Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
Jefferson was born on 13th April, 1743 grew up in Virginia and was raised with the orphaned children. He studied law with George Wythe, the first American law professor. He was admitted to the bar in 1767.
Jefferson served in the House of Burgesses (1769-74). He argued against Britain’s actions and was part of the Committee of Correspondence. He was a member of the Continental Congress (1775-6) and then became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1776-9). As a member of the second Continental Congress (1783-4), he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was sent to France as a minister after the war (1785-89). He considered his presidency as the 2nd American Revolution.
“My Presidency is the 2nd American Revolution”
The Louisiana Purchase:
Napoleon Bonaparte, who came to power in France in 1799, dreamed of reestablishing the French empire in North America. In the following year, he negotiated a secret treaty, the Treaty of San Ildefonso, with Spanish King Charles IV, which returned the Louisiana Territory to France
In 1803, Jefferson sent James Monroe to join Robert Livingston, the American minister in Paris, to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans and West Florida.
Bidding of Louisiana
By this time, Napoleon had given up his plans for a colonial empire. Two American representatives were therefore surprised to find the French government willing to sell all of Louisiana, 280,000 square miles between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains for a paltry $15 million. Jefferson was unsure whether the United States could legally buy the Louisiana territory because the Constitution said nothing about purchasing land. He considered proposing a constitutional amendment but dropped the idea because it might take too much time, and the opportunity could vanish. The bargain was too good to pass up. Jefferson approved the purchase, the Senate ratified it, and the United States abruptly doubled in size.
John Marshall was the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a strong rival of Thomas Jefferson. Therefore the relation between executive and judiciary remained tense in those days. Jefferson tried to appoint his party men to the courts but he was heavily criticized for this act. Whereas John Marshall managed to secures the independence of the federal judiciary through brilliant legal arguments and skilled political maneuvering.
Albert Galton and Federal Budget
Jefferson was of the view that the federal budget should be understandable to the common men also. Therefore he appointed Albert Galton and gave him the task of making federal budget understandable even to the common man. So that their feedbacks and suggestion could help improving the budget further.
The immigration policy before his presidency was quite strict and the immigration was granted to the one who at least had spent 14 years in America. He reduced the time period of 14 years to 5 years for acquiring the US citizenship.
Laissez Fair Economy
Laissez Fair Economy is an economic environment in which transactions between private parties are free from tariffs, government subsidies, and enforced monopolies, with only enough government regulations sufficient to protect property rights against theft and aggression. Jefferson was of the view that there should be very little involvement of government in private economy.
Though he himself was an atheist but he was very much tolerant of other religions and passes a bill in 1777 which promoted religious freedom for the state of Virginia (which was before his presidency).
Autonomy to States
Since he was an Anti-Federalist and his main priority was to make state stronger. Therefore he provided full autonomy to the states.
Jefferson use to consider slavery as an evil institution and believed in equality of man. But no proper measures were taken during his presidency for the eradication of slavery. Since he was a landlord and even he himself had 127 slaves, for which he was often criticized.
Belief and importance to common man
He considered government as an instrument for the promotion of common men. He was of the view that the common man should be given a chance to enter politics and run government.
“Thomas Jefferson was the most brilliant man ever occupied the American Presidency” “John F. Kennedy”
Questions on Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson described his election to the American Presidency in 1800 as ―the Second American Revolution‖. Was the claim justified? Support your answer with evidence. (CSS 2001)
Discuss Jefferson’s decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory, and explain the political and economic impact of this decision on the United States. (CSS 2004)
Thomas Jefferson was termed ―a bull in the china closet‖ by the Federalists when he became the President of the United States of America but his policies and performance negated this impression. Discuss. (CSS 2009)