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In Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers: The Revolutioinary Generation, there are many significant issues that contributed to the development if a new nation. My essay will address the issues these “founding brothers” approached in the developing nation and issues they had with other countries. This includes the steps they took to pull together a nation dealing with the location of the nation’s capital, state debts, slavery, and other minor issues while also discussing outside affairs corresponding with Jay’s Treaty and the Proclamation of Neutrality.
In sync with that, my essay will focus if their issues were effective and will concentrate on the relationships between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and how their relationship showcased a nation of separate ideas.
At home, there were many issues that the founding brothers could not agree upon. All internal affairs constituted as major barriers in developing a new nation. For example, a major ordeal was the location of the of the permanent capitol of the United States which was known as the” residency question.
” Many Representatives from Pennsylvania and Virginia did not want to argue where it should be placed and had their own reasoning on why the nation’s capital would be better suited in their location. Ellis reveals that secret meetings were held to discuss disregarding the famous dinner (Ellis, 69-72). Another complex issue that also had to deal with the complexity of the personalities of the men was the issue of the Assumption bill which Virginian politicians opposing the idea that states, who had already serviced their debts, were required to pay off the debts that other states have not paid (Ellis, 57).
While Madison believed that if passed, it would make states owe the federal government in which he had no intention for the ideal constitution, Hamilton was going to extreme manners to ratify this bill which included an excise tax and a national bank (Ellis 56-58). Ellis conveys how Hamilton, and other Virginians believed in “consolidation” and alluded to that Madison’s stance towards him was illogical (Ellis, 59-62). The ideas of these founding brothers strive to create a new nation, but this situation showed how it wasn’t an easy process. In the end, these issues were determined, and compromises were made at a dinner at Jefferson’s house between Hamilton and Madison. They came up with terms in which Virginians would consent to the Assumption Bill (Ellis, 77). In return, Congress will place the permanent capital at Potomac River which was the center of the thirteen states. (Ellis, 71). These issues revealed polarization among the men as they all do not agree upon one thing. There are confrontations with all issues that arises and shows how this nation’s development was not a smooth ordeal, but rather developed on heated arguments and secret meetings.
Though the Revolutionary generation was able to resolve many issues with the dinner, there was still a major taboo that they could not bring themselves to talk about: slavery. Ellis discusses the founding brothers’ failure to stipulate and come up with an agreement on slavery. This is due to the complexities of the idea if slavery should be abolished in the nation. Slavery was to be talked about secretly as each the south and north had their own reasonings (Ellis, 84). The North, who were towards the idea of abolishing slavery, refused to talk about slavery as they assumed, they would be shamed (Ellis, 84-86). On the other hand, the South, who leaned towards the ideas of expanding slavery, kept quiet as they worried that if people began discussing the manner out loud it would lead to abolishing slavery. Though the American Constitution of 1787 was about bringing together a union of states, the ideas of this declaration imply the inevitable abolition of slavery (Ellis, 86). While southern states used slavery to protect the planter class and slaves were owned by property rights, abolishing slavery would affect both things. If the nation wanted to go through with abolishing slavery, the southern states were prepared to withdraw from the Union. In progress to emancipate the slaves, Quakers petitioned Congress (Ellis, 81-82).
Since southern states were threatening to leave the Union if slaves were set free, it ultimately, created conflicts within the ideas of the 1776 declaration of Independence and the 1787 Constitution. James Madison would ultimately lead a decision that Congress did not have any authority to emancipate the American slaves (Ellis, 117). The Northwest Ordinance was one of the early steps towards emancipating slaves North of the Ohio River, but also promoted slavery in the southwestern region (Ellis, 93). Secondly, the “Sectional Compromise” was another big step which New England agreed for an extension of the slave of up to twenty years if the South would agree to making the federal regulation a majority vote in the Congress (Ellis, 94). In relation to the Northwest Ordinance, it seems as if both sides, the North and South, are both victors.
While there are problems that focused solely in this new nation, there were also situations that dealt abroad. The Proclamation of Neutrality supported Washington’s ideals as Washington states, “Every true friend to this Country must see and feel that the policy of it is not to embroil ourselves with any nation whatsoever; but to avoid their disputes and politics” (Ellis, 135). A main issue to consider was Jay’s treaty which was considered a “landmark in the shaping of American foreign policy” (Ellis, 136). The situation between Washington and England was that it was apparent to Washington that England was not respecting the agreements of the Treaty of Paris 1783 (Ellis, 136). Because of this, war was inevitable, but Washington understood that the United States was not prepared for another war especially one just after the revolution. He was consciously aware that in order to keep peace between the United States and England, they must converse through words rather than with guns.
Therefore, Washington sent John Jay to England to ration out the situations tactfully. Jay was ultimately successful improving relations with England decreasing the threat of war which supported foreign diplomatic policy relations with a foreign nation (Ellis, 136). Another issue that arose was after the French entered the war in 1778, members of the continental congress lobbied to discuss the likelihood of French invading Canada. Though they were allies with the French, national interests would peak as French would be a step closer to us (Ellis, 132-133). Along with that, the Alien and Sedition Acts were acts were made to exclude foreign-born residents who supported the Republican party. It made it illegal to create false writings against the Government. Adams passed these acts to underride the Republican newspapers that were publishing false statements that were directed at him. The Sedition acts went against the ideas of the free-speech amendment (Ellis, 198-199)
Washington and Jefferson’s relationship was one that was strictly bounded by differences in political ideas that shadowed any friendship between them. Issues that arose to spark trouble were Jay’s Treaty and Washington’s proclamation of Neutrality. After Jay’s treaty passed, Washington was put on the pedestal by Jefferson blaming him for having power that could outweigh the people. With the troubles arising, and Jefferson already mad about the response of the Whiskey Rebellion, it would lead to attacking Washington through various newspapers (Ellis,141). One statement made by Jefferson in his response of Jay’s treaty affected Washington leading to them never writing to each other again. Jefferson stated, “It would give you a fever… were I to name you the apostates who have gone over to these heresies men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot of England” (Ellis, 141).
Though Jefferson agreed with the proclamation of Neutrality, he nurtured ideas that the Revolution would expand globally while Washington thought of just the new nation. Washington and Jefferson’s relationship represented polarizing sides of the shaping of the new nation. Their relationship was tagged with labels which Ellis states, “…Pro-English versus pro-French versions of American neutrality” (Ellis, 142-145). As many friendships remained well even with polarizing views, Jefferson and Washington had no chance of friendship with their contrasting views representing an nation divided by political ideals.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s relationship was not one just based on political basis but extended beyond that. Their political and ideological ideas polarized them opposing each other of their respected parties, but disregarding that, they were, Ellis states, “soulmates.” While Jefferson, a supporter of the French Revolution, leaned more towards a Republican party, Adams favored a powerful, central government and associated himself with the Federalist Party. Their first major ordeal was through the Davila essays where Jefferson pinned Adams for converting to monarchy ideals while in England (Ellis, 169). Ellis argues how in the development of a new nation, friendship and mutual respect among the brothers was very important. Ellis states how the respect for each other though there was a predicament where political rivalries were dreadfully apparent (Ellis 163-164). During Adams presidency, Jefferson and the Republicans were blatant critics towards him. Though their political beliefs separated them, and once they both left the presidency, their friendship recommenced through correspondence. Their friendship represented how the developing, weak nation was held together because of mutual respect (Ellis, 164).
As these founding brothers tried to pave the way of a new nation, there were many drawbacks that stood ahead of them as they were not only develop a new nation, but be a future, representative nation. With internal issues such as slavery, the location of the nation’s capital, to the international affairs such as the Proclamation of Neutrality and Jay’s treaty, these men had to compensate with new solutions to fit their developing nation while having different political beliefs among the “founding brothers.”
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