Competing Visions: Federalists and Democratic-Republicans

A timeline shows important events of the era. In 1791, Congress passes the Bill of Rights. In 1794, western Pennsylvanians protest the Whiskey Rebellion, and Jay’s Treaty ensures commerce between the U.S. and Britain; a painting of George Washington leading his troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion and an image of Jay’s Treaty are shown. In 1798, Congress passes the Alien and Sedition Acts. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson brokers the Louisiana Purchase; a map shows the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. In 1807, an embargo attempts to end the British practice of capturing American sailors. In 1812–1814, the United States is at war with Great Britain; a ship under attack is shown. In 1814, the Treaty of Ghent ends the War of 1812.

In June 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the federal Constitution, and the new plan for a strong central government went into effect. Elections for the first U.S. Congress were held in 1788 and 1789, and members took their seats in March 1789. In a reflection of the trust placed in him as the personification of republican virtue, George Washington became the first president in April 1789. John Adams served as his vice president; the pairing of a representative from Virginia (Washington) with one from Massachusetts (Adams) symbolized national unity. Nonetheless, political divisions quickly became apparent. Washington and Adams represented the Federalist Party, which generated a backlash among those who resisted the new government’s assertions of federal power.