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Thomas Jefferson

By HankoB Feb 26, 2013 999 Words
Thomas Jefferson
The third president of the United States was Thomas Jefferson. He had been the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. In an age of great men Jefferson was remarkable for his wide-ranging curiosity on many subjects. He helped the United States get started, and his plans for the future helped it grow. Many of the good things Americans enjoy today have come from Jefferson's devotion to human rights.

Jefferson is often called the founder of the Democratic Party. Other groups also claim to follow his principles. He developed the theory of states' rights, which was against giving much authority to the federal government.

Jefferson proposed many bills that struck at the old nobility of wealth and family in favor of government by what he would later call an aristocracy of talent and virtue. They included: The statute for religious freedom, separating church and state and removing the private right of religious belief from control by public law. This statute has come down to present generations as one of the timeless declarations of intellectual freedom.

“That government is best which governs least, because its people discipline themselves. If we are directed from Washington (heads of an organization) when to sow and when to reap, we will soon want for bread.” Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson believed that the Federalists he defeated represented not just a different political vision, but a dangerously wrong political vision—one that threatened to restore the antidemocratic principles and institutions of the British government Americans had rejected in 1776.

American self-government never quite reached the vision that Jefferson had for it. But even in its partial achievement, it had, and continues to have, much of the spirit and characteristics that he inspired. Jefferson wanted to push participation to the ultimate. He wanted to divide the counties of each state into wards, and to have popular participation and control at every practicable level. This was his obsession later in life.

Self-government, including both individual self-government and national self-government, is itself a natural right, and is one aspect of liberty, not merely a secondary means to liberty.

"The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. This thought is repeated by Jefferson on numerous occasions. I assume, if Jefferson meant to say that the equal rights of man are the only legitimate object of government, he could have done so. But his conception of government was much broader than that.

As president, Jefferson set out to reverse the Federalist program, to restore the federal government to its constitutional role, and to ensure that the people of the states were left alone to regulate their own private pursuits in a state of freedom. He hoped to gradually break the alliance between the government and the wealthy elite which had already been forged by the Federalists. Jefferson got the credit for his Jeffersonian myth that is perpetuated and enshrined, and Jefferson’s name and traces of his ideology that are shared by the current occupant of the white house. Arguably the greatest accomplishment of Jefferson's presidency was the acquisition of the Louisiana territory, bought from France for $15 million. In January 1803, Jefferson named James Monroe as minister plenipotentiary to France and sent him to Paris prepared to offer $10 million for New Orleans and West Florida. James Monroe was dispatched to Paris to supplement the American mission led by Robert Livingston. Just as Monroe was arriving in Paris, the French foreign minister Talleyrand shocked Livingston by offering to sell not only New Orleans but the whole of Louisiana to the United States. Recognizing the advantages of such a purchase, Livingston negotiated a treaty. Both Livingston and Monroe signed the treaty and sent it to Jefferson.

When news of the Louisiana treaty reached Jefferson and Madison, they were ecstatic. Not only did the cession obtain New Orleans, but it secured the free navigation of the Mississippi River, removed a potentially hostile power from the west bank of the Mississippi, and provided a seemingly inexhaustible reserve of land for American settlement. It was fully in accord with Jefferson's policy of making the country secure without resorting to war or funding an expensive military and naval establishment. They also believed that it would help preserve the agrarian character of the American confederation for generations to come. After the purchase of the Louisiana, Jefferson was almost alone in insisting that the Constitution did not sanction the acquisition of new territory, whether through conquest, purchase, or treaty. Not only was his cabinet not behind him, neither were his chief congressional supporters.

Jefferson acquiesced when he should have stood firm. While party leaders were not supportive, he still could have appealed directly to the people by penning a special message imploring them to ratify a new amendment specifying which territories could be incorporated in the Union and spelling out the exact procedure for admitting them as new states I think wasn’t suited to be a president because he failed to understand that the Constitution was written to protect the people from themselves and that to rely on those very people to correct defects in the Constitution, only when those defects had been already exploited for ulterior purposes, was foolish indeed. Also, failed to carry through a revolution which he himself had helped to originate, that he was consistent in many ways but inconsistent in others, and that his presidency constitutes a useful model but also a warning. Overall, President Thomas Jefferson was a great president and he had a strong hand print in our history. During his presidency he faced many challenges, of which many were considered successes with some major failures. Jefferson was able to reduce the federal budget and deficit, reduce the size of the army and navy, establish judicial review, completed the Louisiana Purchase, and passed the Embargo Act of 1807.

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