Thomas Jefferson and Philosophical Consistency

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DBQ #3
Thomas Jefferson was an early American politician, who was well-known for his actions during his presidency. He was labeled as a Democratic-Republican, meaning he favored stronger rights of individual states, rather than a central government with a lot of power. That is, at least in the years prior to his presidency. After he was elected, however, his convictions totally changed. During his presidency, three major events; his war with the Barbary Pirates, his restrictive economic policies, and the Louisiana Purchase, all directly contradicted the beliefs of himself and other Democratic-Republicans.

Before he was elected Thomas Jefferson did not like the idea of a large military, because of his principles of Republicanism. During Adams’ presidency and bid for larger armed forces, Jefferson was completely against such a notion, and he did not want a standing army. Even with his “principles”, he still acted against the Barbary States in Africa with his armed forces (Doc. D). The pirates were boarding American ships in the Mediterranean and stealing their cargo. The pirates were harassing the American shipping industry very greatly. Although Jefferson had reason to attack the pirates, this action directly contradicted his feelings before his presidency. Not only did he contradict himself, he also contradicted the Constitution, because he was not legally allowed to declare war against another country without an act of Congress approving such a move. When the conflict ended, Jefferson also paid $60,000 to keep the Barbary Pirates off of American ships as blackmail money, something he would not have done before he became the President. Jefferson had once been a man against war and yet once he got into power his feelings had changed.

Additionally, Jefferson’s feelings on economic policies greatly changed after the election of 1800. Before the presidency, he said “the excise law is an infernal one. The first error was to admit it by the...