Playtest: 1799-1800

This is a continuation of William Outzen’s summary of the current playtest.


Hoping to avoid the squabbles that had defined their previous leadership elections, the Boudinot Republicans met quietly and pushed forward a slate:

House Minority Leader: Moses Robinson, John Sevier

House Minority Whip: Robert Brown

Senate Minority Leader: Thomas Stone, Walter Bowie

Senate Minority Whip: Francis Willis

There was some discontent as one branch of the party was left out of leadership, but they bit their tongues and went with the party. Facing another two years in the minority against a popular President led to an increased desire in party unity.

The Red Party had been successful in the past of avoiding conflict and hoped to continue that:

Speaker of the House: Jeremiah Smith, Samuel Dana

House Majority Leader: Samuel Dana, Charles Carrol of Carrolton

House Majority Whip: Robert Barwell

Senate Majority Leader: Thomas McKean

Senate Majority Whip: Henry Latimer

Following the leadership elections, the Republicans turned to selecting a party leader. Boudinot was no longer considered for the role (due to the changing interests of the party and less than stellar gains in the midterms). This turned into a bitter competition as each faction wanted control of the party. Much to his disappointment, in the initial vote Vice-President Daniel Hiester failed to advance, beaten out by James Madision and Joseph Bradley Varnum, a relative newcomer to the political scene. Hoping to end the conflict, support was thrown behind Madison, ensuring he became the party leader.

President Butler now turned to his cabinet. The resignation of Paine prompted him to reshuffle it:

Secretary of State: Richard Bache

Secretary of the Treasury: Benjamin Stoddert

Secretary of the Navy: Edmund Randolph

Attorney General: Timothy Pickering

He decided to keep Secretary McHenry in place in the War Department, and Charles Pinckney in place as Postmaster General. In addition, he reshuffled his ambassador team:

UK: Ambrose Spencer

France: Benjamin Rush

Spain: John Hoskins Stone

Butler had almost unmatched influence in the party, and pushed the Senate Majority Leader to push through his nominations, which sailed through the Senate.  Despite what seemed like an easy victory, in a meeting with President Butler, Bache proclaimed that he did not believe that his body would be able to handle the rigors of the position, and withdrew from consideration. At the same time, two Admirals passed away due to illness, leaving Randolph scrambling to rebuild the leadership. Butler turned to Governor Samuel Osgood to fill the role.

Senator John Davenport announced that he would be resigning abruptly, surprising the Red Party. A few days later the nation learned of his scandal, effectively ending his political career. President Butler also faced calls to remove Senior Admiral Wade Hampton, due to claims of incompetence. Butler, sensing an opportunity to remove a political opponent, fired him angering the Madison Republicans.He promoted Joseph Calhoun in his place. At the same time, a new slave rebellion broke out in New Hampshire, causing the nation’s domestic stability to plummet. Butler condemned the rebellion, and instructed all patriots to resist it.

Butler then received a diplomatic message from the Barbary Pirates. They demanded he pay tribute or his ships would be under constant threat. Despite concerns of having just replaced 3 of his admirals, Butler declared that he would not yield to threats, but defend his country’s honor. And thus war began. Butler also faced a rebellion in Pennsylvania as Dutch farmers rose up against the Government, further eroding domestic stability. Butler instructed the Governors to call up their militias to deal with the threat. Secretary McHenry put forth a good plan, but Secretary Osgood botched its implementation nationally, letting the rebellion survive the initial battle.  In more peaceful news for Butler, France finally ended their Civil war with a new democracy. Butler decided to continue the policy of neutrality, refusing to congratulate or criticize the new government.

Secretary Stoddert informed President Butler that the budget was no longer balanced, a stark contrast to former President Lee. With Butler’s campaign for reelection upcoming, Butler shifted focus to the highly increased economic improvement and the increase in diplomatic relations. This was overshadowed by the horrendous domestic stability, the one issue that Butler had found himself unable to solve. 

New Hampshire Governor John Sullivan, long sympathetic to abolitionists, finally achieved his goal of outlawing Slavery in the state. Using the slave rebellion as his attack point, he rammed it through, becoming the first state in the union to do so. Governors and party leaders also began to react to the new amendment to the Constitution, which provided for party tickets in Presidential elections. In a method to drum up support, and coronate their candidates, the parties adopted what they would come to call Conventions. The first Red Party Convention would be held in Virginia, with Governor Josiah Parker presiding. For the Madison Republicans, Vice-President Hiester successfully pushed for the Convention to be held in Pennsylvania with his cousin Joseph Hiester as the presiding officer.

With a new war to worry about, Butler hoped that his ambassadors would be able to improve relations in their respective countries. Sadly, Ambassador Spencer flopped in the UK, causing yet another diplomatic faux pas. Tensions continued to increase, leading to worries of another war with the British. In Spain, Ambassador Stone successfully negotiated a trade agreement, though it had little impact economically. Unfortunately, his navy was not as successful. Admiral George Muter entered in an engagement with the Barbary pirates, but was utterly crushed. Out maneuvered in enemy waters,  Muter limped away, leaving a trail of wreckage behind. President Butler fired Muter and appointed Peter Ganesvoort in his place. Admiral Daniel Smith also engaged in combat, and while faring better than Muter, failed to win. 

The following legislative session was acrimonious. Madison Republicans were growing increasingly frustrated with the Federalists (as the Red party was increasingly being called). Many felt that they were more focused on obeying Butler than helping the country. The debates in congress often devolved into personal insults and ad hominem attacks. In two years of debates, only five packages made it to the floor for a vote:

Package One: Remove all religious barriers for immigration

Package Two: Tennessee Statehood

Package Three: 14 year residency for naturalization, Increase number of Supreme Court Justices to 6

Package Four: Formally declare war on the Barbary Pirates and increase funding for the war

Package Five: Ban international slave trade

Senator William Jones took to the floor and successfully filibustered Tennessee Statehood, postponing their bid for yet another two years. With the other four packages passing congress, Butler signed them into law and claimed another political victory. 

Using his newfound political capital, Butler pushed for a new Minister to Germany, arguing that their growing importance on the world stage necessitated the position. Butler also announced that he would be continuing his pro-states rights policy. Both of his decisions were met with approval from the public and his political allies. Continuing his streak of victories, Butler announced that he would be nominating Martin Chittenden to fill the newly created seat on the Supreme Court. This pick surprised many, as Chittenden had little legal experience, and was younger than desired. Opponents of the pick objected to his age and political leanings, but in the end confirmed his appointment.

Turning to the Presidential election, the Madison Republicans held their convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hiester hoped to make this his public coronation for President, and worked behind the scenes to get Madison’s support for a third bid. In an effort to play the field, Hiester pushed former Secretary of State James Monroe to run as a favored son candidate in Virginia, hoping to split some of his opposition. Failed Governor nominee John Smith also ran in Virginia, hoping to gain enough delegates to be part of a brokered deal. Senator Aaron Burr decided to quietly make a bid for the New York delegates.

On the first day of the Convention, Revolutionary War hero and New Jersey Governor Joseph Bloomfield took to the floor to endorse Vice-President Hiester. His speech was stirring, painting Hiester as the only man who could win the Presidency and save the nation. His speech, combined with Hiester’s maneuvers to keep other serious candidates from declaring all but won him the nomination. After the first ballot, Hiester commanded 245 of the delegates, giving him 78% of the vote, and the victory. Senator Aaron Burr finished a distant second with 15%, followed by John Smith and James Monroe with 4% and 3% respectively.

The convention then turned to nominating their Vice-President, with James Madison immediately being proposed. It was largely suspected that Madison had agreed not to challenge Hiester at the Convention in exchange for the Vice-Presidency. Hiester’s health had long been rumored to be failing, and the office shored up Madison’s position as the heir apparent. Vice-President Hiester selected John Tyler Sr. to be the keynote speaker for the Convention. Tyler had been rejected for the Supreme Court, largely in part to Daniel Hiester’s campaign against him. In the ensuing years, they had become friends and political allies. Tyler presented Hiester as someone who would heal old wounds, and would put the nation above politics. 

After his public nomination, Hiester’s team published his agenda if he was to be elected: he planned to create a national bankruptcy law, to establish a bureau of Indian Affairs, ban slavery in territories north of the 30-50 parallel, sing legislation establishing Kentucky as a state, increase the military budget, and to resolve each crisis that faced the nation. 

The Federalists held their convention in Richmond, Virginia. President Butler did not face a serious threat to his nomination, though there was some discontent with his administration. Senator George Wythe came to embody this discontent and quietly put together a team to advance his cause. He encouraged General Richard Peters to run as a favorite son candidate. Butler caught wind of this attempt and began to aggressively put together a team to fight back the challenge. He also pushed forward William Franklin to court the New Jersey delegates. Charles Wilson Peale also arranged for a team to support him, propping up former Governor of New Hampshire John Langdon to tie up some delegates. The hope for the challengers was to take away Butler’s first round victory, and draw it out where they could claim some defections.

President Butler and his team were rattled by the amount of animosity he had accrued with members of his own party. What seemed like a sure nomination now was heavily contested. Butler sent former President Benedict Arnold out to the floor for his nomination in a bid to win the support of the delegates. While Butler appeared to be unpopular, Arnold was well respected and admired within the party. Arnold launched into his speech declaring that Butler had lived up to the needs of the nation, and deserved a second term. His speech fell on deaf ears. The delegates were busy trying to get their marching orders from their states, and not even the former President could command their attention. Nathan Hale attempted to support Wythe, but was largely talked over. Peale made a strategic error asking the widow of failed politician John Adams to nominate him. Abigail Adams failed to make a dent, and was shouted off stage, severely damaging Peale’s chances.

President Butler failed to reach 2/3rds on the first ballot, garnering 199 delegates of the necessary 288. Senator Wythe finished with 93, with the rest spread between Peale, Peters, Franklin, and Langdon. Disappointed with his showing and realizing that he would not be able to influence the convention, Langdon withdrew. Peale soon followed, and endorsed President Butler, instructing his supporters to campaign for him. The supporters of William Franklin, sensing an opportunity, began to actively campaign for him, much to the consternation of Butler. Franklin however, announced that he would not be continuing to seek the nomination, and instructed his supporters to support Butler. With the momentum once again shifting to Butler, supporters of Wythe proposed that he would drop his bid for President, in exchange for one of his followers being named Vice-President. Butler agreed, therefore clinching the nomination on the second ballot. 

After much deliberation, President Butler selected Representative and former Vice-President George Washington. This choice pleased both Wythe and long-time members of the Federalist party. Washington remained popular in the party and the nation, and would bridge the gap between the current Federalists and the old guard. He also selected Secretary of State Samuel Osgood to be his keynote speaker, who won acclaim throughout the colonies. For his platform, he planned to give the President Power to call a a National Military draft, to Move the capital to New York, all the President to deport immigrants from hostile nations, set the average tariff rate to 8%, and to establish a minister to Russia. 

Many felt that Butler and Hiester were very similar, and it was only principle that separated the two men. Hiester caught a break as Butler’s platform was not popular amongst members of his party. Surrogates for the two began to campaign in earnest, attempting to win votes in what was becoming a close election. Butler consistently tried to use the power of the Presidency to sway voters discreetly, but had little impact. A few scandals stemming from his plantations convinced many that he might not be the best man for the job, giving Hiester an opportunity. Vice-Presidential nominee James Madison earned support from Virginia, hoping to turn it away from Butler. Unfortunately for Hiester, his campaign was rocked by scandal, and his momentum was halted. In the end, Butler won a narrow victory over Hiester, and became the first President to win reelection. After his third consecutive defeat, Vice-President Hiester announced that he would be retiring from Presidential politics, disappointed that he never could overcome the obstacles.

The Red Party survived in the Gubernatorial and House elections, holding their majorities. The House was exceedingly narrow, with the Red Party only holding a one seat advantage.

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