Thomas Jefferson was the first United States Secretary of State, serving from September 26th, 1789 – December 31st, 1793 in George Washington’s administration. Previous to Jefferson in this newly created position, John Jay served in an acting role as United States Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Jefferson had been the US minister to France from 1785-1789, and became Secretary of State at a time when British and French intrigues occupied the majority of US foreign policy. He and Alexander Hamilton fought over fiscal policy, particularly the Revolutionary War debt and its foreign policy implications. Hamilton wanted the debts shared equally by all states, while Jefferson wanted each state to pay its own debt (Jefferson’s home state of Virginia did not have much debt, so he did not want it to pay the debt of other states).
Jefferson equated Hamilton and the Federalists with Tories and Monarchists because of their approach to the war debt, insisting they were threats to republicanism (since they were trying to force Virginians to pay debts they did not incur, which were debts that belonged to other states). Jefferson and James Madison founded the Democratic-Republican Party as a rebuttal to Hamilton and Federalism, wich Jefferson called “Royalism”.
In 1793, Jefferson supported France against Britain when war broke out between those two nations. However, he agreed with Washington that the United States should not get involved in the war. But, in 1793 French minister Edmond-Charles Genet arrived to convince Americans to violate the pledge of neutrality and come to war on the side of France. Genet went over Washington’s head and tried to appeal directly to the American people; Jefferson thwarted his efforts. Jefferson believed that French victories over England in Europe helped America, though the United States should not be dragged into the fighting.
Jefferson retired to Monticello in 1793, but continued to orchestrate opposition to Hamilton and Washington, running for president himself in 1796 (and winning enough electoral votes to become Vice President under John Adams).
Jefferson was succeeded as Secretary of State by Edmund Randolph on January 2, 1794
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