Playtest: 1797-1798

Below is the continuation of William Outzen’s write-up of the current playtest. We are nearing the end of the 18th century:

1797-1798

Following his election loss, former President Lee announced that he would be retiring from public life, and returned to his residence in Virginia. French Ambassador Thomas Jefferson also retired. He had lived a life of thwarted ambition, and had failed in almost everything he turned his mind to. 

With an overwhelming lead in both Houses of Congress, the Red Party met together to decide their leadership. They wanted a vote without any drama to ensure the country of stability and unity. They nominated:

Speaker of the House: Samuel W Dana

House Majority Leader: Theodore Sedgewick

House Majority Whip: William Hooper

Senate Majority Leader: Thomas McKean

Senate Majority Whip: Henry Latimer

The Blue Party was less organized, but desired a clean and swift vote. The memory of the previous row two years ago still rankled party leadership. They nominated:

Senate Minority Leader: Thomas Stone

Senate Minority Whip: Aaron Burr

House Minority Leader: David Bard, Walter Folger Jr

House Minority Whip: Robert Brown

Bard once again declined to run for a leadership position, essentially giving the position to Folger Jr. 

Red Party leadership was elected unanimously by the caucus. After a bit of wrangling, the Blue Party leadership was elected.

With Congress in place, President Butler turned to his cabinet. He nominated:

Secretary of State: Robert Treat Paine

Secretary of the Treasury: Edmund Randolph

Secretary of War: James McHenry

Secretary of the Navy: William Franklin

Postmaster General: Charles Pinckney

Attorney General: Jonathan O Mosley

Butler refused to let Paine nominate his own ambassadors, choosing his own:

Ambassador to France: Benjamin Stoddert

Ambassador to Spain: Timothy Pickering

Ambassador to the UK: Benjamin Rush

Finally, he named former President Benedict Arnold as his Key Advisor, a move that was derided in some circles, but praised in others.

In a blow to the Blue Party, Maryland Governor William Paca passed away. He had become known for his moves to shore up the Blue Party politically in the state, where he packed the courts with judges who would uphold the Blue Party positions, and drew congressional districts to ensure only Blue Party politicians would be elected. These actions drew widespread interest, where they became known as ‘Pacaing the Courts’ and ‘Pacamandering’ respectively. While his legislative achievements would be forgotten, Paca had left a defining legacy behind.

Elias Boudinot, after taking control of the Blue Party, moved to turn the party into an agrarian movement. He pushed for the party to embrace the tenants of Limited Government. Spain meanwhile announced that they would be limiting foreign business activities in New Orleans, hurting American merchants. In addition, President Butler was pleased to learn that cotton had become the new cash crop for the young nation, generating more wealth for him. The largest slave owner in the nation, his profits skyrocketed. President Butler also announced that he would be recharting the National Bank when its charter expired. 

Outside the Government, the situation Pierce Butler had inherited remained dire. While his country was no longer wracked by violent protests, he still faced almost daily demonstrations from the populace. However, Attorney General Jonathan Mosely proved unpopular and ineffective, driving the populace right back to violence. Butler’s Secretaries of War and the Navy proved no better: under their tenure, military preparedness was nonexistent, rendering the military almost incapable of winning the war in the Northwest. The one bright spot was Paine’s success as Secretary of State. Personal visits to both France and Spain improved relations, and kept them from declaring war. 

Two Supreme Court cases were heard. The first was Chisholm vs. Georgia, which asked whether the Constitution prevented States from exercising sovereign immunity. The second was Hylton vs. United States, which asked whether a tax on the possession of goods is a direct tax and therefore should be apportioned among the states according to their populations.In Chisholm, the Supreme Court majority said that yes, the Constitution prevented States from exercising sovereign immunity, and in Hylton concluded that the tax did not need to be apportioned among the states. 

Ambassador Pickering was successful in his work in Spain, raising Spanish opinion of the United States. That was a lone bright spot as yet another military defeat faced the country’s military. General Kosciuszko was once again defeated by the Native Americans. Butler, knowing that the war was quickly becoming unmanageable, fired the General, replacing him with Henry Knox. With Henry Knox now planning the military campaigns, the military was put into a position to win. Under the command of General Richard Taylor, the United States army finally won a decisive victory over the Natives, decimating their forces. With the Natives no longer able to pose a threat to expansion, President Butler declared victory, announcing that the national nightmare was over. The flagging political fortunes of the administration were partially reversed by this, as the populace supported the Commander-in-Chief.

With the war over, the government turned to legislative matters. Secretary of State Robert Treat Paine set to work negotiating the Greenville Treaty, which would formally end the Northwest Indian War. After presenting his results to President Butler, Butler gave his stamp of approval, and urged Congress to pass it quickly. Senator Oliver Ellsworth took up the call and proposed it to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congress deliberated and eventually pulled together eight packages for consideration:

Package One: Federal Excise Tax on Carriages and a Federal Direct Tax on Slaves

Package Two: a Federal Direct Tax Amendment

Package Three: Repeal the UK immigration ban, declare the crime of piracy on the high seas punishable by death, and change the naturalization period to two years

Package Four: Create the Smithsonian Institute

Package Five: Repeal the death penalty and remove all religious barriers to immigration

Package Six: amend the constitution so Presidents and Vice-Presidents are elected on a party ticket

Package Seven: Limit the current President’s ability to wage war without Congressional approval

Package Eight: Approve the Greenville Treaty and gaining access to Indiana and Ohio

Most of the packages were met with almost complete support, with only Package Seven being defeated. The amendments were sent to the states, where they both passed. From now on, Presidents would be elected on party tickets, preventing opponents from ever becoming President and Vice-President at the same time.

As a result of Package Three, the quality of life of Americans went up, as piracy decreased around American shores. The ratification of the Greenville Treaty gave the United States access to two more regions of North America, and settlers began looking westward. However, the implementation of this treaty was a disaster. Secretary of State Robert Treat Paine and Secretary of War James McHenry failed to work together, driving Paine to resign. This was an embarrassment to the administration.

President Butler, in his annual address, pressured Congress to increase the military budget. The military needed to continue to build, he stated, and Congress was being derelict in their duties. He then traveled to Massachusetts, where he gave a speech to build up spirits as the economy remained depressed.

The midterm elections proved fortunate for President Butler. While a few Governorships switched hands, the overall balance remained the same. In the House, the Boudinot Republicans gained four seats, but did not recapture the majority. In the most surprising race of the election, both the Minority Leader and Majority Leader were knocked off by political newcomer John Chandler. 

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