Founding Brothers

Explain the critics' main charge against Washington and how he contributed to it.

chapter 4

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The biggest complaint about Washington was his Isolationist Policy. This policy was one of Washington's most controversial amongst others of the Revolutionary generation. In 1795, Washington and Chief Justice John Jay brokered a treaty with England that favored English imports and guaranteed payment on pre-revolutionary debts. Though it did compromise American strength, Washington's primary purpose was to avoid a war the country could not afford, and he hoped England would triumph over France. He hoped that favoring that nation would buy America the protection of the British fleet; this proved prophetic, as it happened well into the 19th century in some form or another. However, many of Washington's contemporaries lacked his foresight, and considered Jay's Treaty an act of treason against the principles of the Revolution. It was not only that America compromised its identity - it was that the country did so with its former enemy. Mobs cursed Washington, and demanded war with England. Although the Constitution granted the power to negotiate treaties solely to the executive branch, the House of Representatives was able to veto them. Madison and Jefferson endeavored to negate Jay's Treaty, but Washington's popularity proved superior, and they were unable to find the votes.