1783-1815: Government and Politics: Chronology

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1783-1815: Government and Politics: Chronology




  • 15 Mar. The Newburgh Conspiracy ends after Gen. George Washington refuses to support Continental Army officers threatening military action if Congress does not grant back pay and pensions.
  • 8 June Washington sends a circular letter to the states recommending that they give Congress sufficient power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the confederated republic.
  • 8 July The Massachusetts Supreme Court abolishes slavery and declares it a violation of the state constitution.
  • 3 Sept. Great Britain and the United States sign the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War.
  • 7 Oct. The Virginia legislature grants freedom to slaves who served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.



  • 11 Jan. Congress moves from Philadelphia to New York City.
  • 24 Jan. James Madison heads a congressional committee to convince the states to grant Congress more power to regulate commerce, but the effort fails.
  • 24 Feb. Congress appoints John Adams minister to England.
  • 10 Mar. Congress appoints Thomas Jefferson minister to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin.
  • 20 May Congress passes the Land Ordinance of 1785, revamping the system for settling western areas and setting aside land and revenue to support public education.


  • 16 Jan. The Virginia legislature passes Thomas Jeffersons Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, enacting the principles of religious toleration and separation of church and state.
  • 22 Aug. Debt-ridden farmers in western Massachusetts hold a convention in Hampshire County to discuss grievances against the state government and to demand the issuance of paper money.
  • 29 Aug. Armed insurgents led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays begin closing courts in western Massachusetts after the legislature ignores their list of grievances.
  • 11-14 Sept. Delegates from five states meet in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss commercial problems. The Annapolis Convention votes to reconvene in Philadelphia the next year to strengthen congressional authority.


  • 25 Jan. Gen. William Shepherd and one thousand militiamen end Shayss Rebellion by thwarting an attack on the Springfield Arsenal.
  • 25 May Delegates from all the states except Rhode Island begin a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
  • 29 May Edmund Randolph submits the Virginia Plan to the Constitutional Convention, proposing a bicameral legislature based on proportional representation, a national executive and judiciary, and a congressional veto of state laws.
  • 31 May The Constitutional Convention votes that the people should directly elect members of the House of Representatives.
  • 15 June William Paterson presents the New Jersey Plan to the Convention, proposing to retain the unicameral national legislature (with each state having an equal vote) and to expand congressional control over trade and revenue.
  • 11 July The Constitutional Convention votes to count three-fifths of the slave population for taxation and representation purposes.
  • 13 July Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, establishing the Northwest Territory (present-day Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota). The Ordinance defines the steps for the creation and admission of new states and bars slavery in the area.
  • 16 July The Constitutional Convention approves the Great Compromise, granting proportional representation in the House of Representatives and equal state representation in the Senate.
  • 29 Aug. The Convention gives Congress power to pass navigation acts, approves a fugitive slave clause, and forbids Congress from regulating the slave trade before 1808.
  • 17 Sept. The Constitutional Convention ends when all but three delegates sign the Constitution. Power is divided among three branches of the federal government and between the federal and state governments.
  • 7 Dec. Delaware is the first state to ratify the Constitution.
  • 12 Dec. Pennsylvania ratifies the Constitution.
  • 18 Dec. New Jersey ratifies the Constitution.


  • 2 Jan. Georgia ratifies the Constitution.
  • 9 Jan. Connecticut ratifies the Constitution.
  • 6 Feb. Massachusetts narrowly ratifies the Constitution by a vote of 187168.
  • 27 Feb.-26 Mar. Free African Americans, led by Prince Hall, petition the Massachusetts state legislature, protesting the seizure and transportation of freed slaves to the West Indies. The legislature declares the slave trade illegal and votes to compensate the victims.
  • 28 Apr. Maryland ratifies the Constitution.
  • 23 May South Carolina ratifies the Constitution.
  • 21 June New Hampshire is the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. With this ratification the Constitution is declared to be in effect.
  • 25 June Virginia ratifies the Constitution but suggests a Bill of Rights and other amendments.
  • 26 July Despite strong opposition, New York ratifies the Constitution.


  • 4 Feb. Electors unanimously choose George Washington as the first president of the United States. John Adams, who ran a distant second, becomes vice president.
  • 4 Mar. The first Congress to meet under the Constitution convenes in New York City.
  • 15 Apr. John Fenno begins publishing the Federalist newspaper Gazette of the United States in Philadelphia.
  • 23 Apr.-14 May Congress argues over the use of presidential and vice-presidential titles.
  • 30 Apr. George Washington and John Adams are inaugurated as the first president and vice president of the United States.
  • 4 July Congress, led by James Madison, passes the Tariff Act of 1789, creating a source of revenue for the federal government.
  • 20 July Congress passes the Tonnage Act, imposing higher duties on foreign ships and rejecting James Madisons proposal to discriminate only against British ships.
  • 11 Sept. Alexander Hamilton is appointed secretary of the Treasury.
  • 24 Sept. Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1789, creating a federal court system and giving the Supreme Court the right to review the constitutionality of state laws.
  • 25 Sept. Congress, led by James Madison, submits the first ten constitutional amendments (later known as the Bill of Rights) to the states.
  • 26 Sept. John Jay is appointed the first chief justice of the United States.
  • 20 Nov. New Jersey is the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
  • 21 Nov. North Carolina, influenced by the addition of a Bill of Rights, ratifies the Constitution.
  • 26 Nov. President George Washington consults department heads on foreign and military affairs, establishing the practice of regular cabinet meetings.


  • According to the first United States census, the total population is 3, 929, 214, including 697, 624 slaves and 59, 557 free African Americans.
  • 14 Jan. Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton submits his First Report on Public Credit to Congress, recommending that Congress assume the states debts and fund the national debt by issuing interest-bearing securities.
  • 2 Feb. The United State Supreme Court convenes for the first time.
  • 11 Feb. The Society of Friends sends Congress a petition calling for the abolition of the slave trade.
  • 22 Mar. Thomas Jefferson takes the office of secretary of state.
  • 17 Apr. Benjamin Franklin dies in Philadelphia at the age of eighty-four.
  • 29 May Rhode Island becomes the last state of the original thirteen to ratify the Constitution.
  • 1 July Congress approves a site on the Potomac River as the future capital of the United States (Washington, D.C.).
  • 26 July Congress passes Secretary of Treasury Hamiltons program for assuming the states debts.
  • 4 Aug. Congress passes Hamiltons program for funding the national debt.
  • Oct. In a series of battles Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware Indians led by Little Turtle (Mishikinakwa) defeat a U.S. military force under Gen. Josiah Harmar along the Maumee River, Northwest Territory.
  • 6 Dec. Congress opens its first legislative session in the temporary capital of Philadelphia.
  • 14 Dec. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton submits a Second Report on Public Credit, proposing a national bank to hold government funds and issue banknotes as circulating currency.


  • 5 Jan. Free blacks in Charleston, South Carolina, petition the state legislature against the banning of lawsuits or court testimony by African Americans; the legislature rejects the petition.
  • 25 Feb. President George Washington signs a bill creating the First Bank of the United States after receiving conflicting opinions of the banks constitutionality from Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.
  • 3 Mar. Congress passes an excise, or internal, tax on whiskey.
  • 4 Mar. Vermont becomes the fourteenth state.
  • 31 Oct. Philip Freneau begins publishing the Democratic-Republican newspaper National Gazette in Philadelphia.
  • 4 Nov. In the worst defeat ever inflicted by Native Americans on the U.S. military, the Miami Confederacy under Little Turtle kills over nine hundred soldiers out of a force of fourteen hundred led by Gen. Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, along the Wabash River.
  • 5 Dec. Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton submits his Report on Manufactures, proposing protective tariffs and government support for new industries.
  • 12 Dec. The First Bank of the United States opens in Philadelphia with branches in other cities.
  • 15 Dec. The Bill of Rights becomes part of the Constitution. These ten amendments include protection of freedom of religion, speech, and the press.


  • 1 Mar. Congress passes the Presidential Succession Act. In case of the death or disability of the president and vice president, power will pass to the president pro tempore of the Senate followed by the Speaker of the House.
  • 1 June Slaveholding Kentucky becomes the fifteenth state.
  • 13 Oct. The cornerstone of the new Executive Mansion is laid in Washington, D.C.


  • 23 Jan.-28 Feb. The House of Representatives examines charges of corruption against Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, but a vote to censure him fails.
  • 12 Feb. Congress passes the first Fugitive Slave Law, enforcing part of Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution.
  • 13 Feb. President George Washington is unanimously reelected.
  • 18 Feb. In Chisholm v. Georgia the Supreme Court rules that states can be sued in federal court by citizens of other states.
  • 4 Mar. President George Washington and Vice President John Adams are inaugurated for a second term.
  • 8 Apr.-16 May Edmond Genet, the new minister from the French Republic, travels from Charleston, South Carolina, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recruiting Americans to serve in privateering expeditions against Britain and Spain.
  • 22 Apr. Determined to keep the United States out of the war between France and Britain, President Washington issues the Proclamation of Neutrality.
  • 8 June Britain orders the seizure of neutral vessels, including American ships, carrying provisions to French ports.
  • 18 Sept. President Washington lays the cornerstone for the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
  • 6 Nov. After issuing an order-in-council forbidding neutral trade with the West Indies, Britain begins seizing American ships and impressing crewmen.
  • 31 Dec. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson resigns.


  • 3 Jan. In response to the British seizure of American ships, James Madison recommends that Congress penalize countries discriminating against American commerce; the resolution fails.
  • 10 Feb. Sir Guy Carleton, British governor of Lower Canada, makes a speech encouraging Indian resistance in the Northwest Territory.
  • 22 Mar. Congress passes a bill forbidding the slave trade with foreign nations.
  • 27 Mar. President Washington signs a bill authorizing construction of six frigates for the United States Navy, responding to threats against American shipping from Great Britain, France, and the Barbary states.
  • 19 Apr. The Senate confirms the nomination of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay as special envoy to negotiate a treaty with Great Britain.
  • 5 June Congress passes the Neutrality Act, forbidding Americans from joining foreign military forces or provisioning foreign vessels in American ports.
  • July-Nov. Farmers in western Pennsylvania resist officials trying to collect the whiskey tax and threaten to attack Pittsburgh. President Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton lead nearly thirteen thousand militiamen to enforce the law, but the Whiskey Rebellion is over by the time they arrive.
  • 20 Aug. Gen. Anthony Wayne and three thousand American soldiers rout one thousand Native Americans led by Blue Jacket at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near Detroit.
  • 19 Nov. Jays Treaty is signed in London. Britain will evacuate its posts in the Northwest by 1796 and allow limited American trade in the West Indies. However, the treaty stipulations say nothing about British impressment of American seamen or compensation for slaves taken by the British army during the Revolutionary War.


  • 2 Jan. The Georgia state legislature grants the Yazoo Tract to four land companies on very favorable terms.
  • 31 Jan. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton resigns.
  • 24 June After secret debates, the Senate ratifies Jays Treaty by a vote of 2010.
  • 3 Aug. The United States and twelve Indian tribes in the Northwest sign the Treaty of Greenville, opening much of present-day Ohio to white settlement.
  • 19 Aug. Secretary of State Edmund Randolph resigns after corruption charges (later proven untrue) are leveled against him.
  • 5 Sept. The United States signs a treaty with Algiers, promising to pay $800, 000 in tribute to the dey of Algiers and for ransom of over one hundred American sailors.
  • 27 Oct. The United States and Spain sign the Pinckney Treaty, recognizing the thirty-first parallel as the southern boundary of the United States and granting Americans free navigation of the Mississippi River.


  • The state of Georgia rescinds the Yazoo land grants because all but two members of the legislature had been bribed.
  • 15 Feb. The French foreign minister informs U.S. minister to France James Monroe that Jays Treaty annuls all previous treaties between France and the United States.
  • 3 Mar. The Senate unanimously ratifies Pinckneys Treaty.
  • 7 Mar. In Ware v. Hylton the United States Supreme Court declares a state law unconstitutional for the first time.
  • 8 Mar. In Hylton v. U.S. the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of an act of Congress for the first time.
  • 25 Mar. By a vote of 6237 the House of Representatives passes a motion asking President George Washington to submit all papers on Jays Treaty to a House committee.
  • 30 Mar. President Washington refuses to turn over papers on Jays Treaty to the House, establishing the precedent of executive privilege.
  • 30 Apr. By a vote of 5148 the House of Representatives passes appropriations to implement Jays Treaty.
  • 1 June Slaveholding Tennessee becomes the sixteenth state.
  • 17 Sept. In his Farewell Address, President George Washington expresses concern over party politics and reaffirms his commitment to neutrality.
  • 4 Nov. The United States signs a treaty with the Barbary state of Tripoli, agreeing to pay annual tributes to protect American ships and sailors.
  • 7 Dec. In the nations first contested presidential election, Federalist John Adams defeats Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson by a narrow electoral vote of 7168; Jefferson becomes vice president.
  • 7 Dec. The French foreign minister refuses to meet with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the new United States minister to France, until grievances have been redressed.


  • 30 Jan. Free blacks unsuccessfully petition Congress against a state law returning freedmen to slavery in North Carolina.
  • 4 Mar. President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson are inaugurated.
  • 16 May President Adams recommends that Congress approve a three-man diplomatic mission to France, arm merchant vessels, create a navy, fortify harbors, and enlarge the army.
  • 28 Aug. The United States signs a treaty with the North African state of Tunis, agreeing to pay annual tributes to protect American ships and sailors.
  • 4 Oct. American peace commissioners John Marshall, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry arrive in Paris to negotiate an end to the seizure of U.S. vessels.
  • 18 Oct. Three agents of French foreign minister Charles de Talleyrand (publicly identified as X, Y, and Z) demand a bribe from the American envoys before negotiations can begin. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney responds: No, no, not a sixpence!


  • The United States and France begin the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval conflict in the Caribbean.
  • 8 Jan. The Eleventh Amendment, reversing Chisholrn v. Georgia (1793), is ratified. The amendment declares that states cannot be sued by citizens of another state or foreign country in federal court.
  • 3 Apr. President John Adams releases diplomatic dispatches to Congress on the XYZ Affair. Within a week the XYZ Papers are published in newspapers throughout the country, exciting outrage against France.
  • May-July Congress revokes all treaties with France and approves an enlarged army, a new Navy Department, harbor defenses, and the seizure of all French vessels interfering with American shipping.
  • 18 June Congress passes the Naturalization Act, the first of four Alien and Sedition Acts, limiting freedom of speech and the press and the rights of foreigners. The act also increases the residency period for citizenship to fourteen years.
  • 25 June Congress passes the Act Concerning Aliens, allowing the president to deport any alien, during war or peace, judged dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States; President Adams never uses this authority.
  • 27 June Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of Benjamin Franklin and editor of the Philadelphia Republican newspaper Aurora, is charged with libeling President Adams.
  • 6 July Congress passes the Act Respecting Alien Enemies, authorizing the president to deport or imprison enemy aliens during wartime.
  • 9 July Congress passes a direct tax on land, houses, and slaves to pay for the Quasi-War with France.
  • 14 July Congress passes the Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes (the Sedition Act) by a vote of 4441. The act imposes heavy fines and imprisonment on anyone convicted of writing, publishing, or speaking anything of a false scandalous and malicious nature against the government or its officers.
  • Oct.-Nov. Peace envoy Elbridge Gerry and Dr. George Logan, a private citizen from Philadelphia, return to the United States convinced that France is ready to negotiate peace.
  • 5 Oct. Republican representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont is indicted under the Sedition Act for libeling President Adams. He is fined $1, 000 and imprisoned for four months, during which he is reelected to Congress.
  • 16 Nov. The Kentucky Resolutions, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Kentucky state legislature, declare that states can judge the constitutionality of federal laws, and that the Alien and Sedition Acts are unconstitutional and thus void and of no force.
  • 24 Dec. The Virginia state legislature passes the Virginia Resolutions, a less radical version of the Kentucky Resolutions, written by James Madison.


  • 30 Jan. Congress passes the Logan Act, forbidding private citizens from engaging in diplomatic negotiations.
  • Feb. Farmers in Pennsylvania, led by John Fries, rebel against the direct tax of 1798. Federal troops put down Fries Rebellion, and the leader is convicted of treason but pardoned by President Adams.
  • 18 Feb. President Adams nominates William Vans Murray as minister to France.
  • 29 Mar. The New York state legislature passes a gradual emancipation law.
  • 16 Oct. President John Adams sends Oliver Ellsworth and William R. Davie to join William Vans Murray in negotiating peace with France.
  • 22 Nov. The Kentucky state legislature passes resolutions reaffirming nullification as a proper constitutional solution.
  • 14 Dec. George Washington dies at Mount Vernon at age sixty-seven.


  • The second U.S. Census records a population of 5, 308, 483, including 896, 849 slaves. Free African Americans are not counted.
  • The Virginia state legislature passes a resolution proposing that freed slaves be resettled in Africa.
  • 2 Jan. Free African Americans petition Congress in opposition to slavery and the slave trade. By a vote of 851, Congress refuses to accept the petition.
  • 10 May The Land Act of 1800 offers federal land for sale in tracts of 320 acres and under generous payment terms.
  • 30 Aug. Authorities in Richmond, Virginia, are prewarned and stop a planned slave revolt led by Gabriel Prosser. Thirty-eight members of Gabriels Rebellion (including Prosser) are hanged.
  • 30 Sept. The United States and France sign an agreement ending the Quasi-War, during which the United States seized ninety-three French privateers and France took only one American warship. Under the Convention of 1800 the 1778 treaties of alliance and commerce are suspended, and compensation for the seizure of American merchant ships is left to future negotiations.
  • 17 Nov. Congress convenes in Washington, D.C., for the first time. John Adams becomes the first president to live in the new Executive Mansion.


  • News of Spains cession of the Louisiana Territory to France reaches the United States in May, spurring President Thomas Jefferson to inquire about purchasing West Florida.
  • 20 Jan. John Marshall is appointed chief justice of the United States, serving until his death in 1835.
  • 10-17 Feb. John Adams receives sixty-five electoral votes and Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each receive seventy-three votes, throwing the presidential election into the House of Representatives. On the thirty-sixth ballot Jefferson is elected, and Aaron Burr becomes vice president.
  • 13 Feb. Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1801, reducing the number of Supreme Court justices from six to five, establishing sixteen circuit courts, and increasing the number of judicial officers.
  • 3 Mar. On his last day in office President John Adams appoints several Federalist judges under the Judiciary Act of 1801.
  • 4 Mar. Thomas Jefferson is the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
  • 14 May Yusuf Karamanli, pasha of Tripoli, orders soldiers to cut down the flagpole at the U.S. Consulate.
  • 8 Dec. President Jefferson delivers his annual message to Congress in writing, setting a precedent that lasts until 1913.
  • 21 Dec. The Convention of 1800 between the United States and France goes into effect after the United States gives in to French demands that claims for compensation to American shipowners be withdrawn.


  • 6 Feb. Congress authorizes the president to arm American ships as protection against Tripolitan corsairs.
  • 8 Mar. Congress repeals the Judiciary Act of 1801.
  • 16 Mar. Congress passes a bill establishing a military academy at West Point, New York.
  • 6 Apr. Congress abolishes all internal taxes, including the unpopular whiskey tax.
  • 14 Apr. Congress repeals the Naturalization Act of 1798, restoring the five-year residency requirement for citizenship.
  • 29 Apr. Congress passes a new Judiciary Act, authorizing six Supreme Court justices, one session a year for the Supreme Court, and six circuit courts, each presided over by a Supreme Court justice.
  • 18 Oct. Spanish officials in New Orleans forbid American traders from depositing cargo for overseas shipment.


  • 11 Jan. President Thomas Jefferson appoints James Monroe as minister plenipotentiary to France and Spain to assist Robert Livingston in purchasing New Orleans and Spanish Florida.
  • 19 Feb. Ohio becomes the seventeenth state in the Union and the first to outlaw slavery from the beginning of statehood.
  • 24 Feb. In Marbury v. Madison the Supreme Court declares an act of Congress (the Judiciary Act of 1789) unconstitutional for the first time and expands its power of judicial review.
  • 11 Apr. France offers to sell the entire Louisiana Territory to the United States.
  • 19 Apr. Spain restores the right of deposit at New Orleans to American traders.
  • 30 Apr. The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory for $15 million.
  • 23 May Commodore Edward Preble is appointed commander of a U.S. Navy squadron to fight Tripoli.
  • 20 Oct. The Senate ratifies the Louisiana Purchase treaty.
  • 20 Dec. French officials turn over the Louisiana Territory to the United States.


  • 15 Feb. New Jersey passes a gradual emancipation law.
  • 25 Feb. In the first congressional caucus Democratic-Republicans unanimously nominate President Thomas Jefferson for a second term and nominate George Clinton for vice president.
  • 12 Mar. After the House of Representatives impeaches New Hampshire Federal District judge John Pickering, a Federalist, for drunkenness, profanity, and unlawful decisions, the Senate removes him from office. The House then begins impeachment proceedings against Federalist Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase.
  • 26 Mar. In the Louisiana Territory Act, the federal government declares for the first time its intention to move Indians living east of the Mississippi River to the West. The Land Act of 1804 reduces the minimum tract for the purchase of federal land from 320 to 160 acres, increasing immigration to the West.
  • 14 May Meriwether Lewis and William Clark begin their exploring expedition of the Louisiana Purchase territory.
  • 11 July Alexander Hamilton is fatally wounded in a pistol duel with Aaron Burr and dies the next day.
  • 25 Sept. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, providing separate ballots for president and vice president.
  • 5 Dec. President Thomas Jefferson is reelected with 162 electoral votes over Charles Cotesworth Pinckney with 14 votes. George Clinton is elected vice president.


  • 1 Mar. The House of Representatives impeaches Justice Samuel Chase for improper conduct in the sedition trial of James Callender and the treason trial of John Fries but fails to get the necessary two-thirds majority vote to remove him from office.
  • 4 Mar. President Thomas Jefferson is inaugurated for a second term.
  • 26-29 Apr. William Eaton, U.S. consul to Tunis, organizes a small force of Arab mercenaries, U.S. Marines, and American naval vessels to capture Derna, Tripoli.
  • 4 June The United States and Tripoli sign a peace treaty granting the U.S. Navy freedom to sail the Mediterranean.
  • 23 July American trade with the French West Indies is threatened when Great Britain invokes its Rule of 1756, banning neutral ships from trading during wartime in ports that they did not visit during peacetime.
  • 29 Aug. Zebulon Pike and twenty men set out to find the source of the upper Mississippi River.


  • Virginia passes a law ordering freed slaves to leave the state within a year of emancipation.
  • 29 Mar. Congress authorizes the construction of the National Road, connecting Cumberland, Maryland, with Wheeling, Virginia.
  • 18 Apr. Congress passes a Non-Importation Act, prohibiting the importation of British goods in protest against the British seizure of American ships and sailors.
  • 15 July Zebulon Pike begins exploring the southwestern part of the Louisiana Purchase, during which time he and his men wander into Spanish territory and are held captive.
  • Aug. Aaron Burr and coconspirators begin plotting to create an independent state in the Southwest.
  • 23 Sept. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrive back in Saint Louis, completing their two-and-one-half-year expedition. They explored the region west of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. Along the way they gathered valuable information on the vegetation, animals, natural resources, geography, and Indian tribes of the area.
  • 27 Nov. After Gen. James Wilkinson reveals Aaron Burrs conspiracy, President Thomas Jefferson issues a proclamation warning American citizens not to join Burrs expedition to the Southwest.


  • 2 Mar. Congress decides to prohibit the African slave trade and importation of slaves into the United States as of 1 January 1808.
  • 22 June The commander of the British frigate Leopard stops the U.S. warship Chesapeake off Norfolk, Virginia, and demands the surrender of four English deserters. When Commodore James Barron refuses, the British open fire (killing three and wounding eighteen Americans), board the U.S. vessel, and seize the alleged deserters.
  • 24 June Aaron Burr is indicted for treason.
  • 2 July In response to the Chesapeake-Leopard incident President Thomas Jefferson orders British warships out of U.S. territorial waters.
  • 1 Sept. Aaron Burr is acquitted of treason in Richmond, Virginia, on grounds he was not present during an overt, treasonous act.
  • 22 Dec. President Thomas Jefferson signs the Embargo Act, prohibiting American ships from sailing to any foreign ports.


  • 9 Jan. Congress passes a second Embargo Act, imposing bonds and penalties on coasting vessels and fishing and whaling ships attempting to sail for foreign ports.
  • 12 Mar. Congress passes a third Embargo Act, prohibiting the export of any goods by land or sea.
  • 17 Apr. Napoleon Bonaparte issues the Bayonne Decree, ordering the seizure of all U.S. ships entering ports of the French Empire. France seizes some $10 million worth of United States ships and cargo.
  • 25 Apr. Congress passes an Enforcement Act that declares that no American vessel may sail for an American port adjacent to foreign territory without permission of the president, and that customs collectors and naval commanders may stop and search any ship on suspicion.
  • 7 Dec. Democratic-Republican candidate James Madison is elected president with 122 electoral votes. The Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney receives 47 votes, and George Clinton, the candidate of eastern Democratic-Republicans, receives 6 votes. Clinton is elected vice president.


  • 9 Jan. Congress passes a Second Enforcement Act, authorizing customs collectors to use the army and navy to aid in the seizure of any goods suspected of being shipped abroad in violation of the Embargo Act.
  • 1 Mar. President Thomas Jefferson signs the Non-Intercourse Act, repealing the Embargo Act and allowing Americans to resume all foreign trade except with Great Britain and France until either nation repeals its orders against neutral trade.
  • 4 Mar. President James Madison is inaugurated.
  • 19 Apr. Based on assurances from British minister David Erskine that Great Britain will revoke its orders-in-council against neutral shipping on 10 June, President Madison resumes trade with Great Britain.
  • 2 July The Shawnee tribal leader Tecumseh begins forming a confederacy of Native American tribes.
  • 9 Aug. Learning that the English government has annulled the agreement made between American officials and British minister Erskine, President Madison reinstates the Non-Intercourse Act.
  • 30 Sept. William Henry Harrison, governor of Indiana Territory, signs a treaty at Fort Wayne by which Indian tribes cede three tracts of land along the Wabash River.


  • The third U.S. Census records a population of 7, 239, 881, an increase of 1, 931, 398 since 1800. The African American population has increased by 481, 361 to 1, 378, 110, of whom 186, 746 are free (not counted in the 1800 census).
  • 16 Mar. In Fletcher v. Peck the Supreme Court rules that the Georgia state legislature could not rescind the Yazoo land grants because a state is bound by contractual obligations.
  • 23 Mar. Napoleon issues the Rambouillet Decree, authorizing the seizure and sale of American ships entering French-controlled ports.
  • 1 May Congress passes Macons Bill No. 2, legalizing American trade with France and Great Britain. If either country stops restricting neutral trade by 3 March 1811, the president is authorized to prohibit trade with the other country unless it abolishes its restrictions within three months.
  • 5 Aug. Napoleon advises his minister of foreign affairs to tell the U.S. minister to France that French decrees against neutral trade will be rescinded after 1 November if Great Britain rescinds its orders-in-council. Napoleon issues the Trianon Decree, authorizing the confiscation of American ships that entered French-controlled ports between 20 May 1809 and 1 May 1810.
  • 27 Oct. President James Madison annexes West Florida between the Mississippi and Pearl Rivers after Americans in the region declare independence.
  • 2 Nov. Believing that French decrees against neutral shipping have been rescinded, President Madison issues a proclamation stating that trade with Great Britain will cease if British orders-in-council are not rescinded within three months.


  • 20 Feb. The Senate votes against rechartering the Bank of the United States.
  • 4 Mar. The charter of the Bank of the United States expires.
  • 26 Sept. Gov. William Henry Harrison of the Indiana Territory and one thousand troops march for Prophets Town, the principal village of the Shawnee Indians and allied tribes along the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers.
  • 5 Nov. President James Madison asks Congress for increased defense spending in preparation for possible war against Britain.
  • 7 Nov. Native Americans under Tecumsehs brother the Prophet attack Harrisons army in the Battle of Tippecanoe; they are repulsed and Prophets Town is burnt. As a result Tecumseh and his followers cross into Canada, later joining British forces in the War of 1812.
  • 20 Nov. Construction begins on the National Road, increasing the flow of settlers to the West after the War of 1812.
  • 24 Dec. Congress authorizes the completion of enlistments in the regular army, the enlistment of twenty-five thousand additional regulars for five years service and fifty thousand volunteers for one years service, and the call-up of one hundred thousand militia for six months service at the presidents request, and approves additional funds for the navy.


  • 14 Mar. Congress authorizes an $11 million loan to finance the war with England.
  • 4 Apr. At President James Madisons request Congress approves a ninety-day embargo.
  • 10 Apr. Great Britain informs the United States that since France has not rescinded its decrees against neutral trade, British orders-in-council will remain in force.
  • 14 Apr. Congress annexes West Florida between the Pearl and Perdido Rivers to the Mississippi Territory.
  • 30 Apr. Slaveholding Louisiana becomes the eighteenth state in the Union.
  • 18 May The Republican congressional caucus nominates President James Madison for reelection and Elbridge Gerry for vice president.
  • 1 June President Madison sends a war message to Congress, citing impressment, violations of American trade, and the incitement of Indian warfare as the causes for hostilities with England.
  • 4 June By a vote of 7949 the House of Representatives approves a declaration of war against Great Britain.
  • 17 June By a vote of 1913 the Senate approves a declaration of war.
  • 18 June President James Madison signs the declaration of war with Great Britain.
  • 23 June Great Britain suspends its orders-in-council.
  • 2 July Acting governor John Cotton Smith of Connecticut refuses the federal governments request for militia.
  • 17 July The U.S. post on Michilimackinac Island in Michigan Territory surrenders to the British and their Indian allies.
  • 5 Aug. Gov. Caleb Strong of Massachusetts refuses the federal governments request for militia.
  • 15 Aug. Native Americans attack the American garrison at Fort Dearborn, Illinois (present-day Chicago), killing eighty-five soldiers and many dependents as they attempt to evacuate the post.
  • 16 Aug. Gen. William Hull, fearing superior enemy numbers, surrenders Detroit to British general Isaac Brock.
  • 19 Aug. The U.S.S. Constitution, commanded by Commodore Isaac Hull, sinks the British frigate Guerriere.
  • 13 Oct. An invasion of Canada fails in the Battle of Queenston when the New York militia under Gen. Stephen Van Rensselaer refuses to cross into Canada.
  • 25 Oct. The U.S.S. United States, commanded by Capt. Stephen Decatur, captures the British frigate Macedonian.
  • 19 Nov. At Plattsburgh New York, Gen. Henry Dearborn abandons his planned assault on Montreal when militia forces refuse to cross into Canada.
  • 2 Dec. President James Madison is reelected with 128 electoral votes. DeWitt Clinton, candidate of anti-Madison Democratic-Republicans and Federalists, receives 89 votes. Elbridge Gerry is elected vice president.
  • 12 Dec. The British navy begins blockading the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays.
  • 29 Dec. The U.S.S. Constitution, commanded by Commodore William Bainbridge, destroys the British frigate Java.


  • 5 Feb. John Armstrong becomes secretary of war.
  • 4 Mar. President James Madison is inaugurated for a second term.
  • 11 Mar. President Madison accepts the offer of Czar Alexander of Russia to mediate between the United States and Great Britain, but the latter refuses.
  • 30 Mar. The British extend their blockade of the American coast from Long Island, New York, to New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • 27 Apr. American forces under Generals Henry Dearborn and Zebulon Pike briefly capture York, Canada (now Toronto), and burn public buildings. The explosion of a powder magazine kills 320 troops, including Pike.
  • 24 Jul.-2 Aug. Congress imposes a direct tax on land, a duty on imported salt, and a series of internal taxes to finance the war. Congress authorizes a $7 million loan to finance the war.
  • 30 Aug. Creek Indians attack Fort Mims, near Mobile, Alabama, killing more than 250 soldiers and civilians in the first battle of the Creek War.
  • Sept.-Nov. Two American armies in upstate New York converge on Montreal, one led by Gen. Wade Hampton from Plattsburgh and the other by Gen. James Wilkinson from Sacketts Harbor. The campaign is abandoned after Hampton turns back at the Chateauguay River (26 October) and Wilkinsons army is repulsed at Chryslers Farm (11 November).
  • 10 Sept. Capt. Oliver Hazard Perrys destruction of the British fleet at Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie forces the British out of Detroit and gives the United States control of the Michigan Territory.
  • 5 Oct. Gen. William Henry Harrison crosses Lake Erie and defeats British and Indian forces at the Battle of the Thames at Moraviantown (Upper Canada). Tecumseh is killed; the Indian confederacy collapses; and the Northwest is secured.
  • 17 Dec. Congress passes an Embargo and Non-Importation Act.


  • The British defeat Napoleon, freeing up veteran forces for service in Canada and the United States.
  • 18 Jan. The Senate approves the appointments of Henry Clay, Jonathan Russell, John Quincy Adams, and James A. Bayard as members of a peace commission to Great Britain; Albert Gallatin is added soon afterward.
  • 24 Mar. Congress authorizes a $25 million loan to finance the war.
  • 27 Mar. In the last major battle of the Creek War, Tennessee militia led by Generals Andrew Jackson and John Coffee defeat the Indians at Horseshoe Bend in present-day Alabama.
  • 14 Apr. Congress repeals the Embargo and Non-Importation Act.
  • 25 Apr. The British extend their blockade to New England.
  • 5 July American generals Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott and their army cross the Niagara River into Canada and defeat the British in the Battle of Chippewa.
  • 25 July Gen. Jacob Brown wages a hard-fought but inconclusive battle against the British at Lundys Lane, Canada, near Niagara Falls.
  • 8 Aug. Peace negotiations begin in Ghent, Belgium.
  • 9 Aug. The Creek Indians sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, ceding two-thirds of their lands in southern Georgia and eastern Mississippi Territory (Alabama) to the United States.
  • 24-25 Aug. A British army under Gen. Robert Ross defeats a disorganized force of American regulars and militia at Bladensburg, Maryland. The British troops then burn the Executive Mansion, Capitol, and other public buildings in Washington, D.C., in retaliation for the American burning of York.
  • 4 Sept. Secretary of War John Armstrong resigns, and Secretary of State James Monroe takes over the War Department.
  • 11 Sept. Capt. Thomas Macdonough leads an American squadron to decisive victory over the British fleet on Lake Champlain, forcing British general Sir George Prevost to abandon plans for cutting off New England from the rest of the United States.
  • 13-14 Sept. Heavy casualties and an unsuccessful bombardment of Fort McHenry convince the British to abandon their plans to take Baltimore.
  • 5 Nov. Congress authorizes a $3 million loan to finance the war.
  • 15 Dec. Delegates from five New England states which oppose the war hold a convention in Hartford, Connecticut. Congress increases taxes to finance the war.
  • 24 Dec. The United States and Great Britain sign a peace treaty at Ghent. There are no territorial changes, and all other issues are unresolved or postponed.


  • 5 Jan. The Hartford Convention ends. The delegates uphold a states right to nullify federal law and propose constitutional amendments to limit the power of the federal government.
  • 8 Jan. Gen. Sir Edward Pakenhams British army attacks Andrew Jacksons greatly outnumbered American army in the Battle of New Orleans. The Americans inflict more than two thousand casualties while suffering only twenty-one killed and wounded.
  • 11 Feb. News of the Treaty of Ghent reaches the United States.
  • 17 Feb. The Senate ratifies the Treaty of Ghent.
  • 3 Mar. Congress approves a punitive expedition against Algiers, which had taken advantage of the War of 1812 to harass American shipping.
  • 3 Mar. Congress approves a peacetime army of ten thousand, half the number requested by President James Madison.
  • 30 June The dey of Algiers is forced to sign a treaty abolishing tribute payments and freeing American prisoners after Capt. Stephen Decatur captures two Algerian ships. Tunis and Tripoli sign similar treaties within the next six weeks.
  • 3 July Great Britain and the United States sign a treaty abolishing discriminatory duties against each other; the United States is also permitted to trade with the East Indies.
  • 5 Dec. President James Madison urges Congress to approve a national bank, protective tariffs, and a program of national funding for transportation and education.

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1783-1815: Government and Politics: Chronology

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1783-1815: Government and Politics: Chronology