Joshua Coit, American Federalist, 1758-1798

Joshua Coit, American Federalist, 1758-1798

Joshua Coit, American Federalist, 1758-1798

Joshua Coit, American Federalist, 1758-1798

Excerpt

The United States in 1793 presented to Europe the picture of an immature, divided, sprawling republic whose weakness and indisposition to provide for its own defense invited intrigue if not aggression. Pre-democratic in the meaning of the "democracy" that was sensationalized by the Jacobin Club in France, the Americans were governed by an informal oligarchy of mercantile and landed gentry which included the clergy of the leading churches and successful members of the legal and medical professions. Upper officialdom on federal and state levels, together with veteran officers of the recent army of the War of Independence, also belonged to this ruling element. Unfortunately, this oligarchy was divided into bitterly hostile factions over the merits of a mercantile versus an agricultural policy and over whether or not to observe the provisions of the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance of 1778. Implementation of the treaty would have drawn the United States at once into the spreading War of the First Coalition against the French Republic and its allies upon the side of the latter, whose sea power was inadequate to defend either its own commerce or that of the United States from the powerful navy of Great Britain.

Despite the great name and presidential leadership of George Washington, the spreading fires of political warfare on national and state levels threatened to undermine the unity that he had achieved during 1787-1789 in the creation of the Federal Union with the aid of the patriot party of the Revolution. The swift dissolution of the one-party régime that he had established was preparing turbulently for the two-party alignment which has characterized the . . .

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