The Revolution of 1800
Upon the dawn of the 19th century in the United States of America, there emerged a determined leader who triumphantly molded the country’s amorphous identity into a formidable persona esteemed by the world. This innovative man, Thomas Jefferson, cast a spell of serenity upon an irresolute nation as his tenure as the third President of the United States of America saw its genesis in 1801. Jefferson, an ardent advocate of Republican ideals, entered his first term as the leader of the fledgling nation with an agenda deluging with schemes and strategies poised to elevate the United States among the elite powers of the world. The inchoate nation, coming off a Quasi War with France and a vehement internal struggle between the Federalist and Republican parties, yearned for a man of Jefferson’s temperament to take the helm of an emergent civilization such as itself.
Referred to as the “Revolution of 1800”, Jefferson’s election and tenure as the third President of the United States of America truly exemplified the characteristics of a “revolution” due to its administration of an effective domestic policy, its administration of an effectual foreign policy, and its initial confirmation and eventual metamorphose of its Republican ideology to serve the better interest of the evolving nation. The efficacious domestic policy the Jeffersonian administration enacted upon taking the helm of the United States of America revolutionized the American people’s faith in governmental affairs. The Jeffersonian vision of a society of sturdy, independent farmers free from industrialism and universally educated in scientific rationalism portrayed itself to the American people through the myriad of domestic policies initiated by the third President’s administration; however, this vision best illustrated itself through the domestic policies specifically instituted in the year of 1802. The United States of America, dominated by the many Federalist policies enacted by the Washington and Adams administrations, felt a strong sentiment of uncertainty concerning the Federalist policies and their “intention” to serve the will of the people. Alexander Hamilton, a leading figure in the Federalist party and the first two presidents’ administrations, called for an increased American public debt, an extensive system of internal taxation, (the Whiskey excise tax), and a strong national government throughout the early dominance of the Federalists in American politics. Nevertheless, the American people felt some uncertainty as to if their will and best interest came first in the government’s mind.
Internal taxes similar to the Stamp and Sugar Acts, which eventually initiated the first American Revolution, aroused dubiety in the citizens of the United States as these policies seemed to target and alienate large groups of people such as property owners and farmers within the nation. As apprehension and doubt began to set in among the American people, the Jeffersonian domestic policy came to the rescue in 1802: eradicating dubiety and replacing it with an inveterate trust. The new administration, lead by Jefferson’s distinctive bucolic vision of America, quickly persuaded Congress to abolish all internal taxes and leave only custom duties and the sale of western lands as the only source of revenue for the government. Shortly after, Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin drastically reduced governmental spending by cutting the small staffs of executive departments to a minute level: ultimately, in addition with other efforts to reduce spending, cutting the national debt in half from $85 million to $45 million. Jefferson also called for a major scale down of the armed forces, reducing the army from 4,000 men to 2,500 and cutting the navy from twenty-five ships to a miniscule seven. The justification of this scale down of the armed forces, in Jefferson’s eyes, stemmed from the menace of these standing armies to civil liberties and civilian control of the government, and from the promotion of overseas commerce by the large navy, (which went against Jefferson’s idea of agriculture coming first).
Hence, Jefferson’s domestic policies revolutionized the American people’s trust and faith in governmental affairs, for their remained within the nation no endangerment to civil liberty, no animosity concerning internal taxes, and no concern about the national debt as these policies went into action. The effectual foreign policy the Jeffersonian administration enacted upon taking the helm of the United States of America revolutionized the nation’s insecure identity by asserting its emergence to the elite powers of the world. Coming off the America Revolution and a struggle to attain a respected persona, the United States of America looked to the Jeffersonians in order to make itself a nonpareil nation. Jefferson introduced a multitude of schemes concerning foreign policy which all worked triumphantly; however, Jefferson best exemplified his proclamation of the nation’s refurbished identity through his foreign policy concerning the Barbary Pirates of Northern Africa, and the Louisiana Purchase. For years in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Northern Africa, the Barbary States had established a reputation as the indomitable freebooters of the area.
Puissant nations such as Great Britain had even succumbed to the fiscal demands of these nefarious villains who clearly dominated the Mediterranean Sea. Nevertheless, the United States decided to take a brazen step in solidifying its repute as a super power of the world. Thomas Jefferson demanded that this policy of appeasement stop, and that the navy begin to cautiously bolster up its forces after the pasha of Tripoli chopped down the American flagpole. With the fleet fortified and the nation primed for war, Jefferson showed no trepidation in executing the foreign policy he felt would be of best interest to the United States. In the end, Jefferson’s incredible effrontery served the United States best interest, for in 1805 the United States reached an agreement with the pasha of Tripoli that ended American payments of tribute to Tripoli but required that the United States pay a ransom of $60,000 for the release of some American hostages held by the pirates.
Jefferson’s temerity to stand up in the face of a belligerent force such as the Barbary Pirates asserted to the world that the United States no longer could be looked upon as a meek target for harassment. A few months later, in the spring of 1803, another opportunity to display America’s progress presented itself to the plucky Jefferson and his administration. Napoleon Bonaparte, an intemperate leader with an insatiable desire for avarice, engaged himself in a conflict known as the Napoleonic Wars. The Napoleonic Wars involved Napoleon against the many powers of Europe, (primarily Great Britain, Russia, and Prussia). After a recently failed attempt at subjugation in India, Napoleon decided to turn his sights towards the restoration of French power within the New World. Within a short period of time, Napoleon had already begun the preliminary endeavors to fabricating the clandestine Treaty of San Ildefonso which now gave control of the Louisiana Territory, (most of the Mississippi Valley to the west of the river and New Orleans), to France instead of Spain.
Jefferson, at first unaware of this oust of Spanish control in the lands west of the Mississippi, now was forced to deviate from his intention of pursuing a foreign policy reflective of his well known admiration for France. With American ships now longer allowed to sail the Mississippi for depositing cargo in New Orleans, the nation found itself in turmoil and looked to Jefferson for a solution. Jefferson appointed Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe as the negotiators of a project that involved purchasing the French controlled territory west of the Mississippi, or the Louisiana Territory. Napoleon, in need of financial aide from the harrowing effects of his ongoing war with Europe, found the $15 million sale much to his advantage as his control of the Louisiana Territory found itself in the hands of the United States. Jefferson proved himself once again in the face of a dispute, evading a conflict with France and almost doubling the size of the emergent nation.
Hence, Jefferson’s efficacious foreign policy revolutionized the nation’s insecure identity by declaring that the United States of America stood among the potent nations of the world through his actions concerning the Barbary Pirate and Louisiana Purchase incidents. Jefferson’s initial confirmation and eventual metamorphose of his Republican ideology to serve the better interest of the evolving nation asserted Jefferson’s true beliefs as a Republican and narrowed the chasm between Federalist and Republican ideologies within the nation. Climacteric to Jefferson’s Republican ideology was his vision of the United States as a society of sturdy and independent farmers who promote republican simplicity and a federal government of sharply limited power. During his presidency, Jefferson illustrated this idea of republican simplicity and a limited federal government through his attempt to eliminate the aura of majesty from the position he now held. Jefferson represented the quintessential American citizen via his failure to dress up for state dinners, his disregard of the courtly etiquette of his predecessors, and his overall demeanor of simplicity as he fulfilled his term as president. The position of President of the United States to Jefferson was not this grandiose lifestyle deluging with sentiments of prim decorum.
Jefferson viewed his position like anything else, and by portraying the job as unpretentious, he asserted his Republican ideology of republican simplicity and his vision of America as a bucolic nation. This unfamiliar view of the president’s position as something this simplistic was truly revolutionary, for it asserted to Americans a concept of their leader far different from anything portrayed by Jefferson’s predecessors. In addition, Jefferson’s domestic policy strongly asserted his Republican ideology as well. His strong beliefs against internal taxes, a standing army, and lavish government spending all were addressed in his effective administration of his domestic policy. Hence, Jefferson’s Republican beliefs asserted themselves to the nation through his depiction of the president’s position as unpretentious, and through the enactment of his domestic policy.
As Jefferson continued his tenure at the helm of the nation, he soon found himself narrowing the chasm between Federalist and Republican ideologies upon approving the Louisiana Purchase, which called for him to adopt a loose interpretation of the Constitution, a Federalist ideal. Jefferson, as an ardent Republican, believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and its amendments. The Federalists, on the other hand, believed in a loose interpretation of the Constitution, which called these Federalists to illustrate some leeway when interpreting the document and its innumerable clauses. Upon receiving the news that the Louisiana Purchase had been successful, Jefferson instantaneously felt extreme hesitation when asked to validate the proposal to complete the deal. Nowhere in the Constitution does it specifically give the president the right to acquire new territory whatsoever.
Jefferson, apprehensive to oppose his Republican ideal of a strict interpretation of the Constitution, found himself left with no choice but to adopt the Federalist ideal of a loose interpretation of the document. The acquisition of a territory like the one presented to him was too valuable and beneficial to the United States and its people to overlook. By justifying the approval of the purchase through his “treaty making powers”, Jefferson adopted a Federalist principal when faced with a situation that favored the benefit of the general public. Hence, Jefferson’s adoption of a Federalist ideal helped to narrow the chasm between the two parties ideologies and validated the meaning of Jefferson’s famous statement when he proclaimed: “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”.
The Jeffersonian administration’s incumbency as the leading force of the United States of America truly found itself to be revolutionary for the nation and its people. Jefferson’s various domestic and foreign policies fabricated within the people a sense of inveterate trust in their government, and helped to solidify the amorphous identity of the emergent nation. In addition, Jefferson’s narrowing of the chasm between the Federalists and Republicans revolutionized politics by, for the first time, showing that these two political parties did not truly lie on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. After two terms as the leading force of the once evolving nation of the United States of America, the Jeffersonian administration is looked at by many as one of the most revolutionary forces to ever bestow itself upon the country because its actions gave the America people a new way to look at themselves and their country: as significant and influential people part of a puissant nation among the elite of the world.