Themes that defined Thomas Jefferson’s Presidency
Thomas Jefferson was the American Founding father elected as the 3rd President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Jefferson was born in 1743, and as an influential leader in the United States' growth and progress, he is renowned as an instrumental figure in America's early development. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence which affirmed that the American colonies were creating their nation and were no longer under the British rule. In the American Revolutionary War from 1775-1783, Jefferson worked in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress and became the governor of Virginia. Further he also served as the United States secretary of state, U.S. minister for France and was the vice president during John Adams tenure. These influential positions prepared him for one of the most prestigious positions in the world. President Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican who believed that the national government should have limited influence on the citizens' lives. Hence an overview of the themes that defined his presidency will be crucial.
The United States gained its independence from Great Britain under the Treaty of Paris. Over the years, the British navy protected the American merchant ships from the pirates. However, as an independent country, the U.S. was tasked with the responsibility to defend its territories. During the last three decades, the Barbary pirates would frequently raid the United States merchant ships looting and kidnapping the crew members to demand a ransom. President Jefferson's first foreign policy issues included the United States trade with the Middle East since it was controlled by Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, all within the Barbary Coast (Resnick, 2016). They demanded large sums of money from the trading nations, and the lack of compliance would lead to attacks and seizure of goods by the Barbary pirates.
In 1801, they demanded an increase in payment from the United States, and President Jefferson's defiance led to the First Barbary War declaration. The President sent warships to engage and protect American territories. President Jefferson's technique gained popularity with the phrase "millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute," becoming a common philosophy. Jefferson acknowledged the importance of dealing appropriately with acts of terrorism or aggression before they escalate (Turner, 2003). Although the United States did not achieve victory, a peace treaty was signed in 1805. Based on the agreement Tripoli released any hostages in exchange for $60,000 and promised to stop raiding the American ships. The 2nd Barbary War in 1815 brought to an end the practice of paying tributes to the Barbary States. Under the Jefferson administration, the war affirmed the U.S. position in the global arena.
The 1807 Embargo Act
The Embargo Act of 1807 was an unpopular policy during President Jefferson's term. The Act was passed primarily due to the rising tensions between the United Kingdom and the United States. According to Kankam-da-Costa (2012), the depression experienced from 1807-1810 was influenced by President Jefferson's trade policy. England and France were involved in the Napoleonic Conflict, which led to both nations capturing American ships. For instance, the British Royal Navy seized the American sailors and forced them to serve in their navy. This Act prohibited American ships from leaving their ports until France and Britain stopped attacking them. The President believed that blocking the trade would negatively affect France and British economies, and the seizures would end.
The American economy was affected more than France and British economies. The majority of residents who relied on ocean trade for their livelihood were against the passage of the Embargo Act by Congress. Moreover, American farmers could no longer sell their goods overseas, leading to an increase in unemployment cases and a surge in bankruptcy. According to Dooley (2004) business operations in the United States declined by 75% after implementation of the Embargo Act. It was a difficult policy to enforce since many people choose to smuggle goods between British Canada and the United States. During the end of his presidential term, he signed the 1808 Non-Intercourse Act lifting the embargo on trade with all nations except France and Britain. President Jefferson experienced a brief miscalculation that significantly affected the economy. However, the Embargo Act until 1821 provided the required directives that influenced the United States policy in foreign participation and future recessions.
The Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase treaty is deemed as President Jefferson's most significant accomplishments. It was signed in April 1803 by representatives from France and the United States. Based on the terms of the agreement, the Louisiana borders from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains belonged to the United States. The President purchased this territory since he wanted to ensure that the American farmers around the Ohio River Valley gained access to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River. Napoleon, whose focus was primarily on the war, viewed the territory as a hindrance. The United States bought the 828,000 square miles for $15 million and added thirteen states to the country.
The Louisiana treaty doubled the size of the United States; nonetheless, it was unconstitutional. The federalists were against this purchase since it increased the likelihood of new slave states entering the Union from the region's southern parts. The Senate approved the treaty in 1803 after President Jefferson, who focused on national interests and expansion, submitted it to them. The Louisiana deal was instrumental in President Jefferson's re-election in 1804, where out of all the 176 electoral votes, only fourteen were against his re-election to office.
Dooley, P. L. (2004). The Early Republic: Primary Documents on Events From 1799 to 1820. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Kankam-da-Costa, V. A. (2012). Who Is Fit to Rule America in the Twenty-First Century and Beyond?: The Twenty-First Century and Beyond American Enlightenment. Xlibris Corporation.
Resnick, E. (2016). Barron's AP United States History. Barron's Educational Series.
Turner, R. F. (2003). State Responsibility and the War on Terror: The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates. Chi. J. Int'l L., 4, 121.