees, societies,
and caucuses. Republican groups were corresponding
with one another across state lines. They were banding
together to infl uence state and local elections. And they
Location of the Capital
Bank of the United
Establishment of the
Federalist Party
Formation of the
Republican Party
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were justifying their actions by claiming that they and
they alone represented the true interests of the nation—
that they were fi ghting to defend the people against a
corrupt conspiracy by the Federalists. Just as Hamilton
believed that the network of supporters he was creating
represented the only legitimate interest group in the
nation, so the Republicans believed that their party organization represented the best interests of the people. Neither side was willing to admit that it was acting as a party;
neither would concede the right of the other to exist.
This institutionalized factionalism is known to scholars
as the “fi rst party system.”
From the beginning, the preeminent fi gures among the
Republicans were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Indeed, the two men were such intimate collaborators
with such similar political philosophies that it is sometimes diffi cult to distinguish the contributions of one
from those of the other. But Jefferson, the more magnetic
personality of the two, gradually emerged as the most
prominent spokesman for the Republicans. Jefferson considered himself a farmer. (He was, in fact, a substantial
planter; but he had spent relatively little time in recent
years at his estate in Virginia.) He believed in an agrarian
republic, most of whose citizens would be sturdy, independent farmer-citizens tilling their own soil.
Jefferson did not scorn commercial activity; he
assumed farmers would market their crops in the
national and even international markets. Nor did he
oppose industry; he believed the United States should
develop some manufacturing capacity. But he was suspicious of large cities, feared urban mobs as “sores upon
the body politic,” and opposed the development of an
advanced industrial economy because it would, he
feared, increase the number of propertyless workers
packed in cities. In short, Jefferson envisioned a decentralized society, dominated by small property owners
engaged largely in agrarian activities.
The difference between the Federalist and Republican social philosophies was visible in, among other
things, reactions to the French
Revolution. As that revolution
grew increasingly radical in the
1790s, with its attacks on organized religion, the overthrow of the monarchy, and eventually the execution
of the king and queen, the Federalists expressed horror.
But the Republicans generally applauded the democratic,
antiaristocratic spirit they believed the French Revolution embodied. Some even imitated the French radicals
(the Jacobins) by cutting their hair short, wearing pantaloons, and addressing one another as “Citizen” and
Although both parties had supporters in all parts of
the country and among all classes, there were regional
and economic differences. The Federalists were most
numerous in the commercial centers of the Northeast
and in such southern seaports as Charleston; the Republicans were most numerous in the rural areas of the South
and the West.
THE JEFFERSONIAN IDYLL American artists in the early nineteenth century were drawn to tranquil rural scenes, symbolic of the Jeffersonian
vision of a nation of small, independent farmers. By 1822, when Francis Alexander painted this pastoral landscape, the simple agrarian republic
it depicts was already being transformed by rapid economic growth. (Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Cbrysler Garbisch, © 1998 Board of Trustees,
National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Differences over the
French Revolution
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As the 1792 presidential election—the nation’s
second—approached, both Jefferson and Hamilton urged
Washington to run for another term. The president reluctantly agreed. But while most Americans considered
Washington above the partisan battle, he was actually
much more in sympathy with the Federalists than with
the Republicans. And during his presidency, Hamilton
remained the dominant fi gure in government.
The Federalists consolidated their position—and attracted
wide public support for the new national government—
by dealing effectively with two problems the old Confederation had been unable fully to resolve. They helped
stabilize the nation’s western lands, and they strengthened America’s international position.
Securing the Frontier
Despite the Northwest Ordinance, the Confederation
Congress had largely failed to tie the outlying western
areas of the country fi rmly to the government. Farmers in
western Massachusetts had risen in revolt; settlers in Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee had toyed with the idea of
separating from the Union. At fi rst, the new government
under the Constitution faced similar problems.
In 1794, farmers in western Pennsylvania raised a
major challenge to federal authority when they refused
to pay a whiskey excise tax and began terrorizing the tax
collectors (much as colonists had done at the time of the
Stamp Act). But the federal government did not leave settlement
of the so-called Whiskey Rebellion to Pennsylvania, as the
Confederation Congress had left Shays’s Rebellion to
Massachusetts. At Hamilton’s urging, Washington called
out the militias of three states, raised an army of nearly
15,000 (a larger force than he had commanded against
the British during most of the Revolution), and personally led the troops into Pennsylvania. As the militiamen
approached Pittsburgh, the center of the resistance, the
rebellion quickly collapsed.
The federal government won the allegiance of the
whiskey rebels by intimidating them. It won the loyalties
of other frontier people by accepting their territories as
new states in the Union. The last of the original thirteen
colonies joined the Union once the Bill of Rights had
been appended to the Constitution—North Carolina in
1789 and Rhode Island in 1790. Then Vermont, which had
had its own state government since the Revolution,
became the fourteenth state in 1791 after New York and
New Hampshire fi nally agreed to give up their claims to it.
Next came Kentucky, in 1792, when Virginia gave up its
claim to that region. After North Carolina fi nally ceded its
western lands to the Union, Tennessee became fi rst a territory and, in 1796, a state.
Native Americans and the New Nation
The new government faced a greater challenge, inherited
from the Confederation, in the more distant areas of the
Northwest and the Southwest, where Indians (occasionally in alliance with the British and Spanish) continued to
challenge the republic’s claim to tribal lands. The ordinances of 1784–1787 had produced a series of border
confl icts with Indian tribes resisting white settlement in
their lands. Although the United States eventually defeated
virtually every Indian challenge (if often at great cost), it
was clear that the larger question of who was to control
the lands of the West—the United States or the Indian
nations—remained unanswered.
These clashes revealed another issue the Constitution
had done little to resolve: the place of the Indian nations
within the new federal structure. The Constitution barely
mentioned Native Americans.
Article I excluded “Indians not
taxed” from being counted in the
population totals that determined the number of seats
states would receive in the House of Representatives; and
it gave Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with
foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with
the Indian tribes.” Article VI bound the new government
to respect treaties negotiated by the Confederation, most
of which had been with the tribes. But none of this did
very much to clarify the precise legal standing of Indians
or Indian nations within the United States.
On the one hand, the Constitution seemed to recognize
the existence of the tribes as legal entities. On the other
hand, it made clear that they were not “foreign Nations” (in
the same sense that European countries were); nor were
their members citizens of the United States. The tribes
received no direct representation in the new government.
Above all, the Constitution did not address the major issue
that would govern relations between whites and Indians:
land. Indian nations lived within the boundaries of the
United States, yet they claimed (and the white government
at times agreed) that they had some measure of sovereignty within their own lands. But neither the Constitution
nor common law offered any clear guide to the rights of a
“nation within a nation” or to the precise nature of tribal
sovereignty, which ultimately depended on control of land.
Thus, the relationship between the tribes and the United
States remained to be determined by a series of treaties,
agreements, and judicial decisions in a process that has
continued for more than 200 years.
Maintaining Neutrality
Not until 1791—eight years after the end of the Revolution—did Great Britain send a minister to the United
States, and then only because Madison and the Republicans
Whiskey Rebellion
Indians and the
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were threatening to place special trade restrictions on
British ships. That was one of many symbols of the
diffi culty the new government had in establishing its
legitimacy in the eyes of the British. Another crisis in
Anglo-American relations emerged in 1793 when the
new French government, created by the revolution of
1789, went to war with Great Britain and its allies. Both
the president and Congress took steps to establish American neutrality in that confl ict. But the neutrality quickly
encountered severe tests.
The fi rst challenge to American neutrality came from
revolutionary France and its fi rst diplomatic representative to America, the brash and youthful Edmond Genet.
Instead of landing at Philadelphia and presenting himself immediately to the president, Genet disembarked at
Charleston. There he made plans to use American ports
to outfi t French warships, encouraged American shipowners
to serve as French privateers, and commissioned the
aging George Rogers Clark to lead a military expedition
against Spanish lands to the south. (Spain was at the
time an ally of Great Britain and an enemy of France.) In
all of this, Genet was brazenly ignoring Washington’s
policies and fl agrantly violating the Neutrality Act. His
conduct infuriated Washington (who provided “Citizen
Genet,” as he was known, with an icy reception in Philadelphia) and the Federalists; it also embarrassed all but
the most ardent admirers of the French Revolution
among the Republicans. Washington eventually demanded that the French government recall him, but
by then Genet’s party was out of power in France. (The
president granted him political asylum in the United
States, and he settled with his American wife on a Long
Island farm.) The neutrality policy had survived its fi rst
serious test.
A second and even greater challenge came from Great
Britain. Early in 1794, the Royal Navy began seizing hundreds of American ships engaged in trade in the French
West Indies, outraging public opinion in the United States.
Anti-British feeling rose still higher at the report that the
governor general of Canada had delivered a warlike speech
to the Indians on the northwestern frontier. Hamilton was
deeply concerned. War would mean an end to imports
from England, and most of the revenue for maintaining his
fi nancial system came from duties on those imports.
Jay’s Treaty and Pinckney’s Treaty
This was, Hamilton believed, no time for ordinary diplomacy. He did not trust the State Department to reach a
settlement with Britain. Jefferson had resigned as secretary of state in 1793 to devote more time to his political
activities, but his successor, Edmund Randolph, was even
more ardently pro-French than Jefferson had been. So
Hamilton persuaded Washington to name a special commissioner to England: John Jay, chief justice of the United
States Supreme Court and a staunch New York Federalist.
Jay was instructed to secure compensation for the recent
British assaults on American shipping, to demand withdrawal of British forces from the frontier posts, and to
negotiate a new commercial treaty.
The long and complex treaty Jay negotiated in 1794
failed to achieve these goals. But it was not without merit.
It settled the confl ict with Britain and helped prevent
what had seemed likely to become a war between the
two nations. It established undisputed American sovereignty over the entire Northwest.
And it produced a reasonably satisfactory commercial relationship with Britain, whose
trade was important to the United States. Nevertheless,
when the terms became public in America, there were
REBELLION Although Thomas
Jefferson and other Republicans
claimed to welcome occasional
popular uprisings, the Federalists
were horrifi ed by such insurgencies
as Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts
and, later, the Whiskey Rebellion
in Pennsylvania. This Federalist
cartoon portrays the rebels as demons
who pursue and eventually hang
an unfortunate “exciseman” (tax
collector), who has confi scated two
kegs of rum. (Courtesy of The Atwater
Kent Museum)
Citizen Genet
Jay’s Treaty
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bitter public denunciations of it for having failed to
extract enough promises from the British. Jay himself was
burned in effi gy in various parts of the country. Opponents
of the treaty—nearly all the Republicans and even some
Federalists, encouraged by agents of France—went to
extraordinary lengths to defeat it in the Senate. The American minister to France, James Monroe, and even the secretary of state, Edmund Randolph, joined the desperate
attempt to prevent ratifi cation. But in the end the Senate
ratifi ed what was by then known as Jay’s Treaty.
Among other things, the treaty made possible a settlement of America’s confl ict with the Spanish, because it
raised fears in Spain that the British and the Americans
might now join together to challenge Spanish possessions in
North America. When Thomas Pinckney arrived in Spain
as a special negotiator, he had no diffi culty in gaining
nearly everything the United States had sought from the
Spaniards for more than a decade. Under Pinckney’s Treaty
(signed in 1795), Spain recognized the right of Americans
to navigate the Mississippi to its mouth and to deposit
goods at New Orleans for reloading on oceangoing ships;
agreed to fi x the northern boundary of Florida where
Americans always had insisted it should be, along the 31st
parallel; and required Spanish authorities to prevent the
Indians in Florida from launching raids across the border.
The Federalists’ impressive triumphs did not ensure their
continued dominance in the national government. On the
contrary, success seemed to produce problems of its
own—problems that eventually led to their downfall.
Since almost all Americans in the 1790s agreed that
there was no place in a stable republic for an organized
opposition, the emergence of the Republicans as powerful contenders for popular favor seemed to the Federalists
a grave threat to national stability. Beginning in the late
1790s, when major international perils confronted the
government as well, the Federalists could not resist the
temptation to move forcefully against the opposition. Facing what they believed was a stark choice between
respecting individual liberties and preserving stability, the
Federalists chose stability. The result was political disaster.
After 1796, the Federalists never won another election.
The popular respect for the institutions of the federal government, which they had worked so hard to produce
among the people, survived. But the Federalists themselves gradually vanished as an effective political force.
The Election of 1796
Despite strong pressure from his many admirers to run for
a third term as president, George Washington insisted on
retiring from offi ce in 1797. In a
“Farewell Address” to the American people (actually a long letter,
composed in part by Hamilton and published in a Philadelphia newsletter), he reacted sharply to the Republicans.
His reference to the “insidious wiles of foreign infl uence”
was not just an abstract warning against international
entanglements; it was also a specifi c denunciation of those
Republicans who had been conspiring with the French to
frustrate the Federalist diplomatic program.
With Washington out of the running, no obstacle
remained to an open expression of the partisan rivalries
that had been building over the previous eight years.
Jefferson was the uncontested candidate of the Republicans in 1796. The Federalists faced a more diffi cult choice.
Hamilton, the personifi cation of Federalism, had created
too many enemies to be a credible candidate. So Vice
President John Adams, who had been directly associated
with none of the unpopular Federalist measures, became
his party’s nominee for president.
Pinckney’s Treaty
MOUNT VERNON George and Martha Washington lavished enormous
attention on their home at Mount Vernon, importing materials and
workmen from Europe to create a house that they hoped would rival
some of the elegant country homes of England. This detail from a
mantle suggests the degree to which they—like many wealthy planters
and merchants of their time—strove to bring refi nement and gentility
to their lives. (Paul Rocheleau/Rebus, Inc.)
Washington’s Farewell
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The Federalists were still clearly the dominant party,
and there was little doubt of their ability to win a majority
of the presidential electors. But without Washington to
mediate, they fell victim to fi erce factional rivalries that
almost led to their undoing. Hamilton and many other
Federalists (especially in the South) were not reconciled
to Adams’s candidacy and favored his running mate,
Thomas Pinckney, instead. And when, as expected, the
Federalists elected a majority of the presidential electors,
some of these Pinckney supporters declined to vote for
Adams; he managed to defeat Jefferson by only three electoral votes. Because a still larger number of Adams’s supporters declined to vote for Pinckney, Jefferson fi nished
second in the balloting and became vice president. (Until
the Twelfth Amendment was adopted in 1804, the Constitution provided for the candidate receiving the second
highest number of electoral votes to become vice president—hence the awkward result of men from different
parties serving in the nation’s two highest elected
offi ces.)
Adams thus assumed the presidency under inauspicious
circumstances. He presided over a divided party, which
faced a strong and resourceful Republican opposition
committed to its extinction.
Adams himself was not even the
dominant fi gure in his own party; Hamilton remained the
most infl uential Federalist, and Adams was never able to
challenge him effectively. The new president was one of the
country’s most accomplished and talented diplomats, but
he had few skills as a politician. Austere, rigid, aloof, he had
little talent at conciliating differences, soliciting support, or
inspiring enthusiasm. He was a man of enormous, indeed
intimidating, rectitude, and he seemed to assume that his
own virtue and the correctness of his positions would
alone be enough to sustain him. He was usually wrong.
The Quasi War with France
American relations with Great Britain and Spain improved
as a result of Jay’s and Pinckney’s Treaties. But the nation’s
relations with revolutionary France quickly deteriorated.
French vessels captured American ships on the high seas
and at times imprisoned the crews. When the South Carolina Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, brother of
Thomas Pinckney, arrived in France, the government
refused to receive him as the offi cial representative of the
United States.
Some of President Adams’s advisers favored war, most
notably Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, a stern New
Englander who detested France. But Hamilton recommended conciliation, and Adams agreed. In an effort to
stabilize relations, Adams appointed a bipartisan commission—consisting of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the
recently rejected minister; John Marshall, a Virginia Federalist, later chief justice of the Supreme Court; and Elbridge
Gerry, a Massachusetts Republican but a personal friend
of the president—to negotiate with France. When the
Americans arrived in Paris in 1797, three agents of the
French foreign minister, Prince Talleyrand, demanded a
loan for France and a bribe for French offi cials before any
negotiations could begin. Pinckney responded succinctly
and angrily: “No! No! Not a sixpence!”
When Adams heard of the incident, he sent a message to
Congress denouncing the French insults and urging preparations for war. He then turned the report of the American
commissioners over to Congress,
after deleting the names of the
three French agents and designating them only as “Messrs.
X, Y, and Z.” When the report was published, it created
widespread popular outrage at France’s actions and strong
support for the Federalists’ response. For nearly two years
after the “XYZ Affair,” as it became known, the United States
found itself engaged in an undeclared war with France.
Adams persuaded Congress to cut off all trade with
France and to authorize American vessels to capture
French armed ships on the high seas. In 1798, Congress
created a Department of the Navy
and appropriated money for the
construction of new warships. The navy soon won a
JOHN ADAMS Adams’s illustrious career as Revolutionary leader,
diplomat, and president marked the beginning of four generations of
public distinction among members of his family. His son, John Quincy
Adams, served as secretary of state and president. His grandson,
Charles Francis Adams, was one of the great diplomats of the Civil
War era. His great-grandson, Henry Adams, was one of America’s
most distinguished historians and writers. (Adams National Historic Site,
Quincy, Massachusetts)
The XYZ Affair
The Quasi War
Divided Federalists
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number of duels with French vessels and captured a total
of eighty-fi ve ships, including armed merchantmen. The
United States also began cooperating closely with the
British and became virtually an ally of Britain in the war
with France.
In the end, France chose to conciliate the United States
before the confl ict grew. Adams sent another commission
to Paris in 1800, and the new French government (headed
now by “fi rst consul” Napoleon Bonaparte) agreed to a
treaty with the United States that canceled the old agreement of 1778 and established new commercial arrangements. As a result, the “quasi war” came to a reasonably
peaceful end.
Repression and Protest
The confl ict with France helped the Federalists increase
their majorities in Congress in 1798. Armed with this new
strength, they began to consider
ways to silence the Republican
opposition. The result was some of the most controversial
legislation in American history: the Alien and Sedition Acts.
The Alien Act placed new obstacles in the way of foreigners who wished to become American citizens, and it
strengthened the president’s hand in dealing with aliens.
The Sedition Act allowed the government to prosecute
those who engaged in “sedition” against the government.
In theory, only libelous or treasonous activities were subject to prosecution; but since such activities were subject
to widely varying defi nitions, the law made it possible for
the federal government to stifl e any opposition. The
Republicans interpreted the new laws as part of a Federalist campaign to destroy them and fought back.
President Adams signed the new laws but was cautious
in implementing them. He did not deport any aliens, and
he prevented the government from launching a major
crusade against the Republicans. But the legislation had a
signifi cant repressive effect nevertheless. The Alien Act
helped discourage immigration and encouraged some foreigners already in the country to leave. And the administration made use of the Sedition Act to arrest and convict
ten men, most of them Republican newspaper editors
whose only crime had been to criticize the Federalists in
Republican leaders pinned their hopes for a reversal of
the Alien and Sedition Acts on the state legislatures. (The
Supreme Court had not yet established its sole right to nullify congressional legislation, and there
were many Republican leaders who believed that the
states had that power too.) The Republicans laid out a theory for state action in two sets of resolutions in 1798–1799,
one written (anonymously) by Jefferson and adopted by
THE XYZ AFFAIR The sensational “XYZ Affair” of 1798 is the subject of this American political cartoon. The fi ve-headed
fi gure in the center represents the Directory of the French government; he is demanding “money, money, money” from
the three diplomats at left who were in Paris representing the United States. The monster at the top right is operating a
guillotine—a symbol of the violence and terror of the later stages of the French Revolution. (The Granger Collection, New York)
Alien and Sedition Acts
Virginia and Kentucky
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the Kentucky legislature and the other drafted by Madison
and approved by the Virginia legislature. The Virginia and
Kentucky Resolutions, as they were known, used the ideas
of John Locke to argue that the federal government had
been formed by a “compact” or contract among the states
and possessed only certain delegated powers. Whenever
the federal government exercised any undelegated powers, its acts were “unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”
If the parties to the contract, the states, decided that the
central government had exceeded those powers, the Kentucky Resolution claimed, they had the right to “nullify”
the appropriate laws. (Such claims emerged again in the
South in the decades before the Civil War.)
The Republicans did not win wide support for nullifi cation; only Virginia and Kentucky declared the congressional statutes void. The Republicans did, however, succeed in
elevating their dispute with the Federalists to the level of a
national crisis. By the late 1790s, the entire nation was as
deeply and bitterly divided politically as it would ever be
in its history. State legislatures at times resembled battlegrounds. Even the United States Congress was plagued
with violent disagreements. In one celebrated incident in
the chamber of the House of Representatives, Matthew
Lyon, a Republican from Vermont, responded to an insult
from Roger Griswold, a Federalist from Connecticut, by
spitting in Griswold’s face. Griswold attacked Lyon with
his cane. Lyon fought back with a pair of fi re tongs, and the
two men ended up wrestling on the fl oor.
The “Revolution” of 1800
These bitter controversies shaped the 1800 presidential
election. The presidential candidates were the same as four
cartoon lampoons a celebrated
fi ght on the fl oor of the House of
Representatives in 1798 between
Matthew Lyon, a Republican from
Vermont, and Roger Griswold, a
Federalist from Connecticut. The
confl ict began when Griswold
insulted Lyon by attacking his military
record in the Revolutionary War. Lyon
replied by spitting in Griswold’s face.
Two weeks later, Griswold attacked
Lyon with his cane, and Lyon seized
a pair of fi re tongs and fought back.
That later scene is depicted (and
ridiculed) here. Other members of
Congress are portrayed as enjoying
the spectacle. On the wall is a picture
entitled “Royal Sport,” showing
animals fi ghting. (New York Public
years earlier: Adams for the Federalists, Jefferson for the
Republicans. But the campaign of
1800 was very different from the
one preceding it. Indeed, it may have been the ugliest in
American history. Adams and Jefferson themselves displayed reasonable dignity, but their supporters showed no
such restraint. The Federalists accused Jefferson of being a
dangerous radical and his followers of being wild men
who, if they should come to power, would bring on a reign
of terror comparable to that of the French Revolution. The
Republicans portrayed Adams as a tyrant conspiring to
become king, and they accused the Federalists of plotting
to subvert human liberty and impose slavery on the people. There was considerable personal invective as well. For
example, it was during this campaign that the story of
Jefferson’s romantic involvement with a slave woman on
his plantation was fi rst widely aired.
The election was close, and the crucial contest was in
New York. There, Aaron Burr had mobilized an organization of Revolutionary War veterans, the Tammany Society,
to serve as a Republican political machine. And through
Tammany’s efforts, the Republicans carried the city by a
large majority and, with it, the state. Jefferson was, apparently, elected.
But an unexpected complication soon jeopardized the
Republican victory. The Constitution called for each elector to “vote by ballot for two persons.” The normal practice was for an elector to cast one vote for his party’s
presidential candidate and another for the vice presidential candidate. To avoid a tie between Jefferson and Aaron
Burr (the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1800),
the Republicans had intended for one elector to refrain
from voting for Burr. But the plan went awry. When the
The Election of 1800
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votes were counted, Jefferson and Burr each had 73. No
candidate had a majority. According to the Constitution,
the House of Representatives had to choose between the
two leading candidates when no one had a majority; in
this case, that meant deciding between Jefferson and Burr.
Each state delegation would cast a single vote.
The new Congress, elected in 1800 with a Republican
majority, was not to convene until after the inauguration
of the president, so it was the Federalist Congress that
had to decide the question. Some Federalists hoped to use
the situation to salvage the election for their party; others
wanted to strike a bargain with Burr and elect him. But
after a long deadlock, several leading Federalists, most
prominent among them Alexander Hamilton, concluded
that Burr (whom many suspected of having engineered
the deadlock in the fi rst place) was too unreliable to trust
with the presidency. On the thirty-sixth ballot, Jefferson
was elected.
After the election of 1800, the only branch of the federal government left in Federalist hands was the judiciary. The Adams administration spent its last months in
offi ce taking steps to make the party’s hold on the
courts secure. By the Judiciary
Act of 1801, passed by the lame
duck Congress, the Federalists
reduced the number of Supreme Court justiceships by
one but greatly increased the number of federal judgeships as a whole. Adams quickly appointed Federalists
to the newly created positions. Indeed, there were
charges that he stayed up until midnight on his last day
in offi ce to fi nish signing the new judges’ commissions.
These offi ceholders became known as the “midnight
Even so, the Republicans viewed their victory, incorrectly, as almost complete. The nation, they believed, had
been saved from tyranny. A new era could now begin, one
in which the true principles on which America had been
founded would once again govern the land. The exuberance with which the victors viewed the future—and the
importance they attributed to the Federalists’ defeat—
was evident in the phrase Jefferson himself later used to
describe his election. He called it the “Revolution of
1800.” It remained to be seen how revolutionary it would
really be.
The Judiciary Act
of 1801
The writing of the Constitution of 1787 was the single
most important political event in the history of the United
States, and a notable event in the political history of the
modern world. In creating a “federal” system of dispersed
and divided authority—authority divided among national
and state governments, authority divided among an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary—the young nation sought
to balance its need for an effective central government
against its fear of concentrated and despotic power. The
ability of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention
to compromise again and again to produce the ultimate
structure gave evidence of the deep yearning among them
for a stable political system. The same willingness to compromise allowed the greatest challenge to the ideals of the
new democracy—slavery—to survive intact.
The writing and ratifying of the Constitution settled
some questions about the shape of the new nation.
The first twelve years under the government created
by the Constitution solved others. And yet by the year
1800, a basic disagreement about the future of the
nation—a disagreement personified by the differences
between committed nationalist Alexander Hamilton and
the self-proclaimed champion of democracy Thomas
Jefferson—remained unresolved and was creating bitter divisions and conflicts within the political world.
The election of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency
that year opened a new chapter in the nation’s public
history. It also brought to a close, at least temporarily,
savage political conflicts that had seemed to threaten
the nation’s future.
The Primary Source Investigator CD-ROM offers the following materials related to this chapter:
• Interactive map: U.S. Elections (M7).
• Documents, images, and maps related to the creation
of the Constitution and the early years of the new
republic. Highlights include the text of the Northwest Ordinance and several key documents from this
era, including the U.S. Constitution; several excerpts
from The Federalist Papers arguing for ratification of
the new Constitution; and early Quaker antislavery
Online Learning Center ( )
For quizzes, Internet resources, references to additional
books and films, and more, consult this book’s Online
Learning Center.
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Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution
of the United States (1913) is one of the seminal works of
modern American historical inquiry, although its interpretation
is no longer widely accepted. Gordon Wood, The Creation of
the American Republic (1969) is the leading analysis of the
intellectual path from the Declaration of Independence to the
American Constitution. Wood is also the author of Revolutionary
Cnaracters (2006), portraits of the founders. Jack Rakove,
Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the
Constitution (1996) connects the politics of the 1780s with
the political ideas embedded in the Constitution. Stanley Elkins
and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (1993) provides a
detailed overview of political and economic development in
the 1790s. Joyce Appleby, Capitalism and a New Social Order:
The Republican Vision of the 1790s (1984) highlights liberal
and capitalist impulses unleashed after the ratifi cation of the
Constitution. Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political
Economy in Jeffersonian America (1980) is an elegant
account of the politics of the era of the Constitution. Joseph
Ellis is the author of several highly regarded books on the
founders: After the Revolution: Profi les of Early American
Culture (1979), which examines some of the framers of the
new nation; American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas
Jefferson (1997); Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary
Generation (2000); Passionate Sage: The Character and
Legacy of John Adams (1993), and American Creation (2007),
a powerful portrait of the nation from Independence to the
Louisiana Purchase. David McCullough, John Adams (2001)
is a vivid, sympathetic, and outstandingly popular biography.
Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (2004) is another excellent biography of an important founder, as is Edmund Morgan,
Benjamin Franklin (2002).
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Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment Help Service Works

1. Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2. Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3. Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4. Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

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