Washington was unanimously elected President by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. He promoted and oversaw implementation of a strong, well-financed national government, but remained impartial in the fierce rivalry between subordinates Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. In the French Revolution, Washington proclaimed a policy of neutrality while sanctioning the Jay Treaty. He set enduring precedents for the office of president, including the title "President of the United States". Washington's Farewell Address was widely regarded as one of the most influential statements on republicanism.
While in France, Jefferson became a regular companion of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American Revolutionary War, and Jefferson used his influence to procure trade agreements with France. As the French Revolution began, Jefferson allowed his Paris residence, the Hôtel de Langeac, to be used for meetings by Lafayette and other republicans. He was in Paris during the storming of the Bastille and consulted with Lafayette while the latter drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Jefferson often found his mail opened by postmasters, so he invented his own enciphering device, the "Wheel Cipher"; he wrote important communications in code for the rest of his career. Jefferson left Paris for America in September 1789, intending to return soon; however, President George Washington appointed him the country's first Secretary of State, forcing him to remain in the nation's capitol. Jefferson remained a firm supporter of the French Revolution, while opposing its more violent elements.
The Revolution deeply polarised American politics, and this polarisation led to the creation of the First Party System. In 1793, as war broke out in Europe, the Republican Party led by Thomas Jefferson favoured France and pointed to the 1778 treaty that was still in effect. George Washington and his unanimous cabinet, including Jefferson, decided that the treaty did not bind the United States to enter the war. Washington proclaimed neutrality instead. Under President John Adams, a Federalist, an undeclared naval war took place with France from 1798 until 1799, often called the "Quasi War". Jefferson became president in 1801, but was hostile to Napoleon as a dictator and emperor. However, the two entered negotiations over the Louisiana Territory and agreed to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, an acquisition that substantially increased the size of the United States.
Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin (1770–1852) was a portraitist and museum director. He fled France during the revolution, and worked as a portrait engraver in the United States in the early 19th century. He created portraits from life of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others. He later served as museum director in Dijon.
The Federalists called for a strong national government that promoted economic growth and fostered friendly relationships with Great Britain as well as opposition to Revolutionary France. The party controlled the federal government until 1801, when it was overwhelmed by the Democratic-Republican opposition led by Thomas Jefferson. The Federalist Party came into being between 1792 and 1794 as a national coalition of bankers and businessmen in support of Alexander Hamilton's fiscal policies. These supporters developed into the organized Federalist Party, which was committed to a fiscally sound and nationalistic government. The only Federalist President was John Adams. George Washington was broadly sympathetic to the Federalist program, but he remained officially non-partisan during his entire presidency.
After the American Revolution, the United States immediately began juggling its foreign policy between many different views under the George Washington cabinet. Most notably, the rivalry between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton arose due to their opposing views on how the United States should align itself with Revolutionary France in its war against Great Britain in 1793. Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, who viewed the French revolution as similar to the previous American revolution, believed the United States should declare war on Great Britain as an ally of France, citing the 1778 Franco-American alliance which was still technically in effect. However, Hamilton and the Federalists desired favorable terms with the Bank of England in the hopes of establishing enough credit with the Crown to establish an American national banking system. Hamilton's camp would take the day and influenced Washington to remain neutral during the conflict, destroying relations with France.
In the wake of the 1789 French Revolution, relations between the new French Republic and the American administration of President George Washington became strained. In 1792, France and the rest of Europe went to war, a conflict in which Washington declared American neutrality. However, both France and Great Britain, the major naval powers in the war, seized ships of neutral powers (including those of the United States) that traded with their enemies. With the Jay Treaty, ratified in 1795, the United States reached an agreement on the matter with Britain that angered members of the Directory that governed France. The French Navy consequently stepped up its efforts to interdict American trade with Britain. By the time John Adams assumed the presidency in early 1797, the matter was reaching crisis proportions. In March 1797, not long after assuming office, President Adams learned that Charles Cotesworth Pinckney had been refused as U.S. minister because of the escalating crisis, and that American merchant ships had been seized in the Caribbean. Popular opinion in the United States on relations with France was divided along largely political lines: Federalists took a hard line, favoring a defensive buildup but not necessarily advocating war, while Republicans expressed solidarity with the Republican ideals of the French revolutionaries and did not want to be seen as cooperating with the Federalist Adams administration. Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who had lost the contentious 1796 election to Adams, looked at the Federalists as monarchists who were linked to Britain and therefore hostile to American values.
During 1790 the Yorkshire Stingo was the temporary home of the second cast iron bridge ever built. (The first was The Iron Bridge.) This was designed by Thomas Paine, better known as the author of the revolutionary best-seller Rights of Man. Paine had endeavoured to interest the authorities in Philadelphia and Paris in his design. He had gained a patent for this in 1788 and Walkers, who had an ironworks in Sheffield, agreed to construct it. The original design of 250 ft – to span the Schuylkill River, Philadelphia – had been scaled down to 90 ft. Paine discussed the bridge in correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, Sir Joseph Banks, George Washington and Sir George Staunton, and entertained hopes that it might be the model for an iron bridge across the Thames as well as the Seine. Paine supervised both the work at the Walker factory, and the erection of the bridge in the grounds of the Yorkshire Stingo. It weighed three tons and could bear a weight of six. Peter Whiteside, a Philadelphian merchant, was backing the project, but found himself in financial difficulties and asked Paine to return the money he had lent; in the end, the project had to be abandoned. Parts of it were then used in a bridge over the River Wear in Sunderland. William Yates, who had acted as Paine's foreman, went on to work on the Wear bridge and then Southwark Bridge, built by John Rennie. Paine later quipped that "the French revolution, and Mr Burke's attacks upon it, drew me off any pontifical works".
Almost immediately after the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Americans began to question whether the failure of the treaty to note an end date of the military alliance meant that the treaty continued indefinitely into the future, and in effect created a perpetual alliance between the United States and France. Those Americans who disliked the proposition of being eternally tied to France, most notably the Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and his supporters in the Federalist Party, seized on the French Revolution as a chance to officially nullify the treaty. Despite a consensus of European monarchs who considered the treaty nullified by the execution of King Louis XVI during the French Revolution, President George Washington sided with his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and declared the treaty would remain in effect, despite the regime change in France.
Congress created executive departments in 1789, including the State Department in July, the Department of War in August, and the Treasury Department in September. Washington appointed fellow Virginian Edmund Randolph as Attorney General, Samuel Osgood as Postmaster General, Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, and his commanding successor Henry Knox as Secretary of War. Finally, he appointed Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Washington's cabinet became a consulting and advisory body, not mandated by the Constitution.
On 26 August 1789 the Assembly published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which comprised a statement of principles rather than a constitution with legal effect. The Declaration was directly influenced by Thomas Jefferson working with General Lafayette, who introduced it.
Washington was apolitical and opposed the formation of parties, suspecting that conflict would undermine republicanism. His closest advisors formed two factions, portending the First Party System. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton formed the Federalist Party to promote the national credit and a financially powerful nation. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson opposed Hamilton's agenda, and founded the Jeffersonian Republicans. Washington favored Hamilton's agenda, which went into effect and resulted in bitter controversy.
Washington's resignation as Commander in Chief followed the Treaty of Paris, and he planned to retire to Mount Vernon. With the treaty ratified in April 1783, Hamilton’s Congressional committee adapted the army for peacetime. Washington learned of the treaty two months later, and gave the Army's perspective to the Committee in his Sentiments on a Peace Establishment. The Committee's proposals were defeated by Congress on three occasions. The Treaty was signed on September 3, 1783, and Great Britain officially recognized the independence of the United States. Washington disbanded his army, giving an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers on November 2. On November 25, the British evacuated New York City, and Washington and Governor George Clinton took possession. Only a few trusted delegates of the Continental Congress, including Thomas Jefferson, knew of Washington's decision to resign his commission.
Jefferson was mainly of English ancestry, born and educated in colonial Virginia. He graduated from the College of William & Mary and briefly practiced law, with the largest number of his cases concerning land ownership claims. During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and served as a wartime governor (1779–1781). He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation's first secretary of state in 1790–1793 under President George Washington. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the controversial Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798–1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.