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Thomas Jefferson: Assess this statement (AP question) Essay

Thomas Jefferson was elected president of the United States in 1801 representing the Democratic-Republican Party. During his inaugural address he declared “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists.” Follow Federalist president John Adams, Jefferson says this because he wanted a smooth transition of powers. With this quote he promised his people that he would compromise, if necessary, for the sake of unity and he backed up his words with his domestic and foreign policies.

During his first years as president, Jefferson really lived up to his word concerning his domestic policies. Jefferson decided to keep Hamilton’s National Bank and debt repayment plan even though he was completely against it. He lowered the national debt from 83 million to 57 million. While in office he also reduced the size of the military. Jefferson was a very intelligent individual and was very wise in his actions. He repealed the Whiskey Tax, which was imposed by the Federalist, but instead of repealing the rest of the acts Adams instated such as the Alien and Sedition Acts, he let them expire.

Had he repealed them it probably would have upset the Federalists. As his presidency continued he stuck to his plan, not wavering. For example, when Jefferson was first elected he was not willing to compromise his principals as far as the government power was concerned. He believed that there should be a limit in the central government. This changed after the Louisiana Purchase. By doubling the size of the US with one treaty, he increased the power of the president and central government.

When foreign problems presented themselves during his second term in office, Jefferson’s strength was tested and he prevailed, doing what he felt was right for the country not a particular party. A group called the Barbary pirates presented the first major test. Adams and Washington both had made agreements with the pirates. The US would pay them not to seize their ships. When Jefferson was elected, the prices rose significantly and Jefferson refused to pay. A war broke out that lasted four years. Jefferson had reduced the navy for he believed in a small navy. Nonetheless, his little navy turned up somewhat of a victory gaining respect from the pirates. Meanwhile Britain and France were at war with each other. Jefferson decided to remain neutral and not involve the US in European affairs.

His decision was unpopular but he did what he felt was best for the country at the time. When first elected he had significantly reduced the size of the army and navy. When England and France began seizing neutral American ships and impressing Americans Jefferson was angered but he knew that there was no way his little navy could stand up to England’s navy so instead of declaring war, like everyone wanted, he tried to hit them where it hurt, in their pocket. He instated the Embargo Act. This act halted all exportation with all foreign countries. His whole purpose for instating this act was to please the Federalists. This act didn’t work out as Jefferson planned for Americans continued smuggling goods to other countries. Instead of causing economical damage to England and France, it caused major economical damage to the New England ship building states. The Federalists were very angry. It backfired on him but he took responsibility signing the Non-Intercourse Act, which repealed the Embargo Act and only discontinued trade with France and England.

Jefferson never stopped trying to keep the US unified throughout his entire presidency. He knew that just as a house divided cannot stand, a country divided, whether by political parties and differences in principals, cannot stand. He tried to bring Americans the best of both worlds and was successful in doing so. He compromised his beliefs and sacrificed his principals for the sake of his country. His domestic policies and foreign policies are proof that every action he took, he did it, not for a particular party or person, and he did it to do what he thought was best for the nation.


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