Early American Republic Essay

Essay Question
In 1789 the United States ratified the Constitution and unanimously elected George
Washington President. It was certainly reasonable to assume that the decade of the 1790s
would be harmonious and peaceful. It was anything but. Why between 1789 and 1792
did the nation divide over important political and economic issues and the policies of the
Federalist Party? Why and how between 1792 and 1799 did this conflict intensify? Who
was involved in the conflict and what ideas and values were in competition? What did
the combatants think was at stake? How and why did the conflict of the 1790s culminate
with the election of 1800 and what was the status of the Federalist Party by 1801?

Advice and Guidelines
This question asks you to provide a careful and reasoned analysis of the goals and actions of the Federalists and the reaction they provoked.

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Begin in the beginning. Explain why and how Alexander Hamilton sought to take the nation in the direction he did. Discuss what sort of society the Federalists thought the nation needed to become for the republican experiment to succeed. Having explained that, discuss why elite southern gentlemen such as Madison and Jefferson were so concerned. Here you will want to explain their alternative world view, which was shaped by the country ideology. In addition, you will want to address how and why they found common ground with craftsmen and farmers and why these more ordinary folk also became alienated from the Federalists. Once you have explained the origins of the opposition, you will need to assess the impact of the French Revolution on the United States. Discuss the Federalists’ fearful and
aggressive response, their commitment to internal taxes, and the Whiskey Rebellion that
followed. By this point in your paper you will have explained the full emergence of the
Jeffersonian Republican opposition. The remainder of the paper, dealing with the Adams years, should focus on how the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans challenged each other for power and how the Federalists sought to take advantage of hatred of France with the Alien and Sedition Acts. Finally, you should assess the impact of those acts, the opposition response that began with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and the significance of the election of 1800. The Jeffersonian Republicans demanded a much more equal and democratic society and used a great deal of radical language in doing so. How did that influence men such as Gabriel, what does his experience suggest about the complexities and limits of the Jeffersonian Republican challenge to the Federalists? Ultimately, you need to take a position by the end of the paper on how meaningful the Jeffersonian Republican victory in 1800 was and assess whether their defeat of the Federalists was significant.

When you make use of ideas or insights of the reading make sure to cite your
sources. You can use the simple parentheses form of citation. So, for example, to make
use of McCoy you can after using ideas or direct quotations from his book, at the end of
the sentence cite by writing (McCoy, 128-130) (author’s last name and page numbers you
are using to make your point).

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