A Yankee President
FOR NEARLY a decade George Washington had been the trump in the Federalist deck. Time and again the aging warrior had been used for party purposes -- first to lend dignity to the movement for federal reform, then to boost ratification of the Constitution, and finally to help a political party, oriented in its favors toward northern merchants, hold on to the reins of power. Federalists everywhere found Washington a useful symbol, but nowhere was he more used, and abused, than in the Chesapeake, where he was best known and most admired. Time and again Federalists tried to smother opposition to their policies by appealing for unity behind the President. Time and again Republicans had to overcome the imputation of assaulting the nation's father. Endlessly they worked on the distinction between Washington the man, virtuous, public-spirited, patriotic, and Washington the administrator, misguided, ill-advised, and intemperate.
The Federalists lost ground steadily in the Chesapeake during the early 1790s, and what popularity they retained was largely traceable to the President himself. Washington's retirement in 1796 was thus a terrible blow, made worse by the fact that his chosen