The Jeffersonian Era p. 180-211

                   John Marshall                                                               Thomas Jefferson                                               James Madison

These years witnessed continued competition between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans and the further development of democratic party politics. Newspapers, which were usually openly partisan, provided a forum for political discourse. Each party adopted an official newspaper to propagandize for its political ideology and to propagandize against the ideology, policies, and personalities associated with the opposing party. Politicians courted both voters, mostly consisting of white property-owning males, and non-voters. In addition, voters and non-voters alike actively participated in partisan rallies and parades.

After a peaceful transition of power from the Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans in 1801, the Democratic-Republicans began to implement their domestic governmental philosophy by cutting taxes, reducing the army and navy budgets, reducing the size of the national debt, and allowing the Alien and Sedition Acts to expire. Furthermore, they appointed fellow Democratic-Republicans to governmental offices and attacked Federalist control of the judicial branch of the government. The attack did not succeed. In fact, under the direction of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court successfully claimed the power of judicial review, which allowed the Court to develop as a coequal branch of government.

While the Supreme Court expanded its powers and the powers of the central government, Jefferson, in the face of political reality and national interest, showed a willingness to alter his strict constructionist view of the Constitution. Seeing the possibility of doubling the size of the republic and removing major obstacles to future commercial growth, Jefferson accepted the idea of implied executive powers and agreed to the Louisiana Purchase. In the aftermath of the purchase, Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the area for both scientific and political purposes.

During these years, the United States also faced challenges from abroad to the principle of freedom of the seas. Eventually, caught between Great Britain and France the two major warring powers in the Napoleonic wars the United States found its independence and nationhood challenged, with the greatest challenge coming from Great Britain. The adoption of the policy of peaceable coercion by President Thomas Jefferson and President James Madison created a situation in which the use of federal power had a tremendous economic impact on the lives of individuals and on the future economic development of the country an ironic development in light of Jeffersonian beliefs about the role of government in society. As disruptions to commerce caused by embargoes and war made domestic manufacturing more profitable, the number of cotton and woolen mills in New England grew from twenty in 1807 to more than two hundred by 1813. It was, in fact, in 1813 that a radical transformation of textile manufacturing occurred with the chartering of the Boston Manufacturing Company and the development of the Waltham (Lowell) system.

The policy of peaceable coercion did not bring an end to the humiliations experienced by the young republic at the hands of the British navy. Ultimately, because of continued affronts to its independence and because of the assertiveness of expansionists within the republic, the United States was drawn into the War of 1812. Lack of preparation for war, the presence of internal divisions, and the emergence of a pan-Indian movement in the Northwest could easily have spelled disaster for the nation. Instead, defeat of the pan-Indian movement of Prophet and Tecumseh caused the collapse of Indian unity in the Old Northwest and ended effective Indian resistance to American expansion in that area, and England's preoccupation with war in Europe resulted in military stalemate with the United States and led to the status-quo antebellum Treaty of Ghent.

Despite the nature of the peace, the American victory at the Battle of New Orleans (fought after the signing of the peace treaty) caused most Americans to perceive the war as a major victory against the British and as a reaffirmation of the nation's independence, strength, and vitality. In fact, in the years immediately after the War of 1812, the United States experienced a mood of nationalism that manifested itself in a renewed feeling of confidence and assertiveness domestically and internationally. This nationalism and self-confidence brought the Era of Good Feelings and unleashed a period of economic and population growth and territorial expansion. Democratic-Republicans, facing only scattered opposition from a discredited Federalist party, accepted some Federalist principles. They helped expand federal power and foster national economic development by chartering the Second Bank of the United States and enacting protective tariffs. Chief Justice John Marshall also oversaw a Supreme Court that strengthened federal authority relative to state authority and used Federalist nationalism to protect the interests of commerce and capital. Moreover, under the brilliant leadership of John Quincy Adams as secretary of state, the nation was able once again to expand physically by peaceful means, and it unilaterally asserted its independence in the Western Hemisphere through the Monroe Doctrine. However, the physical expansion of the North into the Old Northwest and of the South into the Old Southwest led to North South divisions over the question of statehood for Missouri and over the expansion of slavery into the territories.

The Fabric of Change 1800-1815

1800 France reacquires Louisiana Territory from Spain.

1801 Judiciary Act of 1801 prompts "midnight appointment" of Federalist judges.

1802 Spain closes New Orleans to American trade.

1803 President Jefferson purchases the Louisiana Territory from France.
Chief Justice John Marshall establishes judicial review in Marbury v. Madison.

1804 Jefferson is reelected president

1804-6 Lewis and Clark expedition travels to Pacific Ocean and back in two and a half years.

1806 Congress approves National Road from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.

1807 British naval vessel attacks USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia.
Embargo of 1807 closes all American ports to prevent war with England.
Robert Fulton launches his steamboat, the Clermont.

1808 Congress passes the Act of Arming and Equipping the Militia to prepare for war. Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin issues his "Report on the Roads and Canals." James Madison elected president.

1809 Congress passes the Non-Intercourse Act, forbidding trade with England and France.

1810 Congress passes Macon's Bill Number Two to coerce either England or France to respect neutral rights.

1811 William Henry Harrison defeats the Shawnee Prophet at the Battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana Territory.

1812 Responding to Madison's war message, Congress declares war against England.

1812-14 War of 1812 between the United States and England.

1814 At the Hartford Convention, Federalists voice opposition to the war.
Treaty of Ghent establishes armistice to end the War of 1812.

1815 Andrew Jackson leads Americans to victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.


Culture: America began to exert its cultural independence during this time. Private education flourished as republican ideology sought to produce virtuous citizens. American authors began producing a genre of national schoolbooks, dictionaries, literature, and histories.

Economic Transformations: The Republican era beginning with Jefferson marked the beginning of the first Industrial Revolution in the United States. Powered by the Northeast's fast-flowing rivers, manufacturing enterprise sprouted, particularly in textiles. In turn this spurred growth in southern agriculture and shipping. The Lowell System provided work for farm girls outside of the home.

Environment: The acquisition of Louisiana by Jefferson in 1803 had a profound impact on how Americans viewed their environment and its resources. Doubling the size of the national domain, Louisiana projected notions of abundance, expansion, and unlimited wealth. Jefferson predicted that the area would not be settled for 100 years, and together these ideas promoted waste of natural resources.

Politics and Citizenship: The Revolution of 1800 and the Republicans in office promoted a more democratic and open political system than under Federalist rule. Land remained the basis for the franchise, and Jefferson cemented one aspect of political ideology in the American mind, that large government is a threat to individual liberty.

Religion: The rationalism of the American Enlightenment was overtaken by evangelicalism during the early nineteenth century, and this became, and still remains, America's dominant religious characteristic.

War and Diplomacy: Jefferson ushered in the Republican tendency to seek solutions to international disputes through diplomacy rather than war. Nevertheless, during the Republican tenure the United States did not hesitate to use force against Indians opposing white expansion westward, and it reluctantly went to war against Great Britain and the Barbary States to uphold American honor, provide security to western settlers, and establish its credibility in the international sphere.

Digital History

The Jeffersonian Era

As president, Thomas Jefferson sought to implement his Republican principles, including a frugal, limited government; respect for states' rights, and encouragement for agriculture. He cut military expenditures, paid off the public debt, and repealed many taxes. His most important act was the purchase of Louisiana Territory, which nearly doubled the size of the nation. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review, which enables the courts to review the constitutionality of federal laws and invalidate acts of Congress when they conflict with the Constitution. The Jeffersonian era was marked by severe foreign policy challenges, including harassment of American shipping by North African pirates and by the British and French. In an attempt to stave off war with Britain and France, the United States attempted various forms of economic coercion. But in 1812--to protect American shipping and seamen, clear westerns lands of Indians, and preserve national honor?the county once again waged war with Britain, fighting the world's strongest power to a stalemate.

Biography of America (series 6)

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, the size of the United States doubles with the Louisiana Purchase. The Appalachians are no longer the barrier to American migration west; the Mississippi River becomes the country's central artery; and Jefferson's vision of an Empire of Liberty begins to take shape. American historian Stephen Ambrose joins Professors Maier and Miller in examining the consequences of the Louisiana Purchase -- for the North, the South, and the history of the country.

Lecture Outlines

The Jeffersonian Era 1800-1816

War of 1812

The Legacy of the Marshall Court


The New Nation 1780-1800