In the years prior to Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, he was a very vocal critic of the centralized federal government and was an avid follower of the constitution. In the later years of Jefferson’s presidency, him and the federalists did not see eye to eye. The Federalist Circular in Massachusetts says in 1808 (Document E), “Nerve your arm with vengeance against the Despot [Jefferson] who would wrest the inestimable germ of your Independence from you–and you shall be Conquerors!!! ” Clearly, the federalists were against Jefferson and he was still a critic of the federalist policies.
He was eager to implement many of his Republican views into the establishment of the United States. Jefferson’s presidency turned to be fairly self-contradictory to his original views. The three largest contradictions that stood out amongst his actions were his war with the Barbary pirates, using restrictive economic policies to achieve his goals, and acquiring Louisiana.
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Although these contradictions were for the good of the country, he still went against what got him elected. ?? Thomas Jefferson went against his views of having an unnecessarily?
Large military that would intimidate other countries. When President John Adams proposed to expand America’s armed forces and create a navy, Jefferson campaigned against it for reasons of expense and to avoid the precedent of a standing army. Yet in one of his first decisions as President, Jefferson dispatched American armed forces around the globe to confront the Barbary States of North Africa (Document D). These pirates had long made a national industry of blackmailing and plundering merchant ships that ventured into the Mediterranean.
Jefferson’s decision to destroy these people was a blatant disregard for his previous view on this issue. Also, Jefferson did not inform Congress until the warships had sailed far enough to be effectively beyond recall. This additionally goes against his supposed love for the constitution because of this illegal action. In American politics, it is illegal for the executive branch to declare war on a foreign body because it takes an act of congress to do so. Obviously, Jefferson had thorough knowledge of this and yet still went forward and declared war anyways.
Also, because the military was weak, Jefferson instead of building up the military still went against his previous views by using economic might (Document A). With the nation’s militarily weakened, Jefferson decided to force respect for the nation’s rights by an economic boycott in 1807. Even though this boycott turned out to be inefficient and harmful, Jefferson refused to lift the embargo for two years. Finally, Jefferson caved in to congressional pressure, and stopped the demolishing economic policy.
Another example of Jefferson changing his point of view on economic policy is his view on free trade, which fit his libertarian use of thought. Jefferson used this vocal point in his election against John Adams, yet once in power he failed to implement a free trading system with overseas nations. Jefferson realized that it was impossible to imply such a thing if the other nations wouldn’t go along with it. ?? Most importantly, Thomas Jefferson deeply contradicted his views on land expansion and violated his policy on following the constitution completely.
An important example of this was the Louisiana Purchase, in which Napoleon offered Jefferson the opportunity to purchase all of France’s American territory for only $15 million, doubling the physical size of the nation. The French needed the money to fight a war with the British, and Jefferson wanted the mouth of the Mississippi River for America. So, Jefferson gave the Constitution a close reading? to seek authorization. Failing to find any, he decided to unconstitutionally take the offer anyway (Document C).
This clearly violated his previous views on such an issue. However, it is obvious that Jefferson made the right decision in the matter, and the American people should be very grateful for Jefferson’s stretching of the constitution. ?? Finally, although Jefferson had many other contradictions, these three were highly turning, nearly breaking the constitution which he had earlier claimed he followed carefully. The three large controversies in the Jefferson Administration was the war with the Barbary pirates, the 1807 economic embargo, and the Louisiana Purchase.
Although, consistent support for states rights came from Jefferson throughout his presidency. The Kentucky Resolutions (Document B) says “each state has the residuary mass of right to their own self-government. ” Jefferson never took this right away and did not force large government on the states. So, even though he contradicted himself in many ways, I feel as if Jefferson just realized a different way to go about certain things, and that he always had the nation’s best interests in his mind.