Alexander Hamilton played a key role in George Washington’s Cabinet. President Washington appointed him the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. He wrote speeches for the President, helped put down a rebellion, and served as an advisor to Washington on many issues.
New York City was the nation’s first capital under the Constitution. On April 30, 1789, George Washington stood on the balcony of Federal Hall wearing a plain brown suit and took the oath of office. The original Federal Hall was built in 1700 as New York’s City Hall, but that building was demolished in 1812. The current building was opened in 1842 to serve as a customs house.
George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
In the address, Washington expressed both the anxiety and the honor he felt in becoming president of the new nation. He discussed the importance of the Constitution and the need for a strong Bill of Rights. He also promised to serve the public good.
Plan of the City of Washington, 1792
The Congressional Act to Establish the Capital called for the capital to be moved from New York to Philadelphia by 1790, then to a new city by 1800. The new capital would occupy land on the eastern side of the Potomac River. The act allocated funds to construct the buildings and authorized the appointment of a group of commissioners to supervise the work. President Washington laid the cornerstone of the US Capitol building on September 18, 1793.
Washington's Farewell Address, 1796
George Washington’s Farewell Address took the form of a letter to the American people. Washington advised American citizens to view themselves as part of a united country and to avoid establishing political parties. He also warned them against involvement in international conflicts.
Fort Cumberland, Maryland
In 1791, Congress passed a tax on whiskey, which greatly impacted farmers who produced alcohol from grain. The Whiskey Rebellion started when farmers refused to pay the tax and attacked the tax collectors. Washington ordered troops to gather at Fort Cumberland in Maryland to suppress the rebellion. This small cabin is all that remains of the original fort.
Hamilton to the Governor of Pennsylvania, September 20, 1794
Washington ordered Alexander Hamilton to lead 12,000 troops to put down the rebellion of American farmers against the tax on whiskey. In this letter, Hamilton urges Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin to raise the state militia to help put down the resistance.
Washington Reviewing the Western Army at Fort Cumberland, Maryland
This painting shows Washington reviewing the troops at Fort Cumberland, Maryland. Within a month, most of the rebels had retreated or left the state. Washington and Hamilton’s victory proved that the federal government could enforce the law.
When the French Revolution began in 1789, Americans were hopeful that France would become a republic like the United States. However, by 1793, the French Revolution had turned into a Reign of Terror with more than 16,000 sentenced to death. Many European countries declared war against France. When the legislature met at Congress Hall in Philadelphia that year, in spite of sympathy for the French revolutionaries, the US opted to remain neutral in the conflict.
Neutrality Proclamation Broadside, 1793
Washington and Hamilton feared being drawn into a major war between France and the rest of Europe. In 1793, they issued a Neutrality Proclamation stating that the US would not become involved in the conflict. Republicans believed this violated the Constitution, claiming the president did not have the power to declare war or neutrality.
On August 17, 1790, George Washington visited Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. There, Moses Seixas, leader of the congregation, read aloud a letter he had written to the President. The letter expressed Seixas’ happiness at the religious tolerance promised by the proposed Bill of Rights.
George Washington to Moses Seixas, August 18, 1790
In his letter to Moses Seixas, Washington affirms the commitment of the United States to religious freedom: “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
Developed by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.