There were always contradictions within the Republican belief in equality; the most notable was the exclusion of African Americans. Once in power, Republicans faced problems that forced them to compromise further the purity of their ideals.
I. REGIONAL IDENTITIES IN A NEW REPUBLIC
This section offers an overview of the most important developments that occurred during the period from 1800 to about 1820: prosperity, rapid population growth, especially in the West, and the emergence of sectionalism.
A. Westward the Course of Empire
The growth in the West typified the incredible population growth of the whole nation. Areas that had been populated by Indians and fur traders became the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. The mix of people in the West led to the creation of a new regional culture of a rootless, optimistic folk.
B. Native American Resistance
The Indians stood in the way of westward movement and suffered the consequences. Defrauded and terrorized, some Indians resisted. Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, took up the tomahawk, but was decisively defeated. So, too, were the Creeks. For Thomas Jefferson, and many others, Indian wars were wars of extermination; there could be no coexistence between whites and Indians.
C. Commercial Life in the Cities
Agriculture and trade, carried on in traditional ways, remained the foundation of the economy. American shipping enjoyed a spurt of prosperity between 1793 and 1805, but suffered when England and France restricted America's rights as a neutral nation. Cities were closely associated with international trade, but still played a marginal role in the life of the rest of the nation. Industrialization and mechanization were just beginning to frighten skilled craftsmen.
II. JEFFERSON AS PRESIDENT
Thomas Jefferson personified the contradictions in Republicanism: he despised ceremonies and formality and dedicated himself to intellectual pursuits; at the same time, he was a politician to the core. He realized that his success as a president depended on close cooperation with Congress. A. Jeffersonian Reforms
Jefferson gave top priority to cutting the federal debt and federal taxes. He trimmed federal expenses, mainly by slashing military spending. Reduction of the army had the further benefit of removing a threat to Republican government.
Though badgered by loyal Republicans for political appointments, Jefferson retained only those bureaucrats he thought competent, no matter what their party. His refusal to purge Federalists hastened the demise of the Federalist party. Many of its members retired from public life, and the more ambitious of them, like John Quincy Adams, became Republicans.
B. The Louisiana Purchase
Americans had assumed that they would some day buy or take New Orleans from Spain, which did not have the military strength to resist the United States. In 1801, however, France, which could block America's westward expansion or close New Orleans, bought Louisiana from Spain.
Jefferson sent a mission to France to buy New Orleans. Napoleon, for reasons of his own, offered to sell all of Louisiana, an area larger than the United States at that time, for only $15 million.
C. The Lewis and Clark Expedition
Even before purchasing Louisiana, Jefferson sent an exploring party into the area (the Lewis and Clark Expedition). Their report on its economic prospects reaffirmed Jefferson's desire that it belong to the United States. When he received the French offer, he worried that Congress might not have the constitutional right to make the purchase, but Jefferson urged Congress to complete the deal anyway, fearing that Napoleon might change his mind. He departed even further from Republican principles when he established a government for the new territory. Because most of the inhabitants were French and Spanish, Jefferson did not entrust them with self-rule, and the area was governed from Washington. Nonetheless, the American people thoroughly approved of Jefferson's actions and reelected him in 1804.
D. Conflict with the Barbary States
Jefferson ended his first term by sending the Navy into the Mediterranean to fight the North African states who demanded tribute from ships sailing through the Mediterranean. Although the United States could not defeat the Barbary States, the show of force induced them to respect American rights. The American people thoroughly approved Jefferson's actions, foreign and domestic, and reelected him in 1804.
III. JEFFERSON'S CRITICS
The success of Jefferson's first term disguised growing American problems. This section examines three: Jefferson's attack on the federal court system; conflicts between Republicans; and the sectional dispute over the slave trade.
A. Attack on the Judges
Before transferring power to the Republicans in 1801, the Federalists created a number of new circuit courts, filled with loyal Federalists. When Jefferson took office, Congress repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801, thus abolishing the new courts. The Federalists complained that this violated the tenure of judges, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. In a related case, Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supreme Court ruled that the Judiciary Act itself had been unconstitutional. As Chief Justice John Marshall intended, the Republicans considered the ruling a victory and overlooked the fact that the Court had judged the constitutionality of an act of Congress (judicial review). After their "victory" in the Marbury case, Republicans pressed their attack on the court system. One judge, certifiably insane, was impeached and removed from office. Some Republicans now began to fear a complete destruction of an independent judiciary, an important element in the system of checks and balances. When Jefferson sought impeachment of a judge who, though partisan, had committed no crime, Republican unity disappeared. The trial itself made clear that impeachment could be voted only on narrow political grounds. A Republican Senate refused to convict, and the attack against the judicial system ended.
B. Politics of Desperation
As the Federalist party waned, so did the need for Republican unity. Jefferson faced two major defections from his party. One group, called the "Tertium Quids" ("a third something"), led by John Randolph, stood for an ultra-pure Republicanism. They acquired a brief popularity when they attacked large grants of land in the Yazoo region of Georgia to companies that had bribed the state legislature. A later legislature attempted to rescind these sales, but much of the land was already owned by innocent third parties. The Supreme Court ruled in Fletcher v. Peck (1810) that the state legislature could not revoke a contract, even if it had been obtained by bribery. The ruling established the Court's right to nullify state laws if they violated the Constitution.
C. Murder and Conspiracy: The Curious Career of Aaron Burr
Vice-President Aaron Burr also broke with Jefferson. In 1804 he ran for governor of New York and tried to enlist Federalist support. He was blocked by Alexander Hamilton, whom Burr then killed in a duel. Burr fled to the West and hatched a scheme to invade Spanish territory. His motive for this bizarre scheme is still not known, but Burr was arrested for unknown reasons and tried for treason. John Marshall ruled that the Court must follow the very strict criteria the Constitution requires for a conviction of treason, and Burr went free. Marshall's precedent made it difficult for later presidents to use the charge of treason as a political tool.
D. The Slave Trade
Congress prohibited the slave trade after 1808, but northern and southern Republicans disagreed over the issue. Northerners wanted to free any black smuggled into the United States, but Southerners succeeded in having a law passed that handed such persons over to state authorities, who could even sell them into slavery.
IV. EMBARRASSMENTS OVERSEAS
When England and France resumed full-scale hostilities in 1803, American commerce was caught in the middle. The English issued "orders in Council," and Napoleon issued the Berlin and Milan Decrees, the effects of which were to make American ships subject to seizure. Jefferson bore these insults because the expense of a war would have wrecked his financial reforms. This section explains the Embargo, Jefferson's alternative to war.
A. Embargo Divides the Nation
In 1807, Congress prohibited American ships from leaving port. Jefferson reasoned that France and England needed American goods so badly that they would quickly agree to respect American rights. The Embargo, however, proved to be unpopular at home. In order to enforce it, the government supervised commerce in minute detail, and when smuggling became commonplace, Jefferson sent in the army. New Englanders especially resented the Embargo because it destroyed their economy. Worse, it did not hurt England. In 1809, the Embargo was repealed.
B. A New Administration Goes to War
James Madison was selected as Jefferson's successor by a caucus of Republican congressmen. He won the election of 1808 easily, but was not temperamentally suited to exercise leadership.
Under the terms of the Non-Intercourse Act, the United States committed itself to resume trade with England and France if those nations promised to cease their seizure of American vessels. When a minor English official made such a promise, Madison opened trade with England, but the English government promptly seized those ships Madison had put to sea. Congress replaced the Non-Intercourse Act with another law just as poorly conceived (Macon's Bill Number Two). This time Napoleon promised to observe American rights, but, when Madison opened trade with France, Napoleon broke his word.
C. Fumbling Toward Conflict
In 1811, the anti-British mood of the country intensified. In the West, the uprising led by Tecumseh was widely believed to have been the work of British agents. In Congress, a group of fiercely nationalistic representatives, the War Hawks, demanded a war against England to preserve American honor. On June 1, 1812, Madison finally sent Congress a declaration of war. Had there been a telegraph between London and Washington, the war might not have begun because England had just suspended the Orders in Council. This confusing preamble typified the war in general. The vote for war in Congress was close, and nobody seemed to know what the United States intended to gain from victory.
V. THE STRANGE WAR OF 1812
Americans expected victory even though they were unprepared for war. To ensure that Republican financial reforms would not be undone, Congress refused to raise taxes. New England, where the Federalist party was still strong, refused to take an active part in the war effort. The United States Army was small, and state militias proved inadequate to fight well-trained veterans.
In 1814, England planned a three-pronged attack on the United States: a march from Canada into the Hudson River Valley, an amphibious assault on the Chesapeake Bay region, and occupation of New Orleans. The decisive campaign was in New York State, where Americans stopped the English on Lake Champlain, near Plattsburg. As a result of this defeat, England agreed to end hostilities. In the meantime, however, English operations in the Chesapeake resulted in the burning of Washington and the siege of Baltimore. The British attempt to take New Orleans actually took place after the peace treaty had been signed, but there was no way to communicate the news in time to prevent the battle. A ragtag American army, led by Andrew Jackson, annihilated the English invading force in January 1815.
A. Hartford Convention: The Demise of the Federalists
The resentment felt by New Englanders over the Embargo grew during the Madison administration. When the war seemed to be going badly for the United States, a group of Federalists met in Hartford, Connecticut, in December 1814, to recommend changes in the Constitution that would have lessened the power of the South and the West. Unfortunately for the Federalists, they met on the eve of the victory of New Orleans and the conclusion of peace. After these events, the Convention's demands seemed irrelevant as well as disloyal. The Federalist party never recovered from the Hartford Convention.
B. Treaty of Ghent Ends the War
After the American victory at Plattsburg, the English government decided to end the war without addressing any of the problems that had started it. Both sides were weary, and the Senate ratified the treaty unanimously. For Americans, the war succeeded splendidly. They had won a "second war of independence." VI. CONCLUSION: REPUBLICAN LEGACY
The Founding Fathers began to pass away around 1830. Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence had been adopted. The last of the Founders, James Madison, died in 1836, in despair that the principles of the Declaration had not yet been extended to African Americans.