Thomas Jefferson Against His Republican Ideals



While Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States, some of his actions conflicted his beliefs and the beliefs of his supporters in the Republican party. For example, he was elected as a highly pacifistic President, but he ended up leading the country toward war. War came about when more money was being given to piratical Algiers than it would have cost to fight a war. This caused Jefferson to rethink his ideas about involving the nation in war. The showdown finally came in 1801. The Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States indirectly, and Jefferson was forced to make a decision against his own beliefs - his pacifism, his criticism against big-ship navies - all faded before him. He sent the nations infant army to the shores of Tripoli and, after 4 years of fighting, Jefferson was finally able to sign a peace treaty from Tripoli.
Also contrary to his own thoughts against huge navies, Jefferson ordered that two hundred tiny gunboats be constructed, which were virtually defenseless and would have been better off had they never been built. In addition to all this, the passionate hater of war who hated alliances which entangled nations together, Jefferson proposed to make an alliance with England, then an enemy, against France, a long-time ally, with the object of waging a defensive war against France on American soil.
The Republican party also favored small government, with little power given to the federal government, especially the President. Jefferson broke away from these beliefs also by his purchase of Louisiana from Spain. Nowhere in the Constitution, which he followed passionately, was there anything that gave the President the authorization to negotiate treaties, especially when it involved doubling the size of the union and allowing 50,000 non-Americans to live on this newly acquired land. Since his conscience bothered him, Jefferson secretly proposed an amendment to the Constitution which would grant him more power. This amendment failed, however, and he was forced to let the country know that his actions were unconstitutional.
This change of ideals actually helped Jefferson to become re-elected. He breezed through the election of 1804, winning 162 electoral votes, as opposed to the 14 gained by his Federalist opponent. It was not that he imposed his Republican ideas on the Federalists, but that he did exactly the opposite. Jefferson actually was elected as Republican president, but he adopted many Federalist principles and embraced them as his own. This is how the most bipartisan President in history was able to come to power in one of the most bitterly partisan periods in America’s history.






Bibliography: