When Politics Became Bitter: America from 1790 to 1815

Contrary to popular belief, American politics has always been contentious and bitter. In fact, many of the Founding Fathers who were elected to Congress or who served in George Washington’s cabinet distrusted and disliked one another. This course will focus on the important decade of the 1790s, when two competing visions for the new nation divided Washington’s administration and led to the formation of political parties. On one side, Thomas Jefferson and his ally in Congress, James Madison, sought an agrarian paradise that honored a strict interpretation of the Constitution. On the other side, Alexander Hamilton sought a loose interpretation of the Constitution that would allow the building of a financial and industrial powerhouse that could compete in the wider world.

Students will learn about the issues that plagued the Washington administration, as well as the people who played central roles in the bitter atmosphere of the first twenty-five years of the Republic. This includes the presidential administrations of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, all of which dealt with divisive domestic and foreign events that led to the War of 1812.

Live Classes: Mondays, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Student Support: The instructor will be available via email and also via individual face-to-face online conferences.

Materials: All reading materials will be available on the internet. Readings will include first-person accounts and, where applicable, short articles by modern historians.

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