Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, was elected to the presidency in the year 1800. His election marked a transition point in American history. Before Jefferson, only Federalists and Federalist sympathizers had occupied the executive office. Jefferson therefore set a vision for America that differed from the Federalists and supported egalitarianism, agriculture and territorial expansion.
Freedom of Speech
Even before authoring the Declaration of Independence, where Jefferson penned the words "all men are created equal," Jefferson had a deep commitment to personal freedom. Jefferson's presidential vision regarding freedom helped him get elected in 1800. The previous president, President Adams, had thoroughly expanded federal power through such laws as the Alien and Sedition Acts, which forbade certain treasonous statements against the government. Jefferson and his supporters vowed to end such anti-free speech laws. In addition, Jefferson pledged to reduce the monetary size of the federal government more generally, which he believed was infringing on critical freedoms.
The Federalists consisted mostly of northern industrialists and merchants who earned a living through production, finance and other skilled occupations. Jefferson, however, vowed in 1800 to support government policies that were more favorable to farmers than to merchants. Jefferson believed in something called agrarian democracy, where farmers were the most valuable citizens, capable of participating in republican government without biases. As president, Jefferson also supported free public education for all, and he believed that scientific expansion should be aimed at supporting farmers and their labor.
Jefferson was so enthusiastic about farmers that he wanted to expand their opportunities by acquiring more land for America. Jefferson worried that the growing population of the United States would drive up land prices and make farming a financially unsustainable occupation. His ultimate solution to this problem came in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which more than doubled the size of the country. The president also supported exploration of the West, which included the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The venture uncovered large amounts of new territory that potentially could be used for American farming.
A Friend of France
While many of Jefferson's problems with the Federalists were domestic, he also opposed their foreign policy, which included support for Britain. Having previously served as foreign minister to France, President Jefferson supported that country over Britain when it came to foreign affairs. Jefferson thought France, which was amid its own revolution and would soon abolish its monarchy, was a more egalitarian society than Britain. So Jefferson thought it was natural that the U.S. and France should be friends. This idea came into play when France and Britain went to war during Jefferson's second term. Instead of supporting Britain, Jefferson supported a policy of neutrality in European conflicts. To Jefferson, the U.S. needed to focus on its domestic issues, not European wars.
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