George Washington, who served as the nation's first president from 1789 to 1797, was a reluctant chief executive. He had wanted to retire after years of service as a general and statesman, but the Founding Fathers strongly believed that Washington should be president. To his credit, Washington always put national interests ahead of his own and went on to serve two terms. He sought national unity and comity above all else.
Keeping the new and large United States together was not easy. In addition to its size, the country was beset by difficulties caused by regionalism. New England and the South, in particular, were quite different.
Alexander Hamilton, who was Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, emerged as the leader of the Federalist party. Hamilton was an orphan at an early age, but he became very successful.
His brilliance and ambition caught Washington's attention during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Hamilton became the most influential member of Washington's cabinet. He sought to create a strong, diversified national economy and a robust central government. Hamilton had the national government assume the states' debts, and he argued for a national bank. His Federalist party was also pro-British.
Thomas Jefferson was Washington's Secretary of State. (Jefferson later became the third president of the US.) He and James Madison led what became known as the (Jeffersonian) Republican party. They wanted the states to keep more power. In addition, they favored agrarian interests. For example, they opposed Hamilton's liquor tax because it adversely impacted frontiersmen. They argued that the Constitution did not authorize a national bank. The Republicans were also pro-French.
Washington vainly tried to reconcile these two factions.