What Were George Washington’s Foreign and Domestic Policies?

United States President George Washington’s foreign policy was based on avoiding both foreign strife and entangling alliances, while his domestic policies displayed little tolerance for anti-taxation protests. In 1791, the U.S. Congress passed the first internal revenue law, which placed a tax on distilled spirits and led to a 1794 armed rebellion by Pennsylvania farmers that became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion.” Washington raised a militia force of more than 12,000 militiamen and personally led the troops into Pennsylvania to end the rebellion, an accomplishment achieved with a remarkably small loss of life.

Washington’s stand on foreign policy was clearly stated in his 1796 farewell address, in which he urged Americans to be wary of “political connections” to foreign powers. He remained firmly opposed to lending support to either England or France in the developing conflict between the two overseas nations. Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality in 1793 and very cautiously received the French Minister to the United States, Edmund Charles Genet, when he visited the United States seeking support for France’s side of the conflict. Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, supported aiding France while the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, supported neutrality. Washington stood firm and held to his position of neutrality, but he became disheartened at the increasing divisiveness between the two political parties that were growing in their share of support among the citizenry.

Internal political turmoil between the two opposing parties marked Washington’s second term and compromised his ability to govern. Both his foreign and domestic policies were heavily criticized, and he decided to retire and not accept a third term as president. In his farewell address, Washington made a plea for support of the federal government, emphasizing the need to refrain from fractional divisions and stressed the importance of the union.