18th Century


By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS



  • July 2, 1788: New Hampshire notifies the Continental Congress it had ratified the constitution, and Congress began making decisions about the new government
  • September 13, 1788: Continental Congress approves a timeline to install the new government
  • December 15, 1788-January 10, 1789: Election days for electors
  • January 7, 1789: Presidential Electors pledged to George Washington are elected throughout the nation.
  • February 4, 1789: The Presidential Electors meet in the various state capitals to cast the electoral vote
  • February 8, 1789: Messengers left their various states on to present their certificates of vote to be read by the first Congress
  • March 4, 1789: Appointed day to have state votes read in Congress however, neither the House nor the Senate had a quorum.
  • March 4, 1789: Original Inauguration day, however, the electoral votes had not yet been counted, only eight of the 22 Senators and 18 of the 59 Representatives  were present
  • April 5, 1789: First day there was a quorum to count the electoral votes. Washington wins the Presidency with a unanimous vote, John Adams elected Vice President
  • April 6, 1789: Senate ratifies the election; a quorum assembles in both houses and a joint session of congress to count the votes. John Langdon presides in the U.S. Senate chamber.


  • April 30, 1789: “George Washington inaugurated as the first President of the United States in New York City, the nation’s capital.”
  • July 4, 1789: “Congress, led by Representative James Madison, enacts the first protective tariff. Madison consulted with President Washington about the need for the measure.”
  • July 16, 1790: “President Washington signs a bill into law that permanently places the nation’s capital along the Potomac River, in an area to be called the District of Columbia.”
  • June 20, 1790: Assumption Act passes. Federal government takes over responsibility for each state’s revolutionary debts.
  • August 4, 1790: “President Washington signs a bill into law that directed the federal government to assume the Revolutionary War debts of the states.”
  • December 6, 1790: “The United States Capital officially moves from New York to Philadelphia, where it remains until the completion of the District of Columbia in 1800.”
  • December 13, 1790: “Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, with President Washington’s support, sends Congress a controversial message (The Report on a National Bank) calling for the creation of an official Bank of the United States. After a hard-won approval by Congress, Washington signs the bill on February 25, 1791.”
  • September 9, 1791: “Commissioners name the territory within the District of Columbia (and the future seat of the Federal Government) the city of Washington in honor of the nation’s first President.”
  • December 15, 1791: “The states officially ratify the first ten amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights. President Washington had called for their ratification in his first inaugural address.”
  • February 21, 1792: Congress passes Presidential Succession Act of 1792; President, Vice President, President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, and then Speaker of the U.S. House.
  • March 1792: Law of March 1792 goes into law, it defines voting procedures and mandates the electoral vote on first Wednesday in December.
  • October 13, 1792: “The cornerstone for the President’s mansion is laid in Washington D.C.”
  • October 16, 1792: Anti-administration leaders meet in Philadelphia with delegates from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina, they support both Washington and Clinton for the ticket.
  • October 16, 1792: Republicans in New York tried to get Governor George Clinton on the ticket, rather than Aaron Burr; they propose this to the anti-administration leaders in Virginia, who did not want Burr on the ticket or Clinton that much, but they wanted New York’s 12 Electoral votes, and agree to Clinton.
  • Early November 1792: Six states with popular election of the Presidential Electors vote.
  • December 5, 1792: Presidential Electors cast their votes in their state capitals.
  • February 13, 1793: A joint session of Congress meets and counts the Electoral votes Washington reelected President, John Adams reelected Vice President.


  • April 22, 1793: Washington issues his Proclamation of Neutrality. When war broke between Great Britain and revolutionary France, the proclamation issue divides the new emerging Federalists who sympathize with Great Britain and the anti-Federalists, whose sympathies are with France
  • Fall, 1793: “American relations with Britain begin to deteriorate rapidly after the British government issues secret orders for the Royal Navy to confiscate any vessels trading with French possessions in the Caribbean. The Royal Navy seizes more than 200 American ships.”
  • December 31, 1793: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson resigns because of the Proclamation of Neutrality. Washington appoints Edmund Randolph to succeed Jefferson.
  • March 1794: “Congress responds to British aggression by authorizing the production of six warships (March 11) and announcing a sixty-day embargo on American shipping (March 26). The Washington administration supports both measures.”
  • August 1794: Whiskey Rebellion, Monongahela Valley, Western, Pennsylvania  settlers protest against a federal tax on liquor and distilled drinks.
  • August 7, 1794: “President Washington issues a proclamation ordering the insurgents to return home. When this fails, he calls up more than 12,000 militiamen and dispatches them to Pennsylvania, whereupon the insurrection dissolves.”
  • 1794-1795: Anti-Federalists break with Washington after the Whiskey Rebellion.
  • 1794: Anti-Federalists gain control of the House of Representative during the mid-term elections.
  • November 19, 1794: “John Jay concludes a treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation with Britain, known as the Jay Treaty. Democrat-Republicans, and the American public in general, attack the treaty mercilessly as a betrayal of American interests, opening a fierce partisan political debate.”
  • June 24, 1795. The Anti-Federalists oppose Jay’s Treaty. The U.S. Senate narrowly passes Jay’s Treaty. Secretary of State Edmund Randolph tries to undermine Jay Treaty’s passage and is subsequently dismissed.
  • August 14, 1795: President Washington signs Jay’s Treaty into law.
  • January 31, 1795: “Alexander Hamilton resigns from his post as secretary of the treasury. Washington appoints Oliver Wolcott to replace Hamilton.”
  • October 27, 1795: “The United States signs the Treaty of San Lorenzo with Spain, granting Americans the right to ship goods through the port of New Orleans without having to pay duties to the Spanish Government.”
  • March 15, 1796: The Senate unanimously approves the Treaty of San Lorenzo; Thomas Pinckney’s treaty with Spain establishing the border between Georgia and Florida. The public considers Pickney a hero for arranging the treaty according to Washington’s wishes
  • March- April, 1796: “A heated dispute erupts between President Washington and his Federalist allies and Democrat-Republicans in the House of Representatives after the latter demand that the President provide Congress with all papers relating to the Jay Treaty. Washington refuses their demands.”
  • July, 1796: “France informs James Monroe, America’s leading diplomat in Paris, that the Jay Treaty violates, and therefore suspends, certain provisions of the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the two nations. This begins a serious diplomatic crisis between France and the United States.:
  • September 19, 1796: Washington issues his Farewell Address, and announces his intentions not to be considered/run for a third term. He wants Americans to reject factionalism, parties and foreign alliances.
  • 1796: Thomas Jefferson remains at Monticello, John Adams remain at Peacefield throughout the campaign
  • 1796: Aaron Burr spends six weeks touring the New England states boosting his own candidacy
  • 1796: Because the original Constitutional scheme did not differentiate a vote for President and Vice President, Hamilton tried to get Southern electors committed to an Adams-Pinckney ticket to throw away some Adams votes, so that Pinckney would get more votes than Adams and become President rather than Vice President.
  • Late October 1796, Pierre Adet, the French minister to the United States, campaigns against Adams and denounces the Federalists foreign policy and position towards France, and announces that French-American relations would improve if Jefferson were President. The Republicans tried to distance themselves from Adet’s comment, but the Federalists are outraged and used it as an opportunity to tangibly link Jefferson to French sympathies
  • November 1796: With the electors free to vote for any candidate, the electioneering intensifies
  • 1796: Some New England Federalist electors did not hear of the plot Hamilton’s plan to get Pickney elected President and did not vote for him after they voted for Adams so Pinckney would have fewer votes.
  • December 7, 1796: Presidential Electors meet and cast the electoral votes.
  • December 1796: “John Adams is elected President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson, the candidate with the second highest electoral vote, becomes vice president.”
  • February 8, 1797: A joint session of Congress counts the Electoral vote in the U.S. House chamber in Philadelphia. John Adams a Federalist is elected President, Thomas Jefferson a Democratic Republican is elected Vice President.
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