what were some major issues that presidents (washington, Adams, Jeffereson, and Lincoln) faced that made them used their powers as president?
Consider also what the constitution had to say about the presidency?
Great question! Each of these presidents had to use the power of the executive branch in different ways. Here's a brief overview of just a couple of examples . . .
Washington - One of the earliest issues Washington had to deal with was the Whiskey Rebellion, which broke out in western Pennsylvania after congress passed an excise tax on the production of whisky. Wheat farmers in the area began protesting against the tax, attacking tax collectors who tried to enforce this law. Seeing this as a threat to national stability, Washington used his authority over the military to lead a force of 13,000 men into the area to restore order.
Adams had to deal with the prospect of war with France. The Quasi-War as it was called, centered around the issue of support for France’s ongoing wars in Europe. The French expected the U.S. to support them according to the terms of the military alliance we had created during the American Revolution. But the U.S. was still too weak, and this refusal angered the French so much they began impressing, or kidnapping, sailors on American ships. To try and end this, Adams used his power to negotiate treaties to send diplomats to France in hopes that he could come up with some sort of deal. This effort was fruitless however, and became known as the XYZ Affair because instead of greeting the American diplomats, the French sent three spies to try and extract bribes.
Jefferson was plagued by similar problems during his time in office. Impressments continued to be an issue, as well as piracy from North Africa. European and American ships could avoid being captured by paying tribute to the pirates, but eventually their prices become so ridiculous that Jefferson used his executive power as Commander in Chief of the Navy to send a small fleet of warships over to Tripoli and bombard it. The Barbary Wars eventually ended with the U.S. and European combined navies destroying all the pirate bases, but not until 1815.
By the time Lincoln was in office, the powers of the president had greatly increased, and he was able to use this authority to great effect when opposition to the Civil War began to increase. Washington D.C. was geographically located in the south, which meant that spies were rampant and Confederate sympathizers were everywhere. Lincoln used the authority granted in the constitution to suspend Habeas Corpus, which allowed him to jail suspected spies without proof. He also ordered troops to keep Maryland under close control when anti-slavery mobs attacked Union troops there. When the Draft Riots broke out in New York City, Lincoln ordered federal troops to take the city back by force.