Establshing a New Nation and the First Four Presidents

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

Time Line


1788 George Washington elected president
1791 Bank of the United States

Whiskey Rebellion

Battle of Fallen Timbers

Jay’s Treaty

1795 Pinckney’s Treaty
1796 John Adams elected president

XYZ Affair

Alien and Sedition Acts

Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

1800 Thomas Jefferson elected president

Marbury v. Madison

Louisiana Purchase

1804-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition
1807 Embargo Act


Establishing a New Nation

The first 25 years of the new nation were tumultuous. Many obstacles and challenges arose, some of which the framers of the Constitution had foreseen, others of which were unanticipated. During the first four presidential administrations, the nation began to take shape.

George Washington set a precedent for the isolationism that was to characterize American foreign policy for many decades afterward. Washington refused to involve the United States in the French Revolution, and upon leaving office in 1796, he warned his successors to avoid getting involved in foreign wars.

John Adams was the first president to represent a political party. He was the candidate of the Federalists, who believed in strong central government rather than government dominated by the states. Adams struggled successfully to maintain peace with France, at the cost of signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. Many people believed that these acts were unconstitutional because they infringed on individual liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Kentucky and Virginia passed resolutions declaring that states did not have to obey unconstitutional laws.

Thomas Jefferson became president in 1800; he doubled the size of the United States by purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France. Under Jefferson, the Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review, which gave the Court the right to decide whether a law was unconstitutional and, if so, to strike it down.

Under James Madison, war broke out between the American Indians and the United States. The U.S. troops defeated the Native-American confederation at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Soon after, the United States was plunged into war again, this time with Britain. In late 1814, the Treaty of Ghent ended the war, establishing an alliance with Britain that has continued uninterrupted to the present day.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Establishing a New Nation and the First Four Presidents Practice Test

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