Thomas Jefferson

Looking back on the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson described it as being “as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form; not effected indeed by the sword, as that, but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people.” Jefferson saw his election as reversing an earlier trend away from republicanism. The departure from true republican principles, as he judged it, had begun with the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton favoring financial and manufacturing interests and the strengthening of the national government at the expense of the states. During John Adams’s presidency, Jefferson was further alarmed by the threats to civil liberties posed by the Alien and Sedition Laws restricting freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. Under the administrations of both George Washington and Adams, Jefferson was also concerned that the rituals of the presidency resembled too closely the monarchical models of !
By 1800 Jefferson was convinced that the government must be put on a more republican tack if the new Republic were to succeed, and he directed his efforts in the election of 1800 toward that end. In a nation of farmers, Jefferson’s belief in the virtues of an agrarian republic of independent farmers won wide support. The Republicans also drew support from artisans and workers in towns and cities, where Jefferson’s opposition to an aristocracy of privilege gained him the image of a man of the people. The Jeffersonian Republicans found little support among the banking, manufacturing, and commercial interests attracted to Hamilton’s vision of an industrial America. As a slaveholder who nevertheless opposed the institution of slavery, Jefferson drew support from both slaveholders and opponents of slavery; the Jeffersonian Republicans, however, did not include emancipation in their democratic agenda.
The philosophical roots of Jeffersonian Democracy are to be fo…


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