Chapter 9. Launching the New Government


When they elected George Washington to be their first president, the office of the president had not been defined. Because of him, we address our president as “Mr. President.” He established the inaugural address and messages to congress, and he created executive departments, their appointed leaders forming his cabinet, which he created. Which is all to say that much of the office depends on respect and precedent, and is subject to abuse.

Dept Assumption

Hamilton engineered a measure in 1790 by which the federal government assumed the debts that the states incurred during the war of independence, whether the debt, as Jefferson observed, was “wisely or foolishly spent.” Twenty million was raised and proportioned by guesswork, and to enlist Southern states in the deal, the capital was placed along the Potomac River.


Washington’s cabinet included both Federalists and Republicans, and in his farewell address he warned against the divisiveness of political parties. In this country, partisan behavior in office is not something you can make a law against.


When they granted citizens, both majority and minorities, rights that were not otherwise restricted by law, we didn’t recognize the rights of women and the enslaved. Also, your religion was protected unless you were a savage.


Aaron Burr enlisted the support of Harman Blennerhassett to raise a militia to invade the Spanish in New Orleans and Mexico and incorporate part of the Louisiana territory to establish an independent state. Initially, Burr claimed British support; however, Prime Minister Pitt died and the political tide turned, including the cooperation of his friend General James Wilkinson, who informed President Jefferson of Burr’s plan. Jefferson sent men to arrest Burr and Blennerhassett. 
Burr was indicted for treason, but he hadn’t yet actually committed treasonous acts, so he escaped conviction.


When Alexander von Humboldt visited Thomas Jefferson at the president’s house, he asked about the newspapers in Jefferson’s cabinet, because they were filled with virulent abuse of Jefferson. “Why are these libels allowed?” And Jefferson said, “Should you hear the reality of our liberty, the freedom of our press, questioned, show this paper and tell where you found it.’

Strict construction

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the constitution cannot be so strictly construed as to “render it unequal to the objects for which it is declared to be instituted,” giving all powers to the states and leaving the federal government crippled.