Washington, his household, and his administration struggle to deal with an epidemic of yellow fever as it makes its way through the city of Philadelphia, indiscriminately infecting people from all walks of life including a resident at the President’s House. In addition to the loss of life, the epidemic brings up questions about how best to utilize medical knowledge to the public good, the role of the press, the relationship of individuals to their environment, and the ability and role of the government in a crisis management situation. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Content Note: Though not going into graphic detail, I did want to let everyone know upfront that this episode, in discussing slavery, does touch upon the violence associated with slavery including that perpetrated against female enslaved people.
Year(s) Discussed: 1490s-1792
European settlers in the Western Hemisphere began practicing slavery in the lands that they found on the other side of the Atlantic in the late 15th century. In this episode, we examine the institution of slavery in what would become the United States as it developed up to the end of Washington’s first term in office. From its beginnings to its codification, we also look at some of the living conditions of enslaved peoples and early efforts to end the practice of slavery. The episode finishes off with bringing the focus back to Washington and how he approached slavery as he participated in the Constitutional Convention and then took office as president. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Increasingly during the Washington administration, tensions were beginning to build between pro-administration and anti-administration factions which would ultimately culminate in the development of the First Party System. This episode looks at some of the structural and cultural reasons for these divisions as well as some of the early leaders of the two factions including, of course Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
The new government of the United States comes grinding to a halt in the spring and summer of 1790 as Congress reaches an impasse on both Hamilton’s proposed public credit scheme and the decision of where the new government should be permanently located. Ultimately, a decision is reached on both, but how it came about is rather complicated. If you’ve ever heard of the Compromise of 1790, then you’ll want to listen to this episode as there’s more to the story than has been told over the years. Meanwhile, health concerns plague a couple of major American figures, bringing even more uncertainty to an already unstable time. All the big players are in this one – Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Knox, and, of course, Mr. President. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
After a debate over how much authority Washington would exert over its officers, the executive branch begins to take shape. I examine both the original Cabinet members and the departments as they were at the beginning of the constitutional government. Then, as Washington leaves town to take a tour of the New England states, a personal scandal becomes the talk of the town in New York City. Romantic liaisons, conflicts of interest, and strong opinions over postal routes are all to be found in this episode. Source information can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.
Washington’s inauguration, while starting up the wheels of the executive branch, leaves many questions to be answered by the first chief executive and the new government. What titles will be used to address the president? How will he make himself available to the public and to the other branches of government? What does seeking “the Advice and Consent of the Senate” really mean anyway? So much of what we take for granted with the presidency nowadays is established in Washington’s first few months on the job, and these precedents that he established in the early part of his administration are the focus of this episode. Source information for this episode can be found at http://presidencies.blubrry.com.