Jeffersonian Democracy and the Early National Period


I. Jeffersonian Republic (1800-1808)

A. Election of 1800
B. Jefferson's economic policies
C. Marbury v. Madison (1803) 

- establishes the Supreme Court's ability to review statutes & interpret the meaning of the Constitution (judicial review)

D. Louisiana Purchase (1803)

- Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-6)

II. James Madison and the War of 1812

A. Madison elected 1808
B. Problems with the British

- inherited problems - Embargo Act

- Tecumseh and the Prophet (Shawnee)

- leadership and the War Hawks

C. War and Peace (1812-1814)

Battle of Tippecanoe (1811- predates war)

- William Henry Harrison

Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814)

Battle of New Orleans (1815)

Treaty of Ghent (1814)


Jeffersonian Democracy and the Early National Period

Once again, it helps to understand the differences between Hamilton/Federalists and Jefferson/Republicans when you are going through this material. Jefferson and the Republicans displaced the Federalists in the White House and in Congress when Jefferson won the election in 1800. Still, you see continued wrangling between the Federalists and the Republicans throughout the early national period (1800-1820s).

Federalists continue to emphasize manufacturing and help to foster the emergence of industrialization (in keeping with Alexander Hamilton's vision of economics). So Federalists urge domestic manufacture, immigration, and wage work rather than agricultural production. These policies tended to favor northern and middle states but they also meant that southern cash crops and agricultural products could be sold to wage workers and merchants in the northern regions. Federalists tend to be from the Northeast and they want to build up the Eastern seaboard rather than emphasize western settlement (farming); concentrating on this region will help them economically and they also realize that the frontier regions (which necessarily stress farming) will support Jefferson and the Republicans. So it's understood that the Republicans will gain more power as the western lands are settled


Well-educated and semi-wealthy son of a land surveyor - had the time and the money to focus on Enlightenment thought because his income was provided from plantation and law practice. Jefferson's career in politics can be linked to the idea of disinterest we've discussed in class; he remained firmly committed to the goals of a republican democracy. Within the past two years Jefferson's made the news again as it appears that he is the probable father of at least one of Sally Hemmings' children. (Hemmings was a slave women owned by Jefferson.)

Jefferson served two terms as president, the whole time professing that what he really wanted to be was a farmer (sounds like Washington).

Jefferson represented some of the paradoxes of America - he wrote about freedom, frequently criticized slavery, and helped to eradicate the external slave trade in 1807 - yet he owned over 200 slaves. He didn't want the government to have a National Bank but he relied on it to finance the Louisiana Purchase. He talked about state's rights and the need to avoid a dominant federal government yet he conveniently bypassed Congress in regards to the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson valued Native American culture and was one of the first men involved in archaeological digs of Indian mounds - but he also encouraged Indian removal to the West and wanted them to become small farmers.

Jefferson lived another 17 years after his presidency and went on to help design and build UVA. He never returned to Washington after leaving office in 1808. His presidency is not even listed as an achievement on his gravestone (Declaration, Statute on Religious Freedom, UVA).

Election of 1800

In this election you have a vice-president running against the President (Jefferson v. Adams). Adams had angered many Anti-Federalists with the Alien & Sedition acts. He'd also come perilously close to war with France (XYZ affair) and had split with the Hamiltonians within his own party.

Ex. During the war scare (Quasi-War with France in 1798-1800), Washington insisted that Adams name Hamilton as second in command of the army - Adams bitterly resented this, calling Hamilton "a bastard" and complaining that Washington had "crammed him [Hamilton] down my throat!"

The volatile relationship between Adams and Hamilton is important because it has a negative effect on their political party, the Federalists.

In the 1800 election the Republicans defeated the incumbent, Federalist John Adams. However, both Republican candidates (Jefferson and Aaron Burr) received the same number of electoral votes (this is discussed in the newspaper article I distributed in class) so the decision had to be made by a vote in the House of Representatives. (Jefferson probably would have won outright if he hadn't had to split the vote with Burr - this election contributed to the change in electoral procedures - the 12th Amendment which provided for separate electoral votes for president and for vice president)

Pay attention to what your Berkin text has to say about Aaron Burr - he'll serve as Jefferson's V-P during the first term but gets into trouble by killing Alexander Hamilton in an infamous duel in 1804. Indicted for murder and financially ruined - Burr is at his wit's end and flees to Florida to emerge later to take over the Senate - ok as long as he stays out of NY and NJ. Also involved in some lame attempt to establish himself as the leader of a country located in the West. Results in Burr being charged with treason, tried, and acquitted.

The election of 1800 is also important because it marked the decline of the Federalist party. It's also important because the transition from Federalist to Republican administrations was peaceful - proving Americans were on to something!

Jefferson's Presidency

Jefferson truly believed that the nation should be comprised of small farms - this agrarian ideal connected individuals to the land and gave them a claim to the country (literally) while still emphasizing self-sufficiency. Jefferson's supporters tended to be small farmers and craftsmen (from all areas of the country but numerically more significant in the South and along the western frontiers of the states.

Throughout his presidency, Jefferson attempted to prove his connection with the common man. While Washington and Adams rode in fine coaches, Jefferson walked to his inaugural - the first to be held in D.C.. He tried to retain this simplicity in the White House - (ex. using a round table so that no one sat at the head, wearing plain clothes, etc.)

Despite his earlier emphasis on the need for radicalism and revolution, (remember his comments concerning Shays's rebellion and his early support of the French Revolution) Jefferson was quite diplomatic as he took office - stressing the need for bi-partisanship (sound familiar?).

Jefferson wanted to expand the country as a nation of small farmers. This was contrary to Adams and Hamilton who'd urged industrial expansion in the North. Jefferson also wanted a "wise and frugal government" and a "republic of virtue."

James Madison served as Jefferson's Sec. of State and will emerge as Jefferson's successor in 1808.

Economic Policies

In order to encourage land ownership and reduce the expenses of the federal government, Jefferson changed the economic policies of the U.S.

Jefferson relied on income derived from trade with European countries and the sale of western lands to finance the government.

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

In the final days of his presidency, Adams had tried to secure as many permanent appointments as possible for members of his party. The most obvious example of this occurred with the "midnight appointment" of several judges to the new positions created when Congress expanded the Judiciary system (16 judges and 6 new circuit courts). The Federalists had tried to ensure that "their guys" would remain in control of the judiciary even after Adams lost the presidency - this created a personal rift between Adams and Jefferson which lasted for a number of years.

Jefferson's fellow Republicans also resented this, feeling that the Federalists were trying to consolidate power in the judiciary. So the Republican-controlled Congress repealed the Judiciary act and fired the judges.

One of the judges, William Marbury, sued Madison (the Sec. of State) to get his job back. The case went to the Supreme Court and in 1803 Chief Justice John Marshall rendered his decision (he was a Federalist appointed by Adams).

Although Marshall believed that Marbury should have received his commission, he understood that Marbury couldn't be appointed to a position which no longer existed. So Marshall sidestepped the issue by claiming that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in the matter because the Court's authority was limited by the Constitution (to appeals of state cases and cases involving ambassadors) and that the Congressional legislation passed to expand the powers of the court (Judiciary Act of 1789) was unconstitutional.

The case is important because Marshall managed to avoid issuing a ruling which Jefferson's administration would've protested and also because he purposefully strengthened the authority of the Supreme Court by establishing the Court's power of judicial review (ability to interpret the constitutionality of laws). This decision helped to cement the balance of power among the branches of government.

Louisiana Purchase (1803)

The most successful event of Jefferson's administration involved the purchase of the Louisiana Territory which more than doubled the size of the country.

Remember the Spanish ostensibly control the western regions of America as well as Florida and the port of New Orleans (France lost all its claims to the North American mainland after the French and Indian War). However, once Napoleon rose to power in France, he soon set his sights on conquering all of Western Europe. Soon French troops occupied Spain, so the French wind up controlling the Louisiana Territory in 1800.

Americans were troubled by this change of ownership, especially since they were engaged in continuous warfare in Europe which threatened to spill over into America. Americans were correct in being paranoid, since Napoleon envisioned conquering North America as well (I'll explain this in class)!

By 1800, France needed money to continue battling the British in Europe. So Napoleon was willing to sell some of his new lands for cash.

Jefferson sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to Paris to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans and West Florida from the French. Livingston & Monroe are authorized to spend $2 million to purchase this land.

Much to the delight and amazement of Monroe and Livingston, Napoleon instructs his minister (Talleyrand) to offer the entire Louisiana Territory to the U.S for $15 million. Monroe and Livingston couldn't resist this offer which would double the size of the U.S.. However, the boundaries for the territory were still in dispute as we'll see later - Americans will claim that the territory applies to Texas and Florida as well..)

Despite the fuzzy concept of boundaries, the diplomats agreed to pay for it (about 3 cents an acre) for it, sight unseen! Added around 830,00 square miles to the U.S.. The $15 million dollar price tag was 2 times the federal budget!

In agreeing to the purchase, the negotiators were exceeding their authority but it was too good a deal to pass up. Still, this places Jefferson in a sticky position. Jefferson, who'd argued for a strict interpretation of the Constitution when Hamilton's bank was at issue, now found himself in the position of having agreed to a huge purchase and seeking Congressional approval for the deal. The Constitution was silent on the issue of land purchases by the government.

Jefferson still believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution (meaning that if it wasn't explicitly stated, the federal govt didn't have the power to do it!). His advisors helped to "convince him " by arguing that the ability to purchase the land probably came under the heading of "conducting treaties" and was, therefore, allowable! Ironically, Jefferson also had to draw upon the reserves of the national Bank in order to finance the deal....

Meanwhile, Federalists attacked the purchase not only as a blatant use of executive power, but as a waste of money - they probably feared the power that the Republicans would gain from the settlement of such as large area (which would obviously remain rural and in keeping with Jefferson's agrarian policies).

Luckily, most politicians were delighted with the opportunity and chose not to emphasis the legality of the negotiations. The Senate ratified the treaty in December, 1803.

Rights to Texas, western Florida, and the West Coast are still unclear at this point. Spain still claims some of the lands, as will the Spanish and the British.

Lewis and Clark (1804-06)

Jefferson planned an expedition of the Western territories even before the Louisiana Purchase was finalized. Congress financed the mission by providing $2500. However, actual costs reached $38,722

Jefferson called the expedition the Corps of Discovery and chose his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and Lewis’ friend, William Clark to lead the Corps.


Offered speeches to Native Americans though the services of his interpreters. The speeches communicated that other European nations were no longer their "Great Father," but that the leader of the 17 nations (the seventeen states) of America was now in that role. They were advised to live in peace and cooperate with the traders who would be traveling in their midst. If they did so, the natives would have access to goods brought into the interior.

Lewis and Clark traveled to the Pacific ocean on this journey, relying in large part upon Sacajawea and her French trapper husband to guide the Corps and translate for the Americans. If you're interested in learning more about this expedition click here.

Problems with Foreign Powers

Throughout his second term, Jefferson had to deal with the increasing hostilities between France and England - which often spilled over and affected American ships trading with these two countries. Both sides seized the cargoes of American ships, even as the Americans try to remain neutral. Americans really resented both the French and the British seizing American cargoes. (Brits commandeered the cargoes of over 500, French over 300 ships).

The British also start to impress sailors - claiming that they had the right to force British subjects (who now considered themselves naturalized Americans) into the navy. At first they tried to target for British sailors working on American ships but over time they grew less discriminating, seizing sailors and some passengers.

Jefferson had responded to this problem by stopping American exports and Congress passed the Embargo Act in 1807 formalizing this policy. Jefferson's Embargo Act closed American ports to foreign trade and prevented U.S. ships from leaving their own ports. This decree was extremely unpopular because it hurt America much more than Britain or France (specifically it harmed the New England economy which was dependent on shipping - New Englanders claimed that it was like "cutting someone's throat to cure a nosebleed"). You see continued trade in the form of smuggling and Jefferson lost political supporters who resented his trade policy.

This problem becomes insurmountable during James Madison's administration. (Madison wins the election in 1808)


James Madison and the War of 1812 (a.k.a. "Madison's Little War")

Fought for a number of reasons,

1. Continued anger and resentment over impressment of sailors and seized cargoes.

When Madison became President he also tried to remain neutral, but opened then possibility of trade with whichever country stopped being an ass first.

The Non-Intercourse Act forbade American trade with France, Britain, or their colonial allies until either country was willing to revoke their embargoes.

France tried this first but had no real intentions of behaving properly. Britain refused at first but eventually gave in. Unfortunately, it did so after the U.S. had already declared war on Britain!

2. Native American Resistance encouraged by the British along the frontier. specifically - Tecumseh and the Prophet

Americans were supposed to gain Indian land through treaties (according to the Indian Intercourse Act of 1790) but many settlers either bullied Indians into a treaty or ignored the boundaries of established treaties.

Jefferson had urged Indians to adjust to an agrarian life by living on small farms and adopting white western culture (in terms of dress, religion, schooling, etc.). He permitted Quakers, Baptists, etc. to establish missions among the Indians to accomplish these goals. So, many Indian groups found themselves in the position of choosing to acculturate (i.e. "fit in") or to resist white culture.

Tribes located in the southwest area of the country (remember at this point the southwest is the area around Alabama and Mississippi) tended towards acculturation. The best example of this would be the Cherokee tribe (and other members of the 5 Civilized Tribes) where the Cherokee people created a written language, adopted an official tribal constitution, circulated a newspaper, and settled on small farms and plantations (some Cherokee became large landowners and slave owners as well). Overall, tribes located in the southwest tended to integrate themselves more successfully into the market system and adopted many aspects of white culture.

Tribes located in the Northwest Territories were more combative and tended towards resistance rather than acculturation. Remember - these tribes were associated with the British during the Revolutionary war and they had also been involved in Pontiac's Rebellion.

Against this background you see two brothers, members of the Shawnee tribe, emerging as leaders of a powerful Indian alliance movement. Tenskwatawa (a.k.a. Prophet) was the spiritual leader of this movement. Prophet was a reformed alcoholic who felt that trade and contact with white culture was ruining his people. He encouraged his fellow Shawnee (located in Ohio) to reject trade with whites and to focus on their Native American heritage to survive and flourish. He established a large village composed of like believers (called Prophetstown by whites).

Meanwhile, Prophet's brother, Tecumseh, emerged as the political and military leader of the movement. Tecumseh wanted to create a Native American Confederacy (or Pan-Indian movement) spreading from the Great Lakes to Mexico. He believed that a formal military alliance among all of the tribes located along the western frontier would enable Native Americans to resist the encroachment of white civilization. Although he traveled throughout the region trying to rally support for his confederation, he was more successful in the Northwest (Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana) than in the Southwest. Tecumseh urged Indians to establish their rights to common land and to violently resist encroachments on this land.

The governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison, strongly opposed Tecumseh's attempts to create a Native Confederacy. The situation grew especially tense once the British started to support Tecumseh and his movement by sending food and arms. This established a bond between the British and the Indian Confederation which outraged Americans. The alliance proved helpful to the British, without Tecumseh it is highly unlikely the British would have been able to defend Upper Canada at the beginning of the war.

Battle of Tippecanoe (actually predates the war 1811) but is significant because it leads to William Henry Harrison's reputation as an Indian fighter and will eventually help him win the presidency in 1840. As governor of the Indiana Territory, Harrison led a group of 1,000 soldiers on an attack of Prophettown. (Tecumseh was in the south at the time). Both sides sustained heavy losses but Harrison claimed victory. This battle helped to bolster Tecumseh'salliance with the British.

3. Madison cannot continue the policy of neutrality established by his predecessors and he also faces a particularly rambunctious Congress that he cannot effectively control.

Although Madison is an accomplished politician, he is not a compelling chief executive. While he tries to remain neutral, his authority is undermined by the presence of a new generation of young Republicans in Congress who appeal to Americans sense of nationalism and urge war with Britain. These young men are known as "War Hawks" and they want to expand U.S. holdings (to the West, North and South - meaning Texas, Canada, and Florida). Congressmen were accountable to their constituents who had been frustrated by the Embargo Act and its effects on the economy.

War Hawks include men such as John Calhoun and Henry Clay - young men who hadn't directly experienced the American Revolution (thus they had no concept of how nasty war could be - unlike Washington, Adams, and Jefferson) and who wanted to expand American holdings while demonstrating the military might of the young country.

The combination of the factors listed above will lead Madison to send a "war message" to Congress on June 1, 1812. Madison cites American grievances against the British (impressment, the practice of searching American vessels in American waters, trade embargoes detrimental to the American economy and finally, the alleged incitement to violence of the First Nations by the British Army) and Congress agrees - declaring war on Great Britain.

I don't really have time to cover the war in much detail - it lasted only two years and is adequately covered in your Berkin text (Ch. 8). Please look at this section for more information.

I would like you to know 3 important battles which took place :

Significant Battles of the War -


During the War of 1812 the British burned Washington, destroying the White House and the Capitol in 1814. The Brits went on to attack Fort McHenry (Baltimore) but were unsuccessful. Francis Scott Key observed this attack from the harbor, inspiring him to write the "Star-Spangled Banner".


Not all Americans supported the war. Most of those who opposed the war were from the northeastern region of the United States. They included residents of the NE seaboard who feared the British navy would attack them, and New England financiers who allied with the British out of financial interest, also some farmers in New York who had ties to the British (still a holdout of support for the British - loyalists).

The War of 1812 was a strange little war....Americans were in a poor position - their military had been slashed by Jefferson and the British were well-prepared and trained since they had been fighting Napoleon for 10 years. But the British were also tired of warfare and its expense (in terms of casualties and the economy). Remember, the Brits are still fighting Napoleon in Europe. In 1814 Napoleon surrendered to the British. Now Britain had the opportunity to really focus on the war in America. Lucky for us, the British lacked the venom and the patriotic support they needed to win the war. By 1814 the war had reached a deadlock...

Treaty of Ghent (1814)

American and British negotiators finally met in Ghent, Belgium to hammer out a peace agreement. Britain was ending its conflict with France and they also wanted to end the relatively minor war in America.

Impressment was no longer an issue because the war with France was over and the British now had a surplus of sailors. British want a "cushion zone" for the Indians between the U.S. and Canada but the Americans never take this suggestion seriously.

In November of 1814, James Monroe, the Secretary of State, informed the commission that the peace talks could be wrapped up if both sides agreed to return to a prewar situation.

On Christmas Eve of 1814, the peace treaty was signed and sealed. The eleven articles stated that the U.S. and Britain would return to the status quo ante bellum, or the exact same state of affairs as before the war


So if things remained the same what was the point?

The War of 1812 did help restore American morale because it proved that Americans were independent of Britain and were a power to be reckoned with. Many younger Americans would see the war as the "Second War for American Independence" and its successful conclusion meant that the country could hold its own against the "superpowers" (to use an anachronistic term) of Europe.

But the war also revealed sectional tensions as the Northeastern states reluctantly participated in the war.

The real losers were the Indians. Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of Thames in 1813. This really ended any hopes for unified Indian resistance against American expansion. Although the Brits had promised to aid their Indian allies they quickly abandoned them after the war.

Return to Schedule