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Chapter 11: The Triumphs and Trevails of Jeffersonial Republic (1800-1812)

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19th Century Turning PointsThomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson: View from the MountainJefferson in ParisThe Louisiana PurchaseLewis and Clark: The JourneyLewis and Clark: Great Journey West


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Chapter Outline

I. Federalist and Republican Mudslingers

  1. In the election of 1800, the Federalists had a host of enemies stemming from the Alien and Sedition Acts.
  2. The Federalists had been most damaged by John Adams’ not declaring war against France.
    • They had raised a bunch of taxes and built a good navy, and then
      had not gotten any reason to justify such spending, making them seem
      fraudulent as they had also swelled the public debt.

      • John Adams became known as “the Father of the American Navy.”
    • Federalists also launched attacks on Jefferson, saying that he had
      robbed a widow and her children of a trust fund, fathered numerous
      children with his slaves (which turned out to be true), called him an
      atheist (he was a Deist), and used other inflammatory remarks.

II. The Jeffersonian “Revolution of 1800”

  1. Thomas Jefferson won the election of 1800 by a majority of 73
    electoral votes to 65, and even though Adams got more popular votes,
    Jefferson got New York. But, even though Jefferson triumphed, in a
    technicality he and Aaron Burr tied for presidency.

    • The vote, according to the Constitution, would now go to the Federalist-dominated House of Representatives.
    • Hateful of Jefferson, many wanted to vote for Burr, and the vote
      was deadlocked for months until Alexander Hamilton and John Adams
      persuaded a few House members to change their votes, knowing that if
      the House voted for Burr, the public outcry would doom the Federalist
    • Finally, a few changed their minds, and Jefferson was elected to the presidency.
  2. The “Revolution of 1800” was that (1) there was a
    peaceful transfer of power; Federalists stepped down from office after
    Jefferson won and did so peacefully, though not necessarily happily and
    (2) the Republicans were more of the “people’s party”
    compared to the Federalists.

III. Responsibility Breeds Moderation

  1. On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated president in the new capital of Washington D.C.
    • In his address, he declared that all Americans were Federalists,
      all were Republicans, implying that Americans were a mixture. He also
      pledged “honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances
      with none.”
    • Jefferson was simple and frugal, and did not seat in regard to rank
      during his dinners He also was unconventional, wearing sloppy attire,
      and he started the precedent of sending messages to Congress to be read
      by a clerk.
    • There were two Thomas Jeffersons: the scholarly private citizen who
      philosophized in his study, and the harassed public official who
      discovered that bookish theories worked out differently in practical
    • Jefferson also dismissed few Federalist officials and those who wanted the seats complained.
    • Jefferson had to rely on his casual charm because his party was so disunited still.

IV. Jeffersonian Restraint

  1. Jefferson pardoned those who were serving time under the Sedition
    Act, and in 1802, he enacted a new naturalization law that returned the
    years needed for an immigrant to become a citizen from 14 to 5.
  2. He also kicked away the excise tax, but otherwise left the Hamiltonian system intact.
  3. The new secretary of the treasury, Albert Gallatin, reduced the national debt substantially while balancing the budget.
  4. By shrewdly absorbing the major Federalist programs, Jefferson
    showed that a change of regime need not be disastrous for the exiting

V. The “Dead Clutch” of the Judiciary

  1. The Judiciary Act, passed by the Federalists in their last days of
    Congressional domination in 1801, packed newly created judgeships with
    Federalist-backing men, so as to prolong their legacy.
  2. Chief Justice John Marshall, a cousin of Jefferson, had served at
    Valley Forge during the war, and he had been impressed with the
    drawbacks of no central authority, and thus, he became a lifelong
    Federalist, committed to strengthening the power of the federal

    • Marbury v. Madison (1803): William Marbury had been one of the
      “midnight judges” appointed by John Adams in his last hours
      as president. He had been named justice of peace for D.C., but when
      Secretary of State James Madison decided to shelve the position,
      Marbury sued for its delivery. Marshall dismissed the case, but he said
      that the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional, thus suggesting
      that the Supreme Court could determine the constitutionality of laws
      (AKA, “judicial review”).
  3. In 1804, Jefferson tried to impeach the tart-tongued Supreme Court
    justice, Samuel Chase, but when the vote got to the Senate, not enough
    votes were mustered, and to this day, no attempt to alter the Supreme
    Court has ever been tried through impeachment.

VI. Jefferson, a Reluctant Warrior

  1. Jefferson had a natural fear of a large, strong, standing military
    since such a military could be turned on the people. So, he reduced the
    militia to 2500 men, and navies were reduced a bit to peacetime footing.
  2. However, the pirates of the North African Barbary States were still
    looting U.S. ships, and in 1801, the pasha of Tripoli indirectly
    declared war when he cut down the flagstaff of the American consulate.

    • Non-interventionalist Jefferson had a problem of whether to fight
      or not, and he reluctantly sent the infant navy to the shores of
      Tripoli, where fighting continued for four years until Jefferson
      succeeded in extorting a treaty of peace from Tripoli in 1805 for
    • Stephen Decatur’s exploits in the war with the ship Intrepid made him a hero.
    • The small, mobile gunboats used in the Tripolitan War fascinated
      Jefferson, and he spent money to build about 200 of them (these boats
      might be zippy and fast, but they did little against large
      battleships). The years eventually showed building small ships to be a
      poor decision.

VII. The Louisiana Godsend

  1. In 1800, Napoleon secretly induced the king of Spain to cede the Louisiana territory to France.
  2. Then, in 1802, the Spaniards at New Orleans withdrew the right of
    deposit guaranteed by the Pinckney Treaty of 1795. Such deposit
    privileges were vital to the frontier farmers who floated their goods
    down the Mississippi River to its mouth to await oceangoing vessels.

    • These farmers talked of marching to New Orleans to violently get
      back what they deserved, an action that would have plunged the U.S.
      into war with Spain and France.
  3. In 1803, Jefferson sent James Monroe to join regular minister
    Robert R. Livingston to buy New Orleans and as much land to the east of
    the river for a total of $10 million, tops.
  4. Instead, Napoleon offered to sell New Orleans and the land west of
    it, Louisiana, for a bargain of $15 million, thereby abandoning his
    dream of a French North American empire.

    • This abandonment was due to the rebellion in Haiti, led by
      Toussaint L’Ouverture, which had been unsuccessful, but had
      killed many French troops due to yellow fever. The decision to sell
      Louisiana was also because Napoleon needed cash to renew his war with
  5. The Louisiana Purchase was finalized on April 30, 1803.
  6. Jefferson had a dilemma, since the Constitution said nothing about
    purchasing foreign land, but on the other hand, this deal was simply
    too good to pass up!

    • After considering an amendment, Jefferson finally decided to go
      through with the deal anyway, even though nothing in the Constitution
      talked about land purchases. Jefferson had been a strict interpreter of
      the Constitution, but he was now using a loose interpretation.
    • Federalists, normally loose interpreters, took a strict
      interpretation and opposed the purchase. Federalist didn’t want
      the new lands because they correctly foresaw new lands meant new
      settlers and new states, which meant more farmers and more Republicans.
    • Thus, both parties made a full 180 turnaround from their
      previous philosophical beliefs about the Constitution simply because of
      the practical matters at hand.
  7. The Senate quickly approved the purchase with Jefferson’s
    urging, and the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United
    States. This was the biggest bargain in history averaging 3 cents per

VIII. Louisiana in the Long View

  1. The purchase created a precedent of acquisition of foreign territory through purchase.
  2. In the spring of 1804, Jefferson sent William Clark and Meriwether
    Lewis to explore this new territory. Along with a Shoshoni woman named
    Sacajawea, the two spent 21/2 years exploring the land, marveling at
    the expanses of buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, and the landscape and
    went all the way to Oregon and the Pacific before returning.

    • Other explorers, like Zebulon Pike trekked to the headwaters of the
      Mississippi River in 1805-06 and ventured to the southern portion of
      Louisiana, Spanish land in the southwest, and sighted Pike’s Peak.

IX. The Aaron Burr Conspiracies

  1. The Federalists now sank lower than ever, and tried to scheme with
    Aaron Burr to make New England and New York secede from the union; in
    the process Aaron Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.
  2. In 1806, Burr was arrested for treason, but the necessary two witnesses were nowhere to be found.
  3. The Louisiana Purchase was also nurturing a deep sense of loyalty
    among the West to the federal government, and a new spirit of
    nationalism surged through it.

X. A Precarious Neutrality

  1. In 1804, Jefferson won with a margin of 162 electoral votes to 14
    for his opponent, but this happiness was nonexistent because in 1803,
    Napoleon had deliberately provoked Britain into renewing its war with

    • As a result, American trade sank as England and France, unable to
      hurt each other (England owned the sea thanks to the Battle of
      Trafalgar while France owned the land thanks to the Battle of
      Austerlitz), resorted to indirect blows.
    • In 1806, London issued the Orders in Council, which closed ports
      under French continental control to foreign shipping, including
      American, unless they stopped at a British port first.
    • Likewise, Napoleon ordered the seizure of all ships, including American, which entered British ports.
    • Impressment (illegal seizure of men and forcing them to serve on
      ships) of American seamen also infuriated the U.S.; some 6,000
      Americans were impressed from 1808-11.
    • In 1807, a royal frigate the Leopard confronted the U.S. frigate,
      the Chesapeake, about 10 miles off the coast of Virginia, and the
      British captain ordered the seizure of four alleged deserters. When the
      American commander refused, the U.S. ship received three devastating
      broadsides that killed 3 Americans and wounded 18. In an incident in
      which England was clearly wrong, Jefferson still clung to peace.

XI. The Hated Embargo

  1. In order to try to stop the British and French seizure of American
    ships, Jefferson resorted to an embargo. His belief was that the only
    way to stay out of the war was to shut down shipping.

    • Jefferson thought Britain and France relied on American goods (it
      was really the opposite, Americans relied on Europe’s goods).
    • Also, the U.S. still had a weak navy and a weaker army.
  2. The Embargo Act of late 1807 forbade the export of all goods from
    the United States to any foreign nation, regardless of whether they
    were transported in American or foreign ships.

    • The net result was deserted docks, rotting ships in the harbors,
      and Jefferson's embargo hurt the same New England merchants that it was
      trying to protect.
    • The commerce of New England was harmed more than that of France and Britain.
    • Farmers of the South and West were alarmed by the mounting piles of unexportable cotton, grain, and tobacco.
    • Illegal trade mushroomed in 1808, where people resorted to smuggling again.
  3. Finally, coming to their senses and feeling the public’s
    anger, Congress repealed the act on March 1, 1809, three days before
    Jefferson’s retirement and replaced it with the Non-Intercourse
    Act, which reopened trade with all the nations of the world, except
    France and England.

    • However, this act had the same effect as the Embargo because America’s #1 and #2 trade partners were Britain and France.
    • Thus, economic coercion continued from 1809 to 1812, when war struck.
  4. The embargo failed for two main reasons: (1) Jefferson
    underestimated the bulldog British and their dependence on American
    goods and (2) he didn’t continue the embargo long enough or
    tightly enough to achieve success.

    • Even Jefferson himself admitted that the embargo was three times
      more costly than war, and he could have built a strong navy with a
      fraction of the money lost.
  5. During the time of the embargo, the Federalist Party regained some of its lost power.
  6. However, during this embargo, resourceful Americans also opened and
    reopened factories, and thus, the embargo helped to promote
    industrialism—another irony since it was Jefferson who was
    committed to an agrarian, while it was his archrival Alexander Hamilton
    who was committed to industry.
  7. Also, the embargo did affect Britain, and had it been continued, it might have succeeded.
    • In fact, two days before Congress declared war in June 1812, London
      ordered the Orders in Council to be suspended. Had America known this
      fact, war would have likely not been declared.

XII. Madison’s Gamble

  1. After Jefferson, James Madison took the oath of presidency on March 4, 1809, short, bald, and not a great speaker.
  2. In 1810, Congress adopted a bargaining measure called Macon’s
    Bill No. 2, which while permitting American trade with all the world,
    also promised American restoration of trade to France and/or England if
    either dropped their commercial restrictions.

    • Napoleon had his opportunity: in August of 1810, he announced that
      French commercial restrictions had been lifted, and Madison, desperate
      for recognition of the law, declared France available for American
    • Of course, Napoleon lied, and never really lifted restrictions, but
      meanwhile, America had been duped into entering European affairs
      against Great Britain.

XIII. Tecumseh and the Prophet

  1. In 1811, new young politicians swept away the older
    “submission men,” and they appointed Henry Clay of
    Kentucky, then 34 years old, to Speaker of the House.
  2. The western politicians also cried out against the Indian threat on
    the frontier. These young, aggressive Congressmen were known as
    “War Hawks.”
  3. Indians had watched with increasing apprehension as more and more
    whites settled in Kentucky, a traditionally sacred area where
    settlement and extensive hunting was not allowed except in times of

    • Thus, two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and the Prophet, decided that
      the time to act was now, and gathered followers, urging them to give up
      textile clothing for traditional buckskin garments, arguing eloquently
      for the Indian’s to not acknowledge the White man’s
      “ownership” of land, and urging that no Indian should cede
      control of land to whites unless all Indians agreed.
    • On November 7, 1811, American general William Henry Harrison
      advanced upon Tecumseh’s headquarters at Tippecanoe, killed the
      Prophet, and burned the camp to the ground.
    • Tecumseh was killed by Harrison at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, and the Indian confederacy dream perished.
    • In the South, Andrew Jackson crushed the Creek Indians at the
      Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814, effectively breaking the
      Indian rebellion and leaving the entire area east of the Mississippi
      open for safe settlement.
  4. The War Hawks cried that the only way to get rid of the Indians was
    to wipe out their base, Canada, since the British had helped the

    • War was declared in 1812, with a House vote of 79 to 49 and a very
      close Senate vote of 19 to 13, showing America’s disunity.

XIV. Mr. Madison’s War

  1. Why did America go to war with Britain and not France? Because
    England’s impressments of American sailors stood out, France was
    allied more with the Republicans, and Canada was a very tempting prize
    that seemed easy to get, a “frontiersman’s frolic.”
  2. New England, which was still making lots of money, damned the war
    for a free sea, and Federalists opposed the war because (1) they were
    more inclined toward Britain anyway and (2) if Canada was conquered, it
    would add more agrarian land and increase Republican supporters.
  3. In brief, America’s reasons for entering the War of 1812 were…
    • “Freedom of the seas” – The U.S. wanted the right to sail and trade without fear.
    • Possibility of land – The U.S. might gain Canada or Florida.
    • Indian issues – Americans were still upset about British guns being giving to Indians.
  4. The nation became sectionalized. Generally, the North was against war, the West and the South was for the war.
    • Thus, a disunited America had to fight both Old England and New
      England in the War of 1812, since Britain was the enemy while New
      England tried everything that they could do to frustrate American
      ambitions in the war.


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