First Presidential Election
Presidential electors, meeting in their various states, cast their ballots for the president of the United States in the first federal election held under the terms of the new Constitution.
The Electoral College ballots are counted in the Senate and George Washington is announced president of the United States. He receives all 69 electoral votes. John Adams is elected vice-president with 34 votes.
George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the United States in the temporary capital of New York.
House Recommends Bill of Rights
The House of Representatives votes to recommend a bill of rights for adoption by the states. Introduced by James Madison, largely in an attempt to defuse criticism of the new government, these amendments to the Constitution will receive the required approval of three-quarters of the states with Virginia's ratification in 1791.
Hamilton’s First Report
Alexander Hamilton issues his First Report on the Public Credit, proposing that the national debt of $42,414,086 be refunded at par, or full face value, and that the state debts, estimated at $25 million, be assumed by the federal government.
Bank of the United States Chartered
George Washington signs a bill chartering the Bank of the United States.
Congress passes the Whiskey Tax. This tax inspires protest from backcountry farmers, leading to the Whiskey Rebellion.
Indians Crush St. Clair
General Arthur St. Clair and an army of 920 are crushed by an alliance of Native Americans forged to prevent American expansion into territories northwest of the Ohio River. More than 600 US soldiers and almost 200 camp followers are killed in a two-hour battle. This victory strengthens Indian resistance to westward expansion beyond the Ohio River.
Presidential electors cast their ballots and George Washington is reelected to a second term as president. He receives 132 of the 135 votes in the electoral college, with three abstentions. John Adams is reelected vice-president with 77 votes.
Edmond Genet Goads American Attack
Edmond Genet, an envoy from the French Republic, lands in Charleston, South Carolina and begins his diplomatic tour of the US. He encourages Americans to launch private attacks against British and Spanish territories and commissions privateers to harass British ships.
Washington Issues Proclamation of Neutrality
President Washington issues his Proclamation of Neutrality, declaring America's refusal to take sides in the European conflict.
Washington Meets Genet
Edmund Genet meets with President Washington. Washington's cool reception of the French diplomat signals his unwillingness to recognize any American military obligation under the Franco-American treaties of 1778. These treaties had secured French commercial and military support during the American Revolution. By closing American ports to the privateers commissioned by Genet, Washington also expresses his disapproval of Genet's attempts to organize private American support for France's war against Britain.
Jefferson Resigns from Washington’s Cabinet
Thomas Jefferson resigns as Secretary of State. He is convinced that his ideological foe Alexander Hamilton now dominates Washington's administration.
Whiskey Tax Rebellion
Five hundred whiskey tax rebels attack the home of John Neville, the regional tax inspector, in western Pennsylvania and burn it to the ground. Two rebels are killed in the gun battle with federal troops sent to protect Neville.
Battle of Fallen Timbers
General "Mad" Anthony Wayne and an army of more than 4,000 troops defeat a confederation of Native Americans (primarily Shawnee and Delaware) at the battle of Fallen Timbers, leading to the Treaty of Greeneville and the surrender of vast Indian lands west and north of the Ohio River.
Congress passes a new naturalization act, increasing the residency requirement for citizenship from two to five years.
Jay Treaty Ratified
The Senate ratifies the Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain. Negotiated by John Jay, the treaty increases American access to British West Indian ports and establishes a commission to negotiate compensation for American cargos illegally seized by the British. In return, the United States agrees to the establishment of a commission to resolve debt disputes dating to before the Revolutionary War. The Jay Treaty triggers intense political debate. While opposition to the treaty comes from several directions, southern Republicans are most outraged. The treaty's commercial clauses most benefit the North, while the debt commission established by the treaty may force Southerners to pay old debts they hoped had become unrecoverable as a result of the Revolution. Jay also fails to even raise the issue most critical to southern planters: compensation for slaves that had either been freed or confiscated by the British during the war.
Treaty of San Lorenzo
The United States and Spain sign the Treaty of San Lorenzo in Madrid. The treaty establishes the 31st parallel as the southern border, separating the United States from Spanish Florida. Spain also grants the United States navigation rights on the Mississippi River and the right to land and transfer goods from river boats to ocean vessels at New Orleans duty-free for three years.
Washington’s Farewell Address
President Washington's Farewell Address is published in a Philadelphia newspaper. In the address, Washington urges Americans to "steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world." He also criticizes the growing partisan spirit that "agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection."
John Adams is elected president in America's first contested presidential election. Adams receives 71 votes in the Electoral College; rival Thomas Jefferson receives 68 votes.
France Seizes American Ships
President John Adams names a commission to France to discuss French seizures of American commercial vessels. The commission consists of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry.
Commission Disputes French Claims
President Adams's commission to France, meeting with agents of the French government in Paris, is told they must pay $250,000 and promise to loan the French government a substantial sum of money before substantive talks will occur. The commission refuses.
Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold Fight in House
Republican Matthew Lyon and Federalist Roger Griswold fight on the floor of the House of Representatives. Federalist attempts to expel Lyon fail, but eight months later, he is convicted under the Sedition Act passed by the Federalist-dominated Congress.
President John Adams releases to Congress the dispatches from the American commission to France, describing the failure of their mission. The American public is outraged by the bribery demands of the French agents, labeled X, Y, and Z in the dispatches. The controversy will forever be known as the "XYZ Affair."
Alien and Sedition Acts
The package of legislation labeled the Alien and Sedition Acts is passed by the Federalist-dominated Congress. The Naturalization Act extends the residency requirement for citizenship from 5 to 14 years. The Alien Friends Act authorizes the president of the United States to deport any non-citizen deemed dangerous to the peace and safety of the public. The Alien Enemies Act authorizes the president to arrest, jail, or deport the citizens of enemy nations during time of war. Finally, the Sedition Act makes it a crime to print or say anything "false, scandalous, and malicious" against the government, president, or Congress of the United States.
Kentucky Resolutions Condemn Alien and Sedition Acts
The Kentucky Resolutions, secretly written by Thomas Jefferson, condemning the Alien and Sedition Acts as unconstitutional, are passed by the Kentucky state legislature.
Virginia Resolutions Condemn Alien and Sedition Acts
The Virginia Resolutions, written by James Madison and labeling the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional, are passed by the Virginia state legislature.
Former President George Washington dies at Mt. Vernon.
Jefferson Elected Over Burr
Thomas Jefferson is elected president of the United States, on the 36th ballot, by the House of Representatives. The counting of the Electoral College ballots on 11 February had yielded a tie between Jefferson and his Republican running mate, Aaron Burr. According to the terms of the Constitution, the House is empowered in this instance to select the president. A deadlock ensues as Federalist Congressmen scheme to deny Jefferson, their ideological enemy, the presidency. Although Burr is also a Republican, many Federalists believe he is susceptible to their influence. But Alexander Hamilton argues that while Jefferson's politics are misguided, Burr lacks integrity, and therefore he endorses Jefferson, securing Jefferson's election.