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Chapter Twenty-Eight. George Washington and the Emergence of Party Politics in the New Nation

Rosemarie Zagarri

Subject History » Political History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics federalism, political theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00030.x


When George Washington became president in 1789, one of his greatest fears was that the American people would allow political parties to take root in their young nation. Like many other political thinkers and leaders in eighteenth-century Anglo-America, Washington understood parties as factions, groups of self-interested individuals who would pursue their own goals at the expense of the larger public good. Speaking to the assembled members of Congress in his First Inaugural Address, Washington urged that “no local prejudices, or attachments; no seperate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests.” Only by avoiding such divisions, he warned, will “the foundations of our National policy … be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its Citizens, and command the respect of the world” (PGW, Presidential , 2:173–177). Yet less than a year later, Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed economic policies that would create serious conflicts both within Washington's Cabinet and within Congress. By 1792, the perception of that Washington foreign policy favored Britain over France would provoke popular outrage. By 1794 ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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