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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4111

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Character of Jefferson.]

To the mind of the Federalists the success of the Republicans, and particularly the elevation of Jefferson, meant a complete change in the government which they had been laboring to establish. Jefferson was to them the type of dangerous liberality in thought, in religion, and in government. In his tastes and his habits, his reading and investigation, Jefferson was half a century in advance of his contemporaries. Books and letters from learned men constantly came to him from Europe; he experimented in agriculture and science. Accused during his lifetime of being an atheist, he felt the attraction of religion, and, in fact, was not far removed from the beliefs held by the Unitarian branch of the Congregational Church in New England. Brought up in an atmosphere of aristocracy, in the midst of slaves and inferior white men, his political platform was confidence in human nature, and objection to privilege in every form. Although a poor speaker, and rather shunning than seeking society, he had such influence over those about him that no President has ever so dominated the two Houses of Congress.

[Sidenote: Jefferson's faults.]

Jefferson's great defect was a mistaken view of human nature: this showed itself in an unfortunate judgment of men, which led him to include among his friends worthless adventurers like Callender. As a student and a philosopher, he believed that mankind is moved by simple motives, in which self-interest is predominant: hence his disinclination to use force against insurrections; the people, if left to themselves, would, he believed, return to reason. Hence, also, his confidence in a policy of commercial restriction against foreign countries which ignored our neutral rights; this was set forth in his commercial report of 1793 (§ 85), and later was the foundation of his disastrous embargo policy (§ 103). He had entire confidence in his own judgment and statesmanship; his policy was his own, and was little affected by his advisers; and he ventured to measure hims

elf in diplomacy against the two greatest men of his time,- William Pitt the younger and Napoleon Bonaparte.

[Sidenote: Moderate policy.]

Fortunately his administration began at a period when general peace seemed approaching. The treaty of Amiens in 1802 made a sort of armistice between France and Great Britain, and neutral commerce was relieved from capture. The national income was steadily rising (§ 52), the Indians were quiet, the land dispute with Georgia-the last of the long series-was on the point of being settled, the States showed no sign of insubordination. In his inaugural address the new President took pains to reassure his fellow- citizens. "We have called by different names brethren of the same principle," said he; "we are all Republicans, we are all Federalists." Among the essential principles of government which he enumerated, appeared "absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority,-the vital principle of republics,-from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism."

[Sidenote: Purpose to win the Federalists.]

The studied moderation of this address shows clearly the policy which Jefferson had in his mind. In a letter written about this time he says: "To restore that harmony which our predecessors so wickedly made it their object to break, to render us again one people, acting as one nation,… should be the object of every man really a patriot." Jefferson was determined to show the Federalists that there would be no violent change in his administration; he hoped thus to detach a part of their number so as to build up the Republican party in the Northern States. Even in forming his cabinet he avoided violent shocks; for some months he retained two members of Adams's cabinet; his Secretary of State was Madison, who in 1789 was as much inclined to Federalism as to Republicanism; and he shortly appointed as his Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, the Parliamentary leader of the party, but in financial principles and policy much like Hamilton.

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