- Presidency of Thomas Jefferson
President of the United States
March 4, 1801
March 4, 1809
April 13, 1743
death_date=death date and age|1826|07|4|1743|04|13
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Aaron Burr(1801–1805), George Clinton (1805–1809)
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1797
March 4, 1801
United States Secretary of State
September 26, 1789
December 31, 1793
Edmund Randolph Thomas Jefferson's Presidency of the United States, from March 4 1801to March 4 1809, was the first to start and end in the White House(though at the time it was known as the Presidential Mansion).
Inauguration and beliefs
The tumultuous nature of the election of 1800 cost Jefferson a great deal of political capital. He was now indebted to Hamilton and the High Federalists and left with a vice president who had no place in his administration. With
George Washingtondead and John Adamsreturning to Braintree after his defeat, Jefferson was free to try to implement his Republican vision for the republic. In what historians later call Jeffersonian democracy, the new president set out an agenda that was marked by his belief in agrarianismand limited government.In order to carry out his agenda, Jefferson turned to his loyal supporters James Madisonwho he named as Secretary of Stateand Swiss-born Albert Gallatinbecame Secretary of the Treasury. Jefferson also wielded significant power over the Republican leaders of Congress despite their independent nature. The split in the Federalist Party between the Hamilton and Adams factions also helped Jefferson secure the support of Congress. In his entire administration, Jefferson never once had to use his vetopower.
Jefferson's domestic policies
Continuation of Federalist policies
In order to end the deadlock in the House of Representatives following the 1800 election, Jefferson was forced to make important concessions to Hamilton in order to gain his endorsement. As part of these concessions, Jefferson continued the basic Hamiltonian programs of the
national bankand tariffs. While the Sedition Act expired on schedule in 1801, and one of the Alien acts was repealed, those who were imprisoned under the Sedition Act were released. The Federalists also allowed Jefferson to select his own cabinet members and other high level appointees.
Addressing the national debt
Jefferson attempted to eliminate the
national debtbecause of his wish for small government. Jefferson believed that the nation did not need to carry a line of debt in order to build foreign credit, a policy that Hamilton vigorously advocated while in the Washington cabinet. Gallatin repealed many Federalist taxes including the tax that prompted the Whiskey Rebellionwhich was made up of many Republican supporters. Gallatin believed that the federal government was able to operate exclusively on customsrevenue and need no direct taxation. While initially successful, this policy would later prove disastrous when trade to the United States was interrupted by the Napoleonic Warsbetween Great Britainand France.
Jefferson also decreased the size of the military, which he believed was an unnecessary drain on the resources of the republic. Much of the federalist navy that was created under the Adams administration was scrapped. When Federalists criticized this policy as leaving the nation vulnerable to foreign attack, Jefferson responded that he believed citizen soldiers would arise to defend the country in case of attack, much as they did during the
American Revolution. Recognizing that military leadership would be more crucial when taking civilians into battle, Jefferson did create the Army Corps of Engineersand established the United States Military Academyat West Point in 1802.
Patronage and the Federalists
When John Adams took office in 1796, he carried many of Washington's supporters over into his new administration. As a result, there was little change in the federal government when the first national transition of power occurred. With Jefferson's election in 1800, there was a transfer of power between parties, not simply a transition. As president, Jefferson had the power of appointment to fill many government positions that had long been held by Federalists. It was widely anticipated that this use of
patronagewas the privilege of a new party when it assumed power. Jefferson resisted the call of his fellow Republicans to remove all Federalists from their appointed positions. Instead he felt that it was his right to replace the top government officials, such as the cabinet and the politically motivated midnight judgesappointed by Adams. Feeling that most Adams Federalists, who were moderate in outlook than the High Federalists who followed Hamilton, could be turned to the Republican Party; Jefferson kept most in their existing positions. Jefferson's refusal to call for a complete replacement of federal appointees under the spoils systemwas followed by U.S. Presidents until the election of Andrew Jacksonin 1828.
While Jefferson preferred to practice political moderation towards the Federalists, the party itself was torn apart by political in-fighting. Keeping with their high-minded roots, the Federalist refused to accept the political campaigning practiced by the Republicans and were aghast at populist appeals made by that party. Federalist leaders John Adams and
John Jayretired from public life and Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice-President Aaron Burrleaving the party without strong leadership. As the nation began to expand ( Vermont, Kentuckyand Tennesseeentered the Union under the Federalists and Ohiojoined in 1803), the ideas of Jeffersonian democracy appealed more to the voters than the Federalist calls for stronger central government and higher taxation. By 1805, the Federalists remained strong only in the New Englandstates and Delawarewhile moderate Federalists joined the Republican Party. Possibly the most damaging defection was John Quincy Adams, son of Federalist President John Adams.
Jefferson was highly suspicious of the judges appointed by his predecessors; his opinion of good judges was much higher: one of his arguments for a bill of rights would be the power they would give the judiciary. [ [http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mtj:@field(DOCID+@lit(tj050124)) Letter to Madison, March 15 1789] : "In the arguments in favor of a declaration of rights, you omit one which has great weight with me, the legal check which it puts into the hands of the judiciary. This is a body, which if rendered independent & kept strictly to their own department merits great confidence for their learning & integrity. In fact what degree of confidence would be too much for a body composed of such men as Wythe, Blair & Pendleton?." ] At his urging, Congress repealed the
Judiciary Act of 1801, abolishing the numerous district courts created at the end of the Adams presidency. The battle to abolish the Judiciary Act was not an easy one. Federalists argued that once the courts were created and judges were appointed, the Constitution directs that they serve for life unless impeachedfor "high crimes and misdemeanors". The Republican leadership, prompted by Jefferson, chose not to argue the political manipulation of the courts but instead chose to attack them based on the cost to the nation. Since many of the courts were created to pack the judiciary with lifetime Federalist judges, there were many circumstances in which there was no need for a court at all. The Republicans argued that the unwarranted nature of the courts combined with their excessive cost justified repeal for the Judiciary Act. Despite the fact that this argument required a "loose" interpretation of the Constitution, which Jefferson rallied against when he fought the creation of Hamilton's First Bank of the United States, the Congress was successful in reversing the law.
This also left numerous Federalist "
midnight judges" without positions. Since the creation of these "midnight judge" positions was done to protect the courts from Republican appointees, Jefferson felt justified in not awarding the commissions creating the new federal judges. One commission that he was unable to prevent was the appointment of former Secretary of State John Marshallto the position of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Although Marshall was a cousin of Jefferson, he was a strong Federalist in the tradition of John Adams. Marshall's influence on the Court would help to firmly entrench the supremacy of the federal government. One of the first cases Marshall was asked to decide was that of William Marbury, one of the "midnight judges" who was requesting that the Court issue a writ of mandamusto Secretary of State James Madison ordering the delivery of the judicial commissions. The resulting case, Marbury v Madisonset the landmark precedentof judicial reviewfor the Supreme Court.
The Republicans were not content with simply overturning the Judiciary Act of 1801 and removing the "midnight judges". The next planned to impeach existing federal judges to remove them from office. The first case was
John Pickering, a Federalist judge who exhibited signs of insanity and public drunkenness. At Jefferson's instigation, the House of Representatives impeached Pickering in 1804 and the Senate removed him from the bench later that year. Jefferson next set his sights on the Supreme Court. Reading that Federalist Justice Samuel Chasetold a grand jury that the Republicans threatened, "peace and order, freedom and property.", Jefferson urged Congressional leaders to begin impeachment hearings. Many Republicans felt that this accusation of seditionwas too reminiscent of the Federalist Sedition Actthat had been repealed early in Jefferson's presidency. Unwilling to remove a Supreme Court justice on purely political accusations, the Senate acquitted Chase of all charges in 1804. The case of Samuel Chase has been the only impeachment trial of a Supreme Court justice in United States history. By rebelling against Jefferson's wishes, the Republican Senators sent a message that the independence of the judiciary was not open to political manipulation.
Reelection and a Republican split
Jefferson easily defeated Federalist
Charles Pinckneyby an electoral vote of 162-14 and was re-elected in the 1804 election. With little opposition outside of New England, the Federalists had ceased to be a major source of opposition for the Jefferson administration. Seizing the opportunity to rail against the moderate Republicanism of Jefferson, Congressmen John Randolph of Roanokeand John Taylor of Carolinebroke with the president called for a return to the "principles of '98," and a small weak national government. Known as the "Old Republicans" (or sometimes called Quids), the men targeted Madison and Gallatain as the primary sources of Republican weakness. When Jefferson became embroiled in the Yazoo Land Fraudcontroversy, Randolph began to attack the president from the floor of the House. Randolph's actions had little effect other than to alienate the Quids from the rest of the Republican Party. In the end, the Marshall Court was forced to resolve the Yazoo issue in the case of Fletcher v. Peck. While Marshall reluctantly agreed to support Jefferson's interpretation of the controversy, he was also able to increase the power of the Court by giving it the right to review the constitutionality of state laws.
Native American relations
When Jefferson assumed power, the Shawnee leader
Tecumsehand his brother Tenskwatawawere leading raids against the United States in the Ohio Valley. Attempting to form a confederation of Indian people in the Northwest Territory, the two brothers would be a continual source of irritation to westward settlers. Jefferson, while not adverse to native people, felt that they should be assimilated into more "civilized" white culture or be removed to the west. Under Jefferson the first Indian relocation began from the southern states. Only the Five Civilized Tribeswere allowed to retain their ancestral territory and this was because they adapted to white culture. When the Creeknation refused to relocate out of Alabama, Tennessee militia under the direction of Andrew Jackson launched a bloody campaign culminating at the battle of Horseshoe Bendto move them west.
Banning the slave trade
It was during Jefferson's second term that the constitutional ban on discussion of the slave trade in Congress expired. The ban, which was created by the slave trade compromise at the
Philadelphia Convention, prohibited Congress from considering a ban on the slave trade until 1808. In 1807, northern representatives in Congress submitted a bill calling for the end of the slave trade. The bill, submitted with Jefferson's approval, divided the Congress along sectional lines. While Northern congressmen opposed the slave trade, there was no desire to release free black men and women into northern cities if they were captured being smuggled in to the country. Southern congressmen argued that the ban would largely be ignored and that it was up to the states, not Congress, to regulate slavery. The compromise bill ended the trade in 1808 but ordered the federal government to turn any smuggled slaves over to the states to deal with according to local custom. Many of these slaves were then auctioned by the state governments to the highest bidder. In reality, the ban on the slave trade only reduced the trade and did not eliminate it altogether.
Jefferson's foreign policies
The Louisiana Purchase
In his first Inaugural Address Jefferson outlined a vision of the United States eventually expanding out into the Louisiana Territory [The Revolution of 1803. Annual Editions: United Sates History vol. 1 ] At the time that he assumed the presidency, the territory was the property of Spain which had acquired it from the
Treaty of Paris (1783). However, when Napoleon Bonaparteannexed Spain into his French Empire in 1801, the territory secretly reverted back to French ownership. When the port of New Orleanswas closed to U.S. commercial trade in 1802, Jefferson realized that he must take action in order to protect the economy of the western states and territories. The president sent James Monroeand Robert Livingstonto Paris to inquire about purchasing New Orleans from the French. At the same time, Napoleon was fighting a brutal war in Haitiagainst General Touissant L'Overturethat was depleting the French treasury. Desperate for money, Napoleon made Monroe and Livingston though his representative Talleyrandto purchase the territory for $15 million. Jefferson was pleased at the offer but felt that he lacked the constitutional power to purchase the land. Following his doctrine for "strict" interpretation of the Constitution, Jefferson prepared to draft an amendmentto the Constitution giving Congress the express power to purchase land. Hearing of the delay in the United States and rapidly running out of money, Napoleon ordered Talleyrand to leak information that hinted he would offer the territory to Great Britain if the U.S. did not act quickly. At the urging of Monroe and Livingston, Jefferson relented and sent the annexation treaty to the Senate for approval without the benefit of an amendment. With only a small group of Federalists resisting, the territory of Louisiana was annexed to the United States as the Louisiana Purchase. Suddenly faced with the prospect of not only doubling the size of the United States, Jefferson also had to decide how to govern the new French, Spanish, Mexican, and Native Americans who lived in the territory. To this end Jefferson proposed the Louisiana Government Billwhich created an appointed government for the territory and established a system for collection of taxes. In effect, Jefferson had authorized taxation without representation, they very thing that he had opposed in the American Revolution.
As soon as the purchase was complete, Jefferson ordered the
Lewis and Clark expeditionto survey the new territory. Merriweather Lewisand William Clarkwere sent out by Jefferson to collect scientific data on the new territory, write an ethnographyof native people, establish a trade network between native nations and the United States, and to discover the extent of the purchased land.
Popular discontent in the Louisiana Territory later led to the
Burr conspiracyin which former Vice President Aaron Burrwas approached by Napoleon to make an attempt to break off the Louisiana Territory into an independent state with ties to France. Burr, chafing at his rejection from Washington and later his home state of New York, agreed and began to organize a militia force in the territory. Calling himself the "Emperor of Mexico", Burr was pursued by the army across the territory and back into the United States proper. Once Burr was arrested, Jefferson ordered a trial on the grounds of treason. When the case came before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Marshall found that there was not sufficient evidence to show that Burr was at the locations where the conspiracy was discussed. To the dismay of Jefferson, Marshall and the Supreme Court acquitted Burr of all charges.
The Barbary War
Under George Washington, the United States had agreed to pay
tributeto the Barbary Statesof North Africa in order to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. Jefferson fearing that the increased cost of tribute may financially devastate the federal treasury decided to send in both naval and United States Marine Corpsforces into Tripoli. The First Barbary Warsaw a victory for the U.S. Marines who "marched to the shores of Tripoli". Despite the losses of some U.S. ships, the United States was considered a victor when peace was signed in 1805.
Relations with Europe
In Jefferson's second term, the
Napoleonic Warsbroke out in Europe as Great Britain and France battled for international supremacy. Initially following Washington's Neutrality Act, Jefferson did not commit the United States to either side and continued to trade with both nations. Wanting to weaken Napoleon, the British government began to seize American ships and impress American sailors by the thousands despite American neutrality. The British Parliament also passed the Orders in Councilwhich barred any trade with the European continent. Napoleon responded with the Berlin Decreein 1806 and the Milan Decreein 1807, both of which effectively cut Europe from British trade and threaten seizure of neutral ships. Jefferson became increasingly agitated with both nations as American neutrality was ignored. Tensions flared when the the Chesapeake-Leopard Incidenttook place off the coast of Virginia. A British warship, "The Leopard" ordered the American ship "The Chesapeake" to submit to a search. The American captain refused and shots were exchanged leaving three men dead and eighteen wounded. Public outrage demanded that Jefferson take action.
In response, Jefferson and Congress passed the
Embargo Actin 1807. The act was designed to force Britain and France into respecting US neutrality by cutting off all American shipping to either nation. Almost immediately the Americans began to turn to smuggling in order to ship goods to Europe. Jefferson was forced to call out the military and expand the power of the federal government by patrolling the American coast, cutting off trade routes to Canada, seizing the ships of suspected smugglers, and ordering that no ship could be loaded without the approval of a customs officer and the military. The effects of the Embargo Act backfired on the Republicans. New England, which depended on trade for economic survival, turned again to the Federalist Party. Jefferson lost many supporters who resented the intrusion into their personal lives by the national government. Even Britain and France scoffed at the Act as neither economy was severely damaged due to smuggling. By the time Jefferson surrendered the presidency to James Madisonin 1808, his reputation was severely damaged by his support of the Embargo Act.
* (March 4, 1801)
* (March 4, 1805)
tate of the Union Address
Jefferson ended the tradition of delivering a State of the Union speech and instead just had it published. Woodrow Wilson later ended this policy.
* (December 8, 1801)
* (December 15, 1802)
* (October 17, 1803)
* (November 8, 1804)
* (December 3, 1805)
* (December 2, 1806)
* (October 27, 1807)
* (November 8, 1808)
Administration and Cabinet
upreme Court appointments
Jefferson appointed the following Justices to the
Supreme Court of the United States:
*William Johnson – 1804
Henry Brockholst Livingston– 1807
Thomas Todd– 1807
tates admitted to the Union
Ohio– March 1, 1803
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