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Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale in 1800.

Jeffersonian democracy is the set of political goals that were named after Thomas Jefferson. It dominated American politics in the years 1800-1820s. It is contrasted with Jacksonian democracy, which dominated the next political era. The most prominent spokesmen included Thomas Jefferson, Albert Gallatin, John Randolph of Roanoke, and Nathaniel Macon.

In its core ideals it is characterized by the following elements, which the Jeffersonians expressed in their speeches and legislation:

  • The core political value of America is representative democracy; citizens have a civic duty to aid the state and resist corruption, especially monarchism and aristocracy.[1]
  • The yeoman farmer best exemplifies civic virtue and independence from corrupting city influences; government policy should be for his benefit. Financiers, bankers and industrialists make cities the cesspools of corruption, and should be avoided.[2]
  • Americans had a duty to spread what Jefferson called the "Empire of Liberty" to the world, but should avoid "entangling alliances."[3]
  • The national government is a dangerous necessity to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation or community; it should be watched closely and circumscribed in its powers. Most Anti-Federalists from 1787-88 joined the Jeffersonians.[4]
  • The wall of separation between church and state is the best method to keep religion free from intervention by the federal government, government free of religious disputes, and religion free from corruption by government.[5]
  • The federal government must not violate the rights of individuals. The Bill of Rights is a central theme.[6]
  • The federal government must not violate the rights of the states. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 (written secretly by Jefferson and Madison) proclaim these principles.[7]
  • Freedom of speech and the press is the best method to prevent the tyranny of the people by their own government. The Federalists' violation of this idea through the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 became a major issue.[8]
  • A standing army and navy are dangerous to liberty and should be avoided; much better was to use economic coercion such as the embargo.[9]
  • The United States Constitution was written in order to ensure the freedom of the people. A strict view of how the constitution was written is kept. However, "no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation."[10]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Banning (1978) pp 79-90
  2. ^ Elkins and McKitrick. (1995) ch 5; Wallace Hettle, The Peculiar Democracy: Southern Democrats in Peace and Civil War (2001) p. 15
  3. ^ Hendrickson and Tucker. (1990)
  4. ^ Banning (1978) pp 105-15
  5. ^ Philip Hamburger, Separation of church and state Harvard University Press, 2002. ISBN 0674007344 OCLC: 48958015
  6. ^ Robert Allen Rutland; The Birth of the Bill of Rights, 1776-1791 University of North Carolina Press, (1955)
  7. ^ Banning (1978) pp 264-66
  8. ^ Banning (1978) pp 255-66-3
  9. ^ Banning (1978) pp 292-3
  10. ^ Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789 | http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl81.htm

References

  • Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology(1978)
  • Brown; Stuart Gerry. The First Republicans: Political Philosophy and Public Policy in the Party of Jefferson and Madison (1954) online
  • Stanley M. Elkins and Eric L. McKitrick. The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (1995)
  • David C. Hendrickson and Robert W. Tucker. Empire of Liberty: the statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (1990)
  • Vernon Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought (1927) v 2 online
  • Onuf, Peter S., ed. Jeffersonian Legacies. (1993).
  • Merrill D. Peterson. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960)
  • Taylor, Jeff. Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy (2006)
  • Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (2005)
  • Wiltse, Charles Maurice. The Jeffersonian Tradition in American Democracy (1935)
  • Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789
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Jeffersonian democracy, so named after Thomas Jefferson, is a political philosophy supporting a federal government with greatly constrained powers and advocating a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Jeffersonian philosophy also called for state and local governments to safeguard the rights and property of citizens. Jeffersonians recognized both private and common property. This philosophy dominated American politics in the years 1800-1820s. It is contrasted with Jacksonian democracy, which dominated the next political era, and Federalism, a contemporary political theory advocating a strong federal government. The most prominent spokesmen of this political philosophy included Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Albert Gallatin, John Randolph of Roanoke, and Nathaniel Bacon.

In its core ideals it is characterized by the following elements, which the Jeffersonians expressed in their speeches and legislation:

  • The core political value of America is representative democracy; citizens have a civic duty to aid the state and resist corruption, especially monarchism and aristocracy.[1]
  • The yeoman farmer best exemplifies civic virtue and independence from corrupting city influences; government policy should be for his benefit. Financiers, bankers and industrialists make cities the cesspools of corruption, and should be avoided.[2]
  • Americans had a duty to spread what Jefferson called the "Empire of Liberty" to the world, but should avoid "entangling alliances."[3]
  • The national government is a dangerous necessity to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation or community; it should be watched closely and circumscribed in its powers. Most Anti-Federalists from 1787-88 joined the Jeffersonians.[4]
  • The wall of separation between church and state is the best method to keep religion free from intervention by the federal government, government free of religious disputes, and religion free from corruption by government.[5]
  • The federal government must not violate the rights of individuals. The Bill of Rights is a central theme.[6]
  • The federal government must not violate the rights of the states. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 (written secretly by Jefferson and James Madison) proclaim these principles.[7]
  • Freedom of speech and the press is the best method to prevent the tyranny of the people by their own government. The Federalists' violation of this idea through the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 became a major issue.[8]
  • A standing army and navy are dangerous to liberty and should be avoided; much better was to use economic coercion such as the embargo.[9]
  • The United States Constitution was written in order to ensure the freedom of the people. A strict view of how the constitution was written is kept. However, "no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation."[10]
  • All men had the right to be informed, and thus, to have a say in the government. The protection and expansion of human liberty was one of the chief goals of the Jeffersonians. They also reformed their respective state systems of education. They believed that their citizens had the right and should be educated no matter their circumstance or status in life.

Contents

US westward expansion

Territorial expansion of the United States was often controversial. When the Louisiana Purchase was completed in 1803, established New England political interests and many in the Federalist Party opposed the purchase. Jeffersonians, however, thought the new territory would help maintain their vision of the ideal republican society, based on agricultural commerce, governed lightly and promoting self-reliance and virtue.[11]

Economics

Jeffersonian agrarians held that the economy of the United States should rely more on agriculture for strategic commodities than on industry. Jefferson specifically believed, "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if He ever had a chosen people, whose breast He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue."[12] However, Jeffersonian ideals are not opposed to all manufacturing; rather, he believed that all people have the right to work to provide for their own subsistence and that an economic system which undermines that right is unacceptable.[13]

Jefferson's belief was that unlimited expansion of commerce and industry would lead to the growth of a class of wage laborers that relied on others for income and sustenance, as happened during the Industrial Revolution and Gilded Age. Such a situation, Jefferson feared, would leave the American people vulnerable to political subjugation and economic manipulation. The solution Jefferson came up with "was a graduated income tax that would serve as a disincentive to vast accumulations of wealth and would make funds available for some sort of benign redistribution downward."[14]

Jefferson and Jeffersonian democracy

Jefferson, the historical orthodoxy holds, repeatedly violated these principles, from the Louisiana Purchase, of which he conceded "the less we say about constitutional difficulties respecting Louisiana the better,"[15] through the unpopular and intrusively-enforced Embargo Act of 1807, to the continued holding of slaves despite his years of condemnation of the practice, and more. The disparity between Jefferson's philosophy and practice have been noted by numerous historians: Staaloff proposed that it was due to his being a proto-Romantic;[16] John Quincy Adams claimed that it was a manifestation of pure hypocrisy, or 'pliability of principle;'[17] and Bailyn asserts it simply represented a contradiction with Jefferson, that he was “simultaneously a radical utopian idealist and a hardheaded, adroit, at times cunning politician.”[18] However, Jenkinson argued that Jefferson's personal failings ought not to influence present day thinkers to disregard Jeffersonian ideals.[19]

Kuehnelt-Leddihn argues that "Jeffersonian democracy" is a misnomer, because Jefferson was not a democrat but in fact believed in rule by an elite: "Jefferson actually was an Agrarian Romantic who dreamt of a republic governed by an elite of character and intellect... the expressions 'democrat' and 'democracy' hardly occur in the Monticello edition of Jefferson's works".[20] He quotes Jefferson: "The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature... Every one, by his property, or by his satisfactory situation, is interested in the support of law and order. And such men may safely and advantageously reserve to themselves a wholesome control over their public affairs, and a degree of freedom, which, in the hands of the canaille of the cities of Europe, would be instantly perverted to the demolition and destruction of everything public and private."[21]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Banning (1978) pp 79-90
  2. ^ Elkins and McKitrick. (1995) ch 5; Wallace Hettle, The Peculiar Democracy: Southern Democrats in Peace and Civil War (2001) p. 15
  3. ^ Hendrickson and Tucker. (1990)
  4. ^ Banning (1978) pp 105-15
  5. ^ Philip Hamburger, Separation of church and state Harvard University Press, 2002. ISBN 0674007344 OCLC: 48958015
  6. ^ Robert Allen Rutland; The Birth of the Bill of Rights, 1776-1791 University of North Carolina Press, (1955)
  7. ^ Banning (1978) pp 264-66
  8. ^ Banning (1978) pp 255-66-3
  9. ^ Banning (1978) pp 292-3
  10. ^ Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789 | http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl81.htm
  11. ^ White, Richard (1991). "It's your misfortune and none of my own" : a new history of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 63. ISBN 0-8061-2366-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=lCF8eIFe93cC. 
  12. ^ Thomas Jefferson (1900). John P. Foley. ed. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: A Comprehensive Collection Of The Views Of Thomas Jefferson Classified And Arranged In Alphabetical Order Under Nine Thousand Titles Relating To Government, Politics, Law, Education, Political Economy, Finance, Science, Art, Literature, Religious Freedom, Morals, Etc. Funk & Wagnalls company. p. 323. http://books.google.com/books?id=2D0gAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA532. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  13. ^ Jenkinson, p. 27
  14. ^ Jenkinson, p. 26
  15. ^ Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew, p. 41
  16. ^ Staaloff, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, p. 285-292
  17. ^ Bailyn, p. 38
  18. ^ Bailyn, p. 45
  19. ^ Jenkinson, p.  8
  20. ^ Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time. 1952. The Caxton Printers, Caldwell. PDF file.
  21. ^ Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, IX, 12. qtd. by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

References

  • Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology(1978)
  • Brown; Stuart Gerry. The First Republicans: Political Philosophy and Public Policy in the Party of Jefferson and Madison (1954) online
  • Stanley M. Elkins and Eric L. McKitrick. The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (1995)
  • Hendrickson, David C. and Robert W. Tucker. Empire of Liberty: the statecraft of Thomas Jefferson (1990)
  • Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789
  • Jenkinson, Clay S. Becoming Jefferson's People: Re-inventing the American Republic in the Twenty-first Century. Bismark, ND: Marmarth Press, 2004.
  • Onuf, Peter S., ed. Jeffersonian Legacies. (1993).
  • Parrington, Vernon. Main Currents in American Thought (1927) v 2 online
  • Peterson, Merrill D. The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960)
  • Taylor, Jeff. Where Did the Party Go?: William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy (2006)
  • Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (2005)
  • Wiltse, Charles Maurice. The Jeffersonian Tradition in American Democracy (1935)

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