1776 Declaration of Independence; war with Britain until 1782
1777 Articles of Confederation (first United States Constitution) written by Continental Congress; ratified by each state (the last one in 1781)
1778 Wartime treaty of alliance with France
1783 Formal peace treaty with Britain
1787 New constitution written by convention in Philadelphia
1787-1788 Constitution ratified, after debates in each state between proponents (Federalists) and opponents (Antifederalists). Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay write The Federalist Papers as a contribution to the campaign for ratification.
1788 First congressional and presidential elections
1789 First Congress and President George Washington’s first administration begin, with Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State.
Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10) adopted
Congressman James Madison unsuccessfully proposes trade war with Britain.
1790 Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton successfully proposes federal takeover (“assumption”) of states’ war debts.
1791 Hamilton’s proposal for National Bank approved
1792 Republican party initiates first national partisan campaigns, in congressional elections.
1793 News of execution of King of France reaches United States.
War between France and Britain (which continues with little pause until 1815)
1795 Jay Treaty between United States and Britain
1796 Washington’s Farewell Address; Republican party now contests presidential as well as congressional elections.
1797 President John Adams’ administration begins.
1798-1800 Naval “quasi-war” with France
1798 Congress passes Alien and Sedition Acts; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison secretly draft Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.
1800-1801 Republicans win big majorities in House and Senate elections.
December 1800 Republicans narrowly win presidential election, with electoral college tie between Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr.
February 1801 After a week of balloting, House of Representatives chooses Jefferson as President.
March 1801 Peaceful transfer of power to Republicans; Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address