Chapter 11 (13th)

The Triumphs and Travails of Jeffersonian Republic

  1. Federalist and Republican Mudslingers
    1. By 1800, the Federalists had earned themselves many enemies. First there were the Alien and Sedition Acts. Worse, Pres. Adams had opted against war, an unpopular move.
      1. One benefit was that the American navy had gotten a solid start. Adams ("Father of the American navy") had the navy built up, then wouldn't use it in war. The drawback was the appearance of wasting money.
    2. Alexander Hamilton even attacked Pres. Adams in a pamphlet. The pamphlet became public and Republicans used it against Adams.
    3. Federalists fought back with a smear-campaign of Jefferson. Federalists charged Jefferson robbed a widow of her trust fund, fathered mulatto children (which turned out to be true), and of being an atheist (he was actually a Deist).
  2. The Jeffersonian “Revolution of 1800”
    1. Jefferson won the election of 1800 by an electoral vote of 73 to Adams' 65.
      1. Oddly, Adams got more popular votes, but Jefferson won the swing state of New York thanks to the dealings of Aaron Burr.
      2. Also, due to a technicality, Jefferson and Burr actually tied. Burr was supposed to be Vice-President, but the way the electoral balloting system was set up officially got him 73 electoral votes for president also. How was the tie to be broken?
        1. The Constitution puts such a situation into the hands of the House of Representatives where each state gets one vote.
        2. The House voted, and got another tie, some 30+ times! The deadlock occurred because many Federalists disliked Jefferson terribly, so they voted for Burr as the lesser-of-two evils.
        3. After months, since a new president was needed quickly, a few votes were changed and Jefferson was elected. The change was at the urging of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams who knew that a Burr victory would be blamed on Federalists and thus doom their party.
    2. Jefferson's election is called the "Revolution of 1800" for two main reasons…
      1. There was a peaceful exchange of power between two parties in a major nation. This was a historic first for the U.S. and the world.
      2. The Republicans were something of the "people's party" and, through Jefferson, the people sort of entered the White House.
  3. Responsibility Breeds Moderation
    1. Jefferson was inaugurated in March of 1801. Washington D.C. was a brand new, woodsy, country capital.
    2. Jefferson's inaugural address stressed moderation between Republicans and Federalists.
      1. His goal was to soothe Federalists fears by saying, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."
      2. He also outlined his foreign policy by saying, "…honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." After the mistake of the Franco-American alliance, the U.S. was learning lessons.
    3. Jefferson proved to be very unconventional.
      1. He was a sloppy dresser and frugal.
      2. He made a point of not being or appearing aristocratic, the way the Federalists might have done things.
        1. He wore simple worker's clothes.
        2. He rode around Washington horseback (as opposed to a carriage that he felt too royal).
        3. He seated guests at the White House in random order (as opposed to seating by "rank").
        4. He started the tradition of reporting to Congress through a clerk (rather than himself which he felt too pompous).
    4. There were two Jeffersons…
      1. First, the scholarly philosopher.
      2. Second, the politician who learned that theories don't always work out cleanly in real life.
    5. Jefferson stayed true to his theme of moderation while in office. Many Republicans wanted him to "clean house" after the Federalists; he didn't. He felt it would be counter-productive for one president to try and undo everything the prior one had done, even if he disagrees.
  4. Jeffersonian Restraint
    1. Jefferson did make a few "un-Federalist" actions. He hated the Alien and Sedition Acts and wanted to undo them.
      1. He pardoned those who'd been convicted under the Sedition Act.
      2. He got the residency requirement to become a citizen moved back to 5 years from the 14 that the Alien Act had set.
      3. He also removed the excise tax on whiskey thinking it unfair. The drawback here was not getting the $1 million per year in revenue.
    2. The Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin was very capable at budgeting the nation. Despite little income, he managed to balance the budget and reduce the debt.
    3. Aside from the excise tax, the rest of Alexander Hamilton's programs were left untouched by Jefferson (even though he disliked them).
    4. Jefferson's moderation showed that one party's loss would not be the end of the nation. This helped solidify the two-party system.
  5. The “Dead Clutch” of the Judiciary
    1. Although voted out of the White House, the Federalists had one last trick up their sleeves…
      1. They passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 which created 16 new federal court districts.
      2. Then, in his last hours as president, John Adams packed the federal courts with "midnight judges". The goal was to pack the federal government with Federalist judges, who serve for life, and thereby sustain the Federalist influence.
    2. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall proved to be a strong and lasting supporter of Federalist causes—mainly to strengthen the federal government.
    3. The first major Supreme Court case was Marbury v. Madison in 1803. The technicalities of the case involved a judge (Marbury) not being appointed to a bench by Sec. of State Madison, then Marbury appealing to get that appointment. The technicalities are really unimportant. The importance of Marbury was…
      1. For the first time, the Supreme Court struck down a law as unconstitutional.
      2. This act is called "judicial review"—the power of the Court to review the constitutionality of laws and keep or strike them. This is the Courts supreme power.
    4. After Marbury, the Republicans were out for blood. They set their sights on Supreme Court justice Samuel Chase. Chase was a strong Federalist and a bit of a loud-mouth—a perfect target for Republicans.
      1. The Republicans in the House voted to impeach Chase for "high crimes and misdemeanors" (as the Constitution prescribes).
      2. But, in the Senate trial, it became clear there were no crimes or misdemeanors, just loud-mouthing. Chase was not kicked off the Court.
      3. This failure to oust a justice showed that the judicial branch truly was independent of the other two branches.
  6. Jefferson, a Reluctant WarriorThis content copyright © 2010 by
    1. Jefferson's nature was toward being a "peace-president" rather than a "war-president."
      1. Hailing from the revolutionary days, he distrusted large, standing armies—they could be used against the people themselves. He preferred armies that were called to duty when needed, like the militia.
      2. He downsized the military to only 2,500 soldiers. The navy, though less worrisome, was almost nothing. Jefferson thought it was pointless since the U.S. was not at war.
    2. Issues in the Mediterranean Sea changed Jefferson's mind.
      1. In the Med. Sea, North African "Barbary Pirates" were pirating American (and European) ships.
      2. Back in the Federalist days, the U.S. felt it simpler to pay off the Barbary Pirates "tribute" or "bully money" to not harass U.S. ships. This was both more convenient than fighting but also somewhat embarrassing.
      3. Then, the pasha of Tripoli cut down the American consulate's flagstaff in a sign of warfare. Peaceful Jefferson had had enough.
        1. Jefferson sent the navy to the "shores of Tripoli." Their sea-to-land amphibious expedition spawned the Marines Corps.
        2. The most famous incident involved Stephen Decatur and his men when they daringly re-captured the ship Intrepid.
        3. The U.S. military took care of business and got a treaty formed. It paid $60,000 as ransom to free prisoners. But, the Barbary Pirate days were over.
    3. After the Tripolitan War, as it was known, Jefferson decided to strengthen the navy after all. But, he wanted small, fast, and cheap gunboats, not ships. He had about 200 gunboats built. Later, this would prove to be a waste—for a navy, warships were better than toy boats.
  7. The Louisiana Godsend
    1. In 1800, Napoleon got the king of Spain to hand over Louisiana to France. The "right of deposit" (the right to go down the Mississippi River) that the Pinckney Treaty gained was then revoked.
    2. Now, powerful France was next-door again and the Ohio Valley was essentially isolated west of the mountains. Jefferson had a problem on his hands.
      1. Jefferson sent Robert R. Livingston to France in attempt to make a deal. Livingston could offer up to $10 million to buy a small piece of Louisiana—enough to get down the river to the Gulf of Mexico.
      2. France's counter-offer asked if the U.S. would like to buy all of Louisiana for $15 million. This stunned the American delegates and they couldn't refuse the deal.
        1. As to why did France sell it? There were two reasons…
          1. An uprising in Haiti led by Toussaint L'Overture made Napoleon decide the troubles in America weren't worth it.
          2. Napoleon was planning war on Europe, knew he'd not be able to hold it anyway, and needed quick cash.
    3. With news of the purchase, Jefferson was put in a dilemma…
      1. On the one hand, his delegates had (a) only been authorized to spend $10 million and (b) a strict interpretation of the Constitution (which Jefferson liked to do) meant the president really didn't have the power to buy lands from foreign nations.
      2. On the other hand, this was just too good of a deal to pass up! It'd double the size of the country for little more than they were willing to pay for a city.
    4. Jefferson wrestled with the issue, especially the Constitutional part of it, but practicality took over—he made the purchase anyway by sending it to the Senate which quickly passed it.
    5. It's worth noting that the political parties each flip-flopped on this issue…
      1. Jefferson (and the Republicans) had normally been a strict interpreter of the Constitution, but he was now using a loose interpretation.
      2. Federalists, normally loose interpreters, took a strict interpretation and opposed the purchase. Federalist didn’t want the new lands because they correctly foresaw that new lands meant new settlers, and that meant new states, which meant more farmers, and ultimately more Republicans.
  8. Louisiana in the Long View
    1. In one quick and bloodless move, the size of the U.S. had been doubled. The price amounted to about 3 cents per acre.
    2. Jefferson's dream of nearly endless amounts of land for anyone who wanted to farm it seemed to be reality.
    3. One problem was that the land was nearly entirely unknown. So, Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the famous "Lewis and Clark" expedition.
      1. They traveled from St. Louis up the Missouri River to its headwaters, hiked over the Rocky Mountains, then traveled down the Snake and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific Ocean.
      2. Along the way, their goals as set by President Jefferson were to (a) meet and befriend the Indians and (b) take notes of what they saw (animals, plants, land, etc).
      3. Their 2 and a half year trek was recorded in Clark's journal and became one of history's greatest adventures.
    4. Less well-known was Zebulon Pike who explored the Spanish-owned areas of the American Southwest.
      1. He went into Colorado (hence Pike's Peak), then south into current New Mexico, Mexico, and Texas.
      2. Although this was Spanish land at the time, it seems Pike was "scouting it out" for the future.
  9. The Aaron Burr Conspiracies
    1. Aaron Burr had been Vice-President in Jefferson's first term. For Jefferson's second term, Burr was out. Burr then got into a couple of questionable schemes…
      1. Scheme #1 was for New York and New England (the Federalist stronghold) to break away from the rest of the country.
        1. Ironically, Alexander Hamilton ended this scheme when he revealed the plan to Jefferson. Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, Hamilton reluctantly showed up to the fight, and Hamilton was killed.
      2. Scheme #2 had Burr heading west to the frontier.
        1. His goal, apparently, was to travel down the Mississippi River to the Missouri area, separate the western U.S. from the east, then create a new nation by invading Spanish lands.
        2. Jefferson heard of the plan, arrested Burr and charged him with treason.
        3. At Burr's trial the required two witnesses needed couldn't be drummed up so he was found not guilty. Still, his name was shamed and he slunk away in disgrace.
    2. The lesson was that governing such a large tract of new land was tricky business. This would prove painfully true as the Civil War neared.
  10. A Precarious Neutrality
    1. In 1803, Napoleon plunged Europe into war.
    2. For America, this was good news economically speaking. This meant that the U.S. could trade with either side in the war, sell them any of the things they needed, and make money all the while.
      1. America's free-reign of the sea was short-lived though. In 1805 British Adm. Horatio Lord Nelson's fleet won at the Battle of Trafalgar. This ensured that Britain ruled the seas.
      2. At the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon and the French won. This ensured that France ruled the land.
    3. These events had nothing to do with America until…
      1. In 1806, London issued what was called Orders in Council. These rules stated that any foreign (U.S.) ship headed to France must first check-in at a British port for inspection.
      2. Likewise, France announced they'd seize any foreign ships entering British ports.
      3. America was stuck in the middle. And just to address the question, "How can they tell us what to do?" The answer is that their navy is stronger than the American navy.
    4. The issue of impressment (kidnapping at sea) was even more troublesome.
      1. About 6,000 American sailors were impressed. Often they'd be knocked out with a club and when they awoke, they were scrubs on a British ship.
    5. In 1807, the British ship Leopard attacked the American Chesapeake off of Virginia.
      1. The Leopard demanded men, then shot, and the wounded Chesapeake limped back to port.
      2. The British government apologized, but the effect was to energize the American people to call for war. Jefferson, the peace-maker, was slow to take up arms.
  11. The Hated Embargo
    1. Jefferson felt that a shipping clash and war with England or France was coming. The only way to avoid this would be to impose an embargo (halt on exports). He mistakenly didn't see the impact such a shut-down would have on American merchants.
    2. In 1807, the Embargo Act was passed. It forbade all exports to any nation, whether they were at war or not.
      1. New England was hit hardest by this act. Ships simply sat dormant in the harbors as the merchants went broke.
      2. The South and West were also hurt, though to a lesser degree, as their crops began to pile up.
      3. Not surprisingly, smuggling returned. This time things were smuggled out of the country rather than in.
    3. In 1809, after much protest and seeing the results of having no trade, Congress repealed the Embargo Act. The logic was, "Why limit all trade when it's just England and France that we're worried about?" Congress then passed the Non-Intercourse Act which outlawed shipping to England and France only.
      1. This new act made sense, on paper. In reality however, this act had the same effect as the Embargo Act because America’s #1 and #2 trade partners were Britain and France.
    4. The embargo (and Non-Intercourse Act) were not successful.
      1. They failed due to excessive smuggling and to the fact that the British relied on America much less than Jefferson suspected.
      2. Essentially, the embargo hurt America without doing much good. With the money that was lost, the U.S. could have built a strong navy that might have dealt with the British navy on equal terms.
    5. The embargo did have some unexpected benefits.
      1. It forced American industry to get going on its own. Ironically, this helped Jefferson's arch-enemy Alexander Hamilton who'd envisioned an industrial America.
  12. Madison’s Gamble
    1. James Madison followed Jefferson to the presidency. Madison was small, bookish, and like Jefferson, a poor speaker.
    2. The embargo was clearly not successful so Madison came up with Macon's Bill No. 2.
      1. This bill proposed to allow trade with other nations but also to exclusively reinstate trade with either England or France, whichever one pledged to drop its trade restrictions.
      2. Napoleon pounced on this opportunity and promised to drop restrictions and open trade with the U.S.
      3. He was being very self-serving however. His ambition was only to effectively turn America against England and to backstab America in the future if it then became convenient.
      4. Madison smelled some dishonesty but was trapped in his own proposal. Reluctantly, Madison went along with France.
  13. Tecumseh and the Prophet
    1. In 1811, Congress was different.
      1. Younger men had ousted older "submission men." The young Congressmen were from the West and South, and were fiery-tempered. The were called "War Hawks" since they pushed for war.
      2. Most noteworthy of these War Hawks was Henry Clay, a young Kentuckian, named Speaker of the House at age 34.
    2. The War Hawks wanted the Indians cleared out of the west (the Ohio Valley) so whites could settle there without fear.
      1. Indian opposition was led by Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and the Prophet.
      2. They encouraged traditional Indian clothes and culture, urged Indians to not give up or sell their lands, and organized a coalition of Indians (which was very unusual).
      3. The brothers were considered a threat and in November of 1811 Indian governor William Henry Harrison attacked and defeated the Shawnee at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Prophet was killedd.
        1. This battle made William Henry Harrison a national hero and earned him the nickname of "Tippecanoe."
        2. The battle also turned Tecumseh to join the British.
        3. Notably, two years later William Henry Harrison would also kill Tecumseh during the War of 1812.
  14. Mr. Madison’s War
    1. By 1812, war was seen as inevitable. Madison asked Congress to declare war on England and they did in June of 1812. To answer the question, "Why did America go to War in 1812?"…
    2. …in brief, America’s reasons for entering the War of 1812 were…
      1. “Freedom of the seas”—The U.S. wanted the right to sail and trade without fear.
      2. The possibility of land—The U.S. might gain Canada or Florida.
      3. To resolve Indian issues—Americans were still upset about British guns being giving to Indians (Battle of Fallen Timbers) and Indian attacks on the frontier.
      4. On a theoretical level, fighting and defeating England would be make a major statement. America would have to be considered as an equal amongst other nations, rather than a scrawny upstart. This is why the War of 1812 is often called the "Second War for American Independence."

This content is copyright © 2010 by and may not be copied or redistributed. It is protected at

Except for the 11th edition American History pages, the content of this site is copyright © 2010 by and may not be copied or redistributed. It is protected at