Segments descriptions
     
American Presidents Series
      Young Nation, Part 1
 

               Description: Washington

Sampler
Young Nation, Part 1:
      
              sampler  4’ 30”    (62’ lecture)   
    
As the first constitutional president with no established guidelines to follow, what standards did Washington set which have very significant influence on future presidents of the US down to our time?.
                          
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1. George Washington, 1788-1796, 2 terms.  Wealthy, charismatic, personally aloof. 

The American Revolution.   Fights guerilla warfare, mostly retreats, but the few victories are significant.  Issue of class in the army.  Officers identify more with the British officers than the rank-and-file soldiers.  Outlasts the British to victory. 

His presidency.  The new Constitution recreates the 3 branches of government and the presidency.  As president sets standards with enormous influence.  He rejects presidential royal image.  He argues against entangling alliances, which becomes the cornerstone of foreign policy for the next 100 years.  He sets precedent of the 2-term presidency limit.  Washington backs Hamilton’s controversial policies which put the U.S. on a firm economic footing. During the chaos preceding the Constitution, Washington vehemently resists some officers who call for a coup-de tat.  Frees his slaves in his will.

  His presidency.  The new Constitution recreates the 3 branches of government and the presidency.  As president sets standards with enormous influence.  He rejects presidential royal image.  He argues against entangling alliances, which becomes the cornerstone of foreign policy for the next 100 years.  He sets precedent of the 2-term presidency limit.  Washington backs Hamilton’s controversial policies which put the U.S. on a firm economic footing. During the chaos preceding the Constitution, Washington vehemently resists some officers who call for a coup-de tat.  Frees his slaves in his will.
 

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2. John Adams, 1796-1800, 1 term.  Is Washington’s vice president.  Lacks charisma.   Brilliant, original political thinker.  From Massachusetts upper classes.  His role defending the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre.   High value of his diplomacy in France and England in America’s early years.  Is a 1-term president.  Mixed verdict on his presidency.  Low point is the Alien and Sedition Act.  High point is his unpopular resistance to popular war fever against revolutionary France, avoiding disaster.
 

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3. Thomas Jefferson, 1800-1816, 2 terms.  Our most controversial president.  He is a Virginia slave holder.  He is complex with many personal contradictions.  He is a Renaissance person.  Founder University of Virginia and tax-supported education.  Architect.  Inventor.  Agronomist.  Advocate of democracy.  Favors small farmers as the essence of democracy, not manufacturing.  Believes a revolution is needed every generation or two to keep the leadership in touch with the population.  Supports separation of religion and state, removing Anglicanism as the official religion of Massachusetts.  Against inheritance rule of primo geniture.  Plagued by the slavery issue.  He does not free his slaves but fights to free slaves in Colonial Virginia and supports the law to prohibit slavery in the northwest territory.  Sally Hemming relationship.  He is sincerely against slavery but cannot set example.  An imperfect person.   Presidency:  the Embargo Act keeps America out of conflict.  He argues against strong federal government but as president sees that some power is necessary.  He is against a standing arm.  He favors the states’ rights doctrine that a state can reject federal law, which has implication later in the Civil War. 

In retirement, Jefferson and John Adams resumed a close friendship which political disagreements had fractured years earlier, leaving a flow of warm letters as a result.  Amazingly, they both died on the same date, July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  His use of the term, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” inspires many nations worldwide ever since.