Uploaded by Brent Goodin on Feb 15, 2002
The third president of the United States, a diplomat, statesman, architect, scientist, and philosopher, Thomas Jefferson is one of the most eminent figures in American history. No leader in the period of the American Enlightenment was as articulate, wise, or conscious of the implications and consequences of a free society as Thomas Jefferson. He is remembered in history not only for the offices he held, but also for his belief in the natural rights of man as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and his faith in the people's ability to govern themselves. However, Thomas Jefferson’s involvement in politics is not entirely overshadowed by his construction of the Constitution. On the contrary, between 1789 and 1820 his political horizon spanned much further than Constitution. He left an impact on his times equaled by few others in American history.
In 1790, Thomas Jefferson initially established himself in political affairs under president Washington’s Cabinet as first secretary of state. Much of his time as head of the State Department was spent abroad and negotiating with the Spanish and the Indians over the territory what was to become territory delineated by the Louisiana Purchase; in general he played a relatively inactive role in the government. Nevertheless, his time was not frittered away. This period marked the development of his democratic beliefs and gave him the opportunity to survey the upsurge of federalists’ power in the government. Fearing the possible tyranny of a strong federal government, he was in constant conflict with Alexander Hamilton, then secretary of treasury and head of the Federalists Party. Jefferson helped organize the Democratic-Republican Party in opposition to the Federalists. Jefferson disagreed with Hamilton’s plan to encourage shipping and manufacturing, as well his proposal for a national bank. He believed that Hamilton’s financial policies exceeded the powers delegated to the central government by the Constitution, that they were contrary to the interests of the majority of the people, and that he symbolized a threat to republican institutions. Republicans virtues were saturating the young Virginian’s mind and methods of reform were being devised.
He held the position as secretary of state until December 31, 1793. For the next two years he became a severe critic of Washington and the Federalists. When the presidential election of 1796 came up, Jefferson offered himself as the Democratic-Republican candidate and received sixty-eight of the electoral votes, becoming Vice-President to John Adams. One of his first...