Presidential Courage
Brave Leaders, How They Changed America
1789-1989 by Michael Beschloss
Editor's notes: 1) Presidents are elected on even decades like
1980, 2000, off year elections of 1992, 2014...
2) Pictures are from Wikipedia and the Internet can often be enlarged with a click.
3) Editorial comments are in red font. Updated 10/18/18

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Washington had been unanimously elected by the Electoral College in 1788 and 1792. Britain at war with France was seizing U.S. ships trading with France. In addition, London was reneging on her Revolutionary War pledge to vacate forts in Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, and Michilmackinac. She was also arming Indians and spurring them to attack American settlers. These attacks were killing helpless women and children. Trying to avoid a war with
Great Britain that might  "strangle the infant nation in its cradle," Washington

secretly sent aristocratic Supreme Court  Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate a peace treaty with England. Eventually word got out and many found some Jay Treaty demands humiliating. Article 12 of the treaty stated America must trade with the West Indies in small ships really aggrieved Southerners as it severely lowered their exports. Another article stated the U.S. could not export products native to the islands. A Provision Order issued later by Britain required U.S. ships carrying grain to France be stopped and the cargo confiscated. See                                                     


The Politics "A speedy Death to General Washington!" cartoon was one of many. It depicted the President being chased out of town by those who felt the unconstitutional treaty was a reason for impeachment. The South not being compensated for freed slaves who had fought for England was one reason for treaty unhappiness. Secretary of State Hamilton wanted to negotiate but his friendship with England ruled him out. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jay was sent. Soon to be a Republican Jay was far from being a loyal President Washington cabinet member.  See Leader of the Opposition: In Wait at Monticello from Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, 2012 by J. Meacham and U. S. History Hamilton vs. Jefferson

2) Kick This Treaty to Hell
A Virginia Republican ignored Washington's order to keep Jay Treaty content secrete and passed a copy to the French ho helped make it public. Hamilton's treaty defense in front of the New York City Hall had him stoned creating a bloody face. In Boston, a British ship was set aflame. Washington's use of Executive Privilege to keep Jay Treaty information from Congress was the first of many such Presidential attempts.

The net result was our First Party System.

See T. Paine's letter to Washington

Richard Nixon attempt may be the most notorious.


Edward Livingston of New York.jpgIn a letter to John Jay Washington stated he had survived "the Storm" and would never forget the "pernicious" people "disseminating the poison" against him. As Washington predicted, America was not powerful enough to get their way in a war with England.  Click to enlarge pictures. As was common for Southerners of his day, Washington was plagued most of his life by nine deadly diseases Tuberculosis, Malaria, Smallpox, Dysentery... Leaving office he suffered from a bad back, painful false teeth and rheumatism.

3) THE DAMNEDEST LIAR To support the treaty powerful Federalist rolled into gear and stopped issuing ship insurance until the treaty was enacted.  In Philadelphia debtors were pressured by banks to support the treaty. By 1796, Britain had  scrapped the Provision Order as they accepting Washington's version of the treaty which excluded Article 12 so large ships could trade in West Indies. The tide had turned in favor of the treaty.



The Republican controlled house tried to withhold ninety thousand dollars needed to enact the Jay Treaty. John Adams feared a war with Britain might result in a "civil war" between the Anglophile Northeast who wanted tariffs to protect their manufacturing and the Southern Francophiles who were more interested in inexpensive British goods and exporting cotton. This was the beginning of many disputes between the two regions. The treaty funding vote tie of 49 to 49 was surprisingly broken by Republican Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania.  He chaired a Committee of the Whole. He committed political suicide by voting for the funding and against the wishes of his German American constituents who hated England. After the vote, Frederick was stabbed by his German-American brother-in-law Edward Livingston of New York. He demanded Washington hand over all  treaty bargaining documents. Limited access was granted and Washington said the only way to get unlimited access was impeachment. Think Beginning of Executive privilege. Can you believe some yearn for the good old days of our Founding Fathers?


Washington was very unhappy with the verbal political war between people with presidential aspirations; especially Hamilton and Jefferson whose dislike for each other approached paranoia. Hamilton felt a weak central government would not fulfill his dreams of Manifest Destiny. He feared French invasion after their 1789 revolution because it would have southern support. Jefferson felt a strong central government that would end his Southern based rural South well described by "Gone with the Wind."

Of the nine presidents who owned slaves, only Washington eventually freed his many slaves. He used devious means to aviod slave freedom while President living in Philadelphia by shipping slaves home to avoid freedom by Pennsylvania law. Washington freed them upon the death of Martha Washington. See Oney Judge and George Washington's Prophetic Farewell Address

1 From the 2007 first edition
2. Table, column and row titles, and name abbreviations are by W. Antoniotti
3. Editor's addition  4. Editor's Note: Washington's fears of political though logical were avoided as US Undergoes the First Peaceful 1800Transfer of a Democratic System from Turning Points in American History Notes from A Great Course audio by E. O'Donnell

4. Help in keeping track of presidential elections, they happen on even numbered decades as Lincoln was elected in 1860, Kennedy, 1960. 
For more on Washington see
Don't Know Much About History Chapter 3 For Growth of a Nation from the Creation of the Constitution to Manifest Destiny See Meacham's Thomas Jefferson. PART VII reviewing Jefferson as opposition to the Federalists of Hamilton and Adams.

What he lacked in formal schooling, George Washington made up for in physical strength, skill, and ambition. He took part in almost every sport of his day archery, foxhunting, swimming, wrestling, dancing - and he was also something of a pool shark." Source

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4. Presidential Elections 1896-1928
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Turning Points in American History
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Meet the author/editor Walter Antoniotti