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The First Years of the Union (1797-1809)

Important Terms, People, and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Alien and Sedition Acts  -  The 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four acts dealing with the protection of national security, the Alien Enemies Act, the Alien Friends Act, the Naturalization Act, and the Sedition Act. While Federalists claimed these acts were essential for national security, Republicans countered that they were politically motivated and served only to deny Americans of their guaranteed rights to fair trial and free speech. The Alien and Sedition Acts were the undoing of the Federalist Party, as Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in 1800 based largely on popular dissatisfaction with the acts.
Chesapeake-Leopard Affair  -  The peak of British disrespect for American neutrality at sea, on June 22, 1807, The British naval frigate HMS Leopard followed the American naval frigate USS Chesapeake out of Norfolk harbor in Virginia, and opened fire upon it after a request to board had been denied. The Chesapeake, not prepared for battle, lost three men and had twenty wounded, and permitted the British to board. The British naval officers boarded, seized four men who had deserted the royal navy, hanged them from a yardarm, and sailed away. Jefferson responded with the Embargo Act.
Embargo Act  -  In response to the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, Jefferson endorsed the Embargo Act, passed on December 22, 1807, which shut America off from the world economically by forbidding ships from leaving American ports to trade with other nations. He hoped the embargo would put economic pressure on the French, and especially the British. It did, but America suffered far more due to its economic isolation, and the Embargo Act was repealed on March 3, 1809.
Federalists  -  The Federalists believed in a strong central government at the expense of state power. The nation's first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, were Federalists, and during their terms, all branches of the national government were in Federalist hands.
Interposition  -  In response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, Kentucky and Virginia adopted resolutions, anonymously written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, which asserted that the states retained the power of interposition, which gave them the right to determine the constitutionality of congressional measures.
Judicial Review  -  Established by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, the principle of judicial review held that the Supreme Court could declare an act of Congress unconstitutional.
Marbury v. Madison  -  John Adams made a number of appointments to federal justice positions on his way out of office. One of those, the appointment of William Marbury as justice of the peace in the District of Columbia, was not delivered by midnight of his last night in office. Secretary of state James Madison refused to deliver the commission to Marbury, who asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus ordering Madison to do so. Chief Justice John Marshall denied Marbury the writ, ruling that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional in granting the Supreme Court the power to issue such a writ. This established the principle of judicial review.
Midnight Appointments  -  Between December 12, 1800, when it became clear that he would not win reelection, and the day of Jefferson's inauguration, March 4, 1801, Adams appointed a significant number of federal judges. These midnight appointments consisted exclusively of Federalists, most of who had previous political or familial ties to prominent party members. Though Jefferson originally declared that he would not dismiss any Federalist appointees, he later revised this statement to protect only the appointees who did not fall into this category of midnight appointments.
Quasi-war  -  Quasi-war was the term that became widely used to describe French and American naval conflicts which took place between 1798 and 1800. Though neither nation declared war on the other, each carried out naval operations against the other. John Adams sparked the Quasi-war in response to French aggression at sea.
Republicans  -  Republicans centered their political ideology on the states' rights doctrine. They believed in distributing governmental power to the states rather than concentrating it in the hands of the central government. The Republican Party became a political force in the later years of the Washington presidency, and was a constant thorn in Adams' side. In 1800, Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, took control of the national government and would maintain that control for decades.
Tertium Quids  -  The Quids were a faction of the Republican Party led by John Randolph, which split off from the main party in 1806 in disapproval of Jefferson's negotiations with Napoleon Bonaparte to purchase West Florida. The Quids never presented a substantial challenge to the main Republican Party.

People

John Adams  -  John Adams was America's second president, from 1797 to 1801. A Federalist, his most notable actions in office were the undertaking of the Quasi-war with France and the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Aaron Burr  -  Aaron Burr ran for president in 1800, chosen by the party to be Jefferson's vice president. However, every Republican elector voted for Jefferson and Burr so a tie ensued that had to be resolved by the House of Representatives. After a considerable struggle in the House, and Burr's refusal to withdraw, Jefferson became president, and Burr was politically dead. Later, Burr would attempt to lead a bizarre conspiracy to attack Texas and secede from the Union. Burr also eventually killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
Albert Gallatin  -  Gallatin was Jefferson's secretary of treasury, and played an important role in undoing many of the financial initiatives of the Federalists, including cutting taxes and expenditures, lowering the national debt, and divesting the government of its stock holdings in the Bank of the United States.
Thomas Jefferson  -  The leader of the Republican Party, Jefferson was president from 1801 to 1809, during which time he organized the national government by Republican ideals, doubled the size of the nation, and struggled to maintain American neutrality.
Lewis and Clark  -  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, most often known collectively as Lewis and Clark, were commissioned by Jefferson to explore the new territory of the Louisiana Purchase. They traveled 3,000 miles in two and a half years, collecting scientific data and specimens, and charting the territory to the west of the Mississippi. Their journey spurred much interest throughout the nation in further exploration and settlement in the West.
James Madison  -  James Madison was Jefferson's secretary of state and chosen successor to the presidency. Madison was an ardent Republican, and anonymously authored the Virginia Resolution, which denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts.
John Marshall  -  John Marshall was the chief Justice of the Supreme Court during Jefferson's presidency. His most notable decision during this time came in Marbury v. Madison, in which he asserted the principle of judicial review, which stated that the Supreme Court could deem an act of Congress unconstitutional.
Zebulon Pike  -  Pike earned the nickname "the lost pathfinder" due to his misadventures in exploring the headwaters of the Mississippi, and later the Arkansas River. It is suspected by many that his true mission in exploring the Arkansas may have been to investigate Spanish positions south of the American territory. Pike's maps of the southern portion of the Louisiana Territory proved invaluable to future explorers and settlers.
John Randolph  -  John Randolph, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, led the faction which became known as the Tertium Quids, breaking from the main party in disapproval of Jefferson's actions in regard to West Florida.
Sacajawea  -  During their first winter, at a Mandan Indian village, Lewis and Clark hired as an interpreter a French fur-trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, and his Indian wife Sacajawea. Though Charbonneau proved to be only of limited help, Sacajawea was indispensable as a guide, especially during the crossing of the Bitteroot Mountains in what is now southern Idaho. She showed the party how to forage for food, and was instrumental in maintaining good relations with the Indian tribes of what is now the northwest US.
Charles de Tallyrand  -  Tallyrand was the French foreign minister during Jefferson's presidency. He was instrumental in France's continued efforts to dominate and maipulate the US governments. In October 1797, it was he who perpetrated the XYZ Affair, sending anonymous agents to meet an American diplomatic envoy and demand a bribe for Tallyrand before he would meet with them. Later, Tallyrand would negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, and after, attempt to stir up disputes between Spain and the US over the definitions of their borders in North America.
James Wilkinson  -  James Wilkinson was the military commander of the Louisiana Territory; he sent Zebulon Pike on his exploration missions. Heavily involved in espionage, it is known that Wilkinson was on Spain's payroll for his part in trying to persuade southwestern settlers to secede from the Union. Wilkinson entered into cahoots with Aaron Burr in Burr's attempted conspiracy, only to betray Burr to Jefferson.

Events

Election of 1800  -  Thomas Jefferson called the election of 1800 "as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form." The election of 1800 marked the transition of power from Federalists to Republicans, and began a period of tearing down the Federalist style of government and building up a Republican framework.
Louisiana Purchase  -  Negotiated in April 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was one of the most important events in US history. It doubled the size of the nation, opening the west to exploration and settlement. With the Louisiana Purchase came the possibility of expansion and also the strife which would accompany the admission of new states from that region. Additionally, the Louisiana Purchase created a period during which the US could not detangle itself from foreign affairs, as its borders were increasingly changing and called into question.
XYZ Affair  -  In response to continued French aggression at sea, John Adams sent a diplomatic envoy to France to negotiate for peace in 1797, just after a coup d'etat in the directory. Charles de Tallyrand, the new French foreign minister, refused to meet with the US delegation, instead sending three anonymous agents, X, Y, and Z. The agents delivered the message that Tallyrand would not begin talks until he received $250,000 for himself, and France received a $12 million loan. This widely publicized (in America) attempt at extortion aroused public outrage among the American people, some of whom called for war.

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