The fiscal performance of the US government during the late 1700s can be characterized by the dominating sector of the elected government officials.
The control of the US government during the late 1700s can be characterized by the dominating sector of the elected officials within the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. Most people focus on the President as the sole or primary source of blame for economic and social issues gone awry. When things go well, they like to give the credit to the Congressional leaders. However, many people (and Congress would like to keep it this way) assume that the President has control over everything that happens within the United States of America. However, the real rule makers are to be found within the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is here that the federal laws are made, the budgets are established, money is managed, and everything else that is supposed to be in the best interests of the taxpayer.
During the late 1700s, control of the Senate rested with the “Pro-Administration” party for six years (1789-1795). It switched to the Federalist Party for six years (1795-1801). The other parties involved during this time (1789-1799) were the “Anti-Administration” party and what is now called the Jeffersonian-Republican or Democratic-Republican party (this is not the same as the Republican party that we know today).
US House of Representatives
During these same years, the House of Representatives was controlled by the “Pro-Administration” party for the first four years (1789-1793). The control shifted from to the “Anti-Administration” party for the next four years (1793-1797). From 1797 to 1799, the Federalists dominated the US House.
The Presidency of the United States during this time was held by George Washington from 1789-1797. John Adams was President from 1797-1801. Both George Washington and John Adams are considered to be aligned with the Federalist parties. However, George Washington was not a Federalist when he first became President.
It is worth noting that the first federal government deficit was in 1792 ($1,410,000). The national debt ranged from $75,463,476.52 in 1791 to $78,408,669.77 during 1799. 1796 had the most debt owed: $83,762,172.07. From 1789 to 1799, the federal government ran a deficit four times. The net surplus for the combined periods of 1789 through 1799 was actually a net deficit of $763,000. In other words, the federal government had a net loss of $763,000 instead of a net profit during this time period. This translates to neither political group at the very early days of the US government being very good at managing the taxpayer’s money.
An interesting note is when the “Pro-Administration” elected officials were in charge of the House, Senate and the Presidency, a net deficit was incurred ($1,089,000) over the four years of complete power. When the “Anti-Administration” elected officials ran the US House (1794-1797), a net surplus of $2,222,000 was realized (the “Pro-Administration” or Federalist groups ran the Senate and Presidency). When the Federalists had control over the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, a net deficit of $1,896,000 was realized during 1798 and 1799. Do you see a pattern emerging for how the US elected officials have historically managed the taxpayers’ monies? The next article will explore the years 1800 to 1823.
- Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970 vol. 1 & 2. (1975, September). US Bureau of the Census. Washington, DC.