Where US Politics Came From: Crash Course US History #9

Hi, I’m John Green, and this is Crash Course U.S. History, and now that we have a Constitution, it’s actually United States history. Today we’re going to look at the birth of
America’s pastime. No, Stan, not baseball.
Not football. Not eating. I mean politics, which in America has been adversarial since its very beginnings, despite what the founders wanted. [Theme Music] We looked at the first big conflict in American politics last week: Constitution or Articles of Confederation? I hope that I convinced you we made the correct choice, but regardless, we made it; the constitution passed. But immediately following the passage of the constitution a pretty fundamental conflict came up: what kind of a country should we be? Mr Green, Mr Green! The US is supposed to be the policeman of the world and keep the people in the green parts of Not-America from hurting themselves. Oh, Me From The Past, we don’t get into
that stuff until 1823. [Patriotic Rock Music] So, one vision of America was put forward by Alexander Hamilton, who’d served in the war as Washington’s top aide and would go on to be his first Secretary of the Treasury and probably would have been President himself,
had he not been born in the British West Indies. Hamilton had a strong personality, and as you can see, the beautiful wavy hair of a Caribbean god, and he had very definite ideas about what he wanted the future of America to look like: First, Hamilton wanted the country to be mercantile, which means that he believed that we should be deeply involved in world trade. Second, he wanted the U.S. to be a manufacturing
powerhouse. We wouldn’t just buy and sell stuff; we
would make it too. He even invested in a plan to make Patterson, New Jersey, a manufacturing hub, which of course ultimately failed, because New Jersey. But to make a manufacturing giant, he needed a strong government that could build infrastructure and protect patents. But you already knew that he was in favor of a strong government because, of course, he wrote so many of the Federalist Papers. Hamilton also envisioned an America that was
governed primarily by the elite. His party, which came to be known as the Federalist Party, would be the one of “the rich, the able and the well-born.” I mean, just think if the federalist party had survived, we might have had a bunch of like, Bushes and Kennedys as president. Hamilton wanted America to be firmly affiliated
with Great Britain. Which isn’t surprising, given his passion
for elitism and trade. But there was an opposing view of what America should look like, and it is most associated with Thomas Jefferson. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Jefferson wanted an America that was predominantly agrarian, with most people being small scale subsistence level farmers. Maybe they would produce a little surplus for local markets, but certainly not for international consumers. There would be no international trade. And he didn’t want manufacturing either. This small scale local economy could best
be served by a small scale, local government. It’s not a surprise to find that Jefferson’s sympathies lay with the anti-federalists, even though he benefited from the new constitution a little bit, since he eventually got to be president and everything. Unlike the elitist Hamilton, Jefferson was an avowed democrat, which meant that he distrusted concentrated power and privilege and believed that the masses could basically govern themselves. To him, government and concentrated economic power were greater threats to liberty than a tyrannical majority. Jefferson was a big fan of the French, and not only because he spent a fair amount of time in Paris as our ambassador there. He also liked the French because they fought with us in the war of independence against the British. And because, after 1789, he liked the way the French treated their aristocrats – that is, brutally. In general, Jefferson and his partisans who
called themselves Republicans (although some current textbooks call them Democratic-Republicans just to make things incredibly confusing) preferred France just as the Hamiltonians
preferred Britain. And this was a bit of a problem since France and England were pretty much constantly at war between 1740 and 1815. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So linked to these imagined Americas were the questions of how democratic we should be and how much free speech we should have. Jefferson and the Republicans wanted more
democracy and more free speech, well, sort of I mean, during Washington’s presidency, Democratic-Republican Societies sprang up, the first opposition political parties. And in 1794, the Democratic-Republican society of Pennsylvania published an address which made the point that, “Freedom of thought, and a free communication of opinions by speech or through the medium of the press, are the safeguards of our Liberties.” The Federalists on the other hand saw too
much free speech and democracy as a threat. And from this it sounds like the Republicans were “better democrats”, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. I mean, for one thing many Republicans, including Thomas Jefferson, were slaveholders, and slavery is kind of the opposite of Democracy. And for another, many were supporters of the French Revolution, and supporting the French Revolution after 1793 is pretty problematic. Because as you’ll remember from Crash Course World History, Robespierre was guillotining everyone, up until the point where he himself was guillotined. OK, so in the first real American presidential
election there weren’t any political parties. There wasn’t even a campaign. The election was uncontested and George Washington
won. He didn’t even have to run for office; he
stood for it. Washington’s presidency is important for a number of precedents that he set, including the notion that a president should only serve two terms and the idea that even if he was a general the president should wear civilian clothing. But he wasn’t the real policy brains.
Hamilton was. Washington probably wouldn’t have called himself a Federalist, but he backed Hamilton’s plan for a stronger nation. And to that end, Hamilton began the great
American tradition of having a 5 point plan: Point 1: Establish the nation’s credit-worthiness. Hamilton realized that if the new nation wanted to be taken seriously it had to pay off its debts, most of which had come during the war. And to do this Hamilton proposed that the U.S. government assume the debts that the states had amassed. Point 2: Create a national debt. That’s something you don’t hear politicians
say these days. Hamilton wanted to create new interest bearing bonds, hoping to give the rich people a stake in our nation’s success. Point 3: Create a Bank of the United States. This bank would be private and it would turn a profit for its shareholders but it would hold public funds and issue notes that would circulate as currency. And the bank would definitely be needed to house all
the money that was expected to be raised from: Point 4: A Whiskey tax. Then, as now, Americans liked to drink. And one sure way to raise money was to set an excise tax on whiskey, which might reduce drinking on the margins or cause people to switch to beer. But what it would definitely do is hurt small farmers, who found the most profitable use of their grain was to distill it into sweet, sweet whiskey. So the Whiskey Tax really upset small farmers,
as we will see in a moment. Point 5: Encourage domestic industrial manufacturing
by imposing a tariff. For those of you who think that the U.S. was
founded on free trade principles, think again. Now you will remember that the Republicans wanted an agrarian republic with freer trade, so they disliked pretty much all of Hamilton’s plan. They also argued that none of this was in
the Constitution, and they were right. This position of expecting government to be limited by the text of the constitution came to be known as strict construction. But the Republicans lacked a five point plan of their own, so their only hope of success was to shave Hamilton’s five point plan down to four points, which is what they did. In 1790, many of the Republicans, who were
Southerners like Jefferson, struck a bargain. They agreed to points 1-4 of Hamilton’s plan in
exchange for a permanent capital on the Potomac (in the South as opposed to the first two temporary capitals of the US in New York and Philadelphia). So the Hamiltonian economy won out.
For a while. Probably the most immediately controversial aspect of Hamilton’s program was the whiskey tax, and not just because people loved to drink. But also because farmers love to turn their
rye into whiskey, into profits. In 1794, western Pennsylvania farmers even took up arms to protest the tax, and that clearly could not stand. Washington actually led (at least for part of the way) a force of 13,000 men to put down this Whiskey Rebellion, becoming the only sitting president to lead troops in the field, and America continued to tax booze, as it
does to this day. On the subject of foreign affairs, there was
much more agreement. Just kidding. Hamilton wanted the U.S. to have close ties to Britain for commercial reasons, but Britain was perpetually at war with France, which whom the U.S. technically had a perpetual alliance. You know, because they helped us with the American Revolution, they gave us the Statue of Liberty, and Marion Cotillard, etc. And the French revolution made things even more complicated, because Republicans liked it but Federalists, being somewhat conservative and elitist, were afraid of it. This was especially true when French emissary Citizen Genet showed up in 1793 and started hiring American ships to attack British ones. Britain in response began impressing American
sailors, which sounds fun, but it isn’t. It doesn’t mean the British sailors wowed Americans with their awesome mermaid tattoos, it means they kidnapped them and forced them to serve in the British navy. Washington dispatched secretary of state John Jay to deal with the impressment issue and he negotiated the boringly named Jay Treaty, which improved trade relations between the U.S. and Britain and said absolutely nothing about impressment or American shipping rights. For the rest of his term, Washington just tried to ignore the problem, thereby inaugurating another presidential tradition: kicking big foreign policy problems down the
line for future presidents. By the end of his presidency, George Washington
was somewhat disillusioned by politics. His famous call for unity said that “with slight shades of difference, you Americans have the same religion, manners, habits and political principles,” Washington warned against the “baneful effects
of the spirit of party generally,” saying that “it agitates the community with
ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against
another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and
corruption.” Still, by the time the diminutive John Adams took over as the second president, Americans had already divided themselves into two groups: elitist Federalist and Republicans who stood
for freedom and equality and… Oh, It’s time for the Mystery Document? The rules here are simple: I guess the author
of the mystery document. If am right, I do not get shocked; if I am
wrong, I do get shocked. All right, let’s give it a go. “Yes, ye lordly, ye haughty sex, our souls are by nature equal to yours; the same breath of God animates, enlivens, and invigorates us; Were we to grant that animal strength proved any thing, taking into consideration the accustomed impartiality of nature, we should be induced to imagine, that she had invested the female mind with superior strength as an equivalent for the bodily powers of man. But waiving this however palpable advantage,
for equality only we wish to contend.” So the author of the Mystery Document is a
badass woman. So we have here an argument, and a bit of a snarky
one, for equality between men and women. All right, I can do this. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is too young, also,
probably not funny enough. Ahhh, bleergh. Stan, my official guess is Sarah Grimké. [buzzing sound] [groaning]
JUDITH SARGENT MURRAY? [groan] Well, you know, as part of the
patriarchy I probably deserve this anyway. So Judith Sargent Murray reminds us that once unleashed, ideas like liberty and equality spread to places where neither the male Federalists nor the male Republicans wanted them to go. But back to Adams: his election in 1796 exposed
a big flaw in our electoral system. Because the vice presidency went to whomever had the second highest total number of electoral votes, and that person happened to be Thomas Jefferson, we ended up with a situation where the president and the vice president were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, which was not good. So they changed the constitution, but not until after
the next election which featured another screw up. We are awesome at this. Side note: The electoral college system would continue to misrepresent the will of the American voters, most notably in 1876, 1888, and 2000, but also in every election. Domestically, Adams continued Hamilton’s policies, but Adams’ presidency is best known for foreign problems, especially the way Adams’ administration
totally overreacted to problems with France. Because we were trying to maintain good commercial relationships with England, and England was perpetually at war with France, France ended up in a “quasi-war” with the United States despite our eternal alliance. They disrupted our shipping; we felt nervous
about their increasingly violent revolution. And then, after 3 French emissaries tried to extort a bribe from the U.S. government as part of negotiations – the so called “X, Y, Z affair” because we didn’t want to give the names of these bribe-seeking French scoundrels – the American public turned against France,
somewhat hysterically, as it will. Taking advantage of the hysteria, Adams pushed
through the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Act lengthened the period of time it took to become a citizen, and the Sedition Act made it a crime to criticize the government. Among the more famous people prosecuted under the Sedition Act was Matthew Lyon, a Congressman from Vermont who was jailed for saying that John Adams was maybe not the best president ever. And while in jail, Lyon won reelection to Congress, which might indicate just how popular this law wasn’t. It was so unpopular that Virginia and Kentucky’s
legislatures passed resolutions against it, claiming that it violated Americans’ liberties and that state legislatures had the power to overturn or nullify any federal law that they found to violate the constitution. This whole business of nullification and states
rights? It will return. The Alien and Sedition acts were allowed to lapse under Jefferson, and they didn’t lead to widespread arrests of everyone who called Adams a tyrant or expressed admiration for the French Revolution. And even though they weren’t popular, they didn’t doom the Federalist party either, even though no Federalist was elected president after Adams. But the Alien and Sedition Acts and the response to them from Virginia and Kentucky are important, because they show us how unsettled American politics were in the first decade of this country’s existence. Even something as basic as freedom of speech was up for grabs as America tried to figure out what kind of country it was going to be. That’s important to think about when studying American history, but it’s also important to think about when looking at new democracies. You might think that Thomas Jefferson winning the presidential election of 1800 settled all this stuff, but it wasn’t so simple. It never is, really. Thanks for watching.
I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan
Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history
teacher Raoul Meyer and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café. If you have questions about today’s video,
particularly if they’re actual questions, and not passive-aggressive attempts to impose your ideology upon other people, leave them in comments, where they will be answered by our team of historians. We’re also accepting your submissions for
Libertage captions. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we
say in my hometown, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

About the author


  1. 3:03 You think I'm frightened of you, man? We almost died in a trench, while you were off getting high with the French!

  2. 11:24 Welcome, folks, to the ADAMS ADMINISTRATION!
    Jefferson's the runner up, which makes him the vice president.
    Washington can't help you now, no more Mr. Nice President.

  3. I know I'm a little late to the game, but I'm a high school drop out who's always loved knowledge except when his teachers were trying to share it with him. I found a few lecturers really interesting when I was in school but I never cared for the part where i was expected to read stuff then answer questions and receive a grade. I come from an IV league family and they were really stoked about this. I've now watched Crash Course World History 1 and 2 and have started on US History. This puts compendium of the human story into a succinct, quasi linear, and thought provoking enough narrative that I feel I can begin studying history more in depth on my own with out getting lost, and I have. It's not like I haven't tried to educate myself with documentaries and visits to museums and online texts, or my favorite; the inaccurate Hollywood movie, but the fast pace and sparkly attractive colors of Thought Bubble are just my speed.Thanks guys! Also Mr. Green you're one of the only Humans I've ever encountered that can so easily and warmly smile without actually using his mouth in said facial activity. It took me till this episode to notice you do that. You smile with your whole face, sans your mouth. How does that happen? Also your good at history. Just wanted to say thank you!

  4. First of all the amount of fandom comments is awesome second of all when John says "and the wavy hair of a Caribbean god." I just imagine eliza standing there like " take my man… I dare you."

  5. What the Federalist and the Democrats and Republicans feelings about slavery and where did most of there people come from

  6. Since, astonishingly, no-one realized this, I guess I'll be the one to bring it up…

    Screaming Goat at 2:18

  7. Hamilton could've run for president even though he wasn't born in Us because he was a Citizen when the Constitution was ratified, "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President"

  8. Sure Washington followed Hamilton's plan for earning money, but the idea of federalism wasn't just Hamilton's idea, it was Madison and Jay's too, so saying that actually, Hamilton had the presidency is absurd, and Washington wasn't as polarized as Hamilton. Stop teaching one-sided history!

  9. For all u Hamilton connoisseurs I want to make you jealous so, just for your information I saw Hamilton I was in the first row I got a tour backstage and I’m meet the cast. Just thought I would let y’all know😎

  10. Commentary on the electoral college misrepresenting the will of the people is so stupid. Green doesn't understand history as much as he pretends to.

  11. Hamilton was eligible to be US President despite being born in the Caribbean – by virtue of being a citizen when the US was created.

  12. I like the fact that all he explained in this video is something my 8th grade history teacher took a month to do. Everything makes sense now

  13. I hope your able to do a crash course on the election of 1800. I feel it may be useful to further understand issues early america had

  14. Actually, I thought Hamilton's birthplace wasn't the problem, the problem was he was busy doing other things and then died to Burr, so he never got the chance to be president? After all, Martin Van Buren was the first president born IN America…But did you still have to be an English citizen before the Revolution?

  15. Washington to Jefferson and Hamilton: I’m going out for a bit y’all better not start any parties while I’m gone.
    Jeff/Ham: how ‘bout I do it anyway!

  16. "and Republicans, who stood for freedom, equality, and… oh it's time for the mystery document" Thank you for that wonderful line John Green.

  17. When Britain taxed our tea we got frisky

    Imagine what's gonna happen when you try to tax our whiskey

  18. The fact that they use Trump as a thought bubble character when talking about the kinds of presidents Hamilton wanted was super eerie considering this was made in 2013

  19. Actually, Hamilton could have been president.
    The united states Constitution Article II, Section 1, specifies:

    No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

    The Constitution was formed in 1787, and Hamilton arrived in America in 1773. He also served as Washington's aide camp and the as the treasury secretary after the Constitution. Hamilton could have legally become president.

  20. There's still 2 us parties. But the UK has a party that wants to change this old way of doing things.

  21. Why was the American Republican Party originally known as The Whigs? (Lincoln joined the Whig Party before it became the Republican Party.) The Whigs was the name given to the English political party which tended to favour change. The name was intended to an insulting, meaning something like a horse thief. The opposing party was known as the Tories. The people who became known as Tories tended to want to keep things the same and subsequently Tory was also intended as an insult. It meant something like Irish papist. (A reference to English religious conflict In times past) The Tories are now known as Conservatives. The Whigs morphed into the Liberals.
    However, just when was the name Whig first used in American politics?
    BTW. It is known Lincoln was impressed by English law and in fact the foundations of American Law are contained in the series of books by William Blackstone known as his “Commentaries on the laws of England”.
    I think John Green overlooks just how much of America is based on English law and precepts. For example Free Speech, America’s constitution Second Amendment(?) comes from England in the 1690s.

  22. Technically Hamilton could've been president had he not been killed by Burr. Article 2 paragraph 5 of the Constitution includes an allowance for people who were US citizens when the Constitution was adopted to become president. Considering nobody was a "natural born citizen" prior to 1789, that seems like a smart addition.

  23. Don’t leave passive aggressive questions, even though I say passive aggressive pro-leftist comments in every single video I make. Got it 👍🏼

  24. Alien and Sedition Acts are one of the top 5 worst laws ever passed in the USA. Weird that so early on the government would commit such a blatant violation of free speech.

  25. Jefferson,in his address to the Kentucky Assembly, was the first person in the US to suggest secession. Dwell on that one!

  26. I enjoy the vast majority of Crash Course content, but the electoral college hate is something I wholeheartedly disagree with.

  27. The patriarchy? I was under the impression we are in a matriarchy. Females control more mens minds then any other party.

  28. I love the electoral college. “A democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for lunch.” – Benjamin Franklin

  29. I failed to hear the part where people are free and the government cant abuse people most of what you said is opposite of freedom and seems to supres the people.

  30. My name is Alexander Hamilton~

    Me going crazy inside of head because of Panic At The Disco
    (Only fans of Panic At The Disco will get this comment)

  31. I would say Jefferson was more of a Libertarian than anything. He was for individual rights and small government. Hamilton was more like today's progressive democrats, the elites like owners of high tech and mass retail sales. Hamilton against free speech and for big government.

  32. John Green- “Hamilton proposed the us government assumed the debts that the”
    Me, a Hamiltrash intellectual- “union gets a new line of credit, a financial diarrhetic, how do you not get it, if we’re aggressive and competitive the union gets a boost you’d rather give it a sedative!!!”

  33. Just for the record, Hamilton absolutely could have been president, according to the Constitution. The president is required to be a natural-born citizen, UNLESS they were an American citizen before the Constitution was ratified. Basically, you had to be born in the US to be president only after the Constitution was enacted. If you were born outside the US before the Consitution was ratified, it was totally possible for you to be president. No, Hamilton didn't ever get the presidency because he was the primary member of the country's first sex scandal. smth smth "never gonna be president now"

  34. Thank goodness for this video! I needed to write an essay on what led to the rise of political parties in the 1790s!!!

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