"The Focus of the Wills of Converging Millions": Public Opposition to the Jay Treaty and the Origins of the People's Presidency
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This article examines the public controversy over the Jay Treaty as a pivotal moment in the creation of the "people's presidency." Focusing on the published statements of the Treaty's Republican opponents, it argues that critics of the Treaty marshaled a powerful and cohesive vision of what the presidential office should be—a vision that would forever alter the political culture of the Early Republic. Imagining the presidential office to be the embodiment of the dynamic back-and-forth between elected leaders and everyday citizens they claimed should define a healthy republican society, these dissenters attacked not only the Treaty but George Washington's aloof and (to their mind) dismissive reaction to the Treaty's detractors. Though these opponents lost the battle over the Jay Treaty, the vision they advanced would place the presidency at the center of the young country's contentious, popular, and partisan political landscape, and the competing visions of citizenship and governance that fueled it.