Guiding Questions: Jeffersonian Era (pg. 194-208)



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Guiding Questions: Jeffersonian Era (pg. 194-208)

  1. How did Jefferson reduce the size of the federal government?

Jefferson reduced the size of the federal government by first persuading Congress to abolish all internal taxes, leaving customs duties and the sale of western lands as the only sources of revue for the government. In addition, under the guidance of Jefferson, the Secretary of Treasury Gallatin drastically reduced government spending by cutting the already small staffs of the executive departments to tiny levels. Jefferson was able to reduce the nation’s debt by half (from $83 million to $45 million), and also scaled down armed forces from the tiny army of 4,000 down to the even smaller army of 2,500. He reduced the navy from 25 ships to 7, and reduced the staff of those ships accordingly. Although Jefferson argued that anything but a miniscule army would be a threat to liberty and freedom, he was not a pacifist, and did ramp up the military when needed. Not only did Jefferson reduce the size of government, he also reduced the government’s debt, and the size of the military.

  1. Why did the United States go to war with the Barbary Pirates? How was this conflict resolved?

The United States went to war with the Barbary Pirates because Jefferson did not want to continue the tributes to the pirates that were required for safe passage in the Mediterranean, especially North Africa. Jefferson decided instead of continuing paying the tributes, it would be better to build a navy and decide for war. Eventually, in 1801, the pasha of Tripoli forced Jefferson to make a choice, and dissatisfied by the American response, he ordered the flagpole of the American consulate chopped down, which symbolized a declaration of war. Jefferson responded cautiously, slowly building up the American fleet in the region over the next several years, until the US reached an agreement with the pasha that ended American tributes to Tripoli but required the US to pay a substantial ransom of $60,000 for the release of American prisoners, a humiliating sum that ended the affair in shame.

  1. What was the gist of the constitutional issues over judicial review? How was it resolved?

The constitutional issue regarding judicial review was that the Constitution said nothing specifically to support the Federalist claim that the Supreme Court had the authority to nullify acts of Congress. This issue was resolved in the Marbury vs. Madison case, where Marbury argued that Madison must perform his official duty and give him the justice of the peace commission. The Court ruled that Marbury must be delivered his commission, but of more importance, that Congress had exceeded its authority in creating the statue to compel executive officials to act in such matters as the delivery of commissions in the original Judiciary Act of 1789, and that the legislature had no right to expand d the powers of the judiciary, which were defined by the Constitution. The justices had repudiated a relatively minor power (the power to force the delivery of a commission) by asserting a vastly greater one (the power to nullify an act of Congress).

  1. Why did the Republicans want to impeach Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase? What was the larger issue illustrated by this move?

The Republicans wanted to impeach Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase because he had delivered partisan speeches for the bench, and was a very partisan Federalist; however, Chase had never actually committed a crime. The actual motive the Republicans had was to impeach Chase for political power, for at the time Congress could properly impeach a judge for political reasons, for “obstructing the other branches of the government and disregarding the will of the people”. However,

  1. How did Jefferson naively assert a very pro-French policy early on in his administration? What incidents made him change course?

Jefferson naively asserted a very pro-French policy early on in his administration that reflected his well-known admiration for France. In order to create a strong foreign relation with France, he appointed Robert R. Livingston as minster to Paris. Livingston was avidly pro-French, and worked to secure the ratification of the Franco-American settlement of 1800, and reversed Adams’ administration views on the rebel regime of Toussaint L’Ovuverture in Santo Domingo; while Adams had supported the rebellion, Jefferson moved to back the French and agreeing the illegitimacy of the rebellion, and even implied that the US might join the French in order to destroy the rebellion (however, this never occurred). Early in his administration, before France’s plans for the transfer of Louisiana, Jefferson was very pro-French and backed France, making them the closest thing to an ally America had.

  1. What were the terms of the Louisiana Purchase treaty?

The terms of the Louisiana Purchase treaty were that the United States was to pay 80 million francs ($15 million) – an outstanding sum at the time – to the French government. They were also to grant exclusive commercial privileges to France in the port of New Orleans and to incorporate the French residents of Louisiana into the Union with the same rights and privileges as all the other citizens. Although no specific lines were drawn, the treaty stated that Louisiana would occupy the “same extent” as it had when France and Spain had owned it.

  1. Why did the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France put Jefferson in a quandary?

The purchase of the Louisiana Territory put Jefferson in a quandary because he wasn’t sure if the government could accept the treaty, as he had always insisted that the federal government could rightfully exercise only the powers explicitly assigned to it, and nowhere in the Constitution said anything about gaining a new territory. Jefferson’s advisers were able to convince him that under his treaty making powers (which were in the Constitution) the purchase of Louisiana was justified. Jefferson finally agreed, and the Republican Congress quickly approved the treaty and appropriated money to the implement of its terms.

  1. What were the goals of the Essex Junto? Why didn't Alexander Hamilton support them?

The goal of Essex Junto was for New England to secede from the Union, creating a separate “Northern Confederacy”. Essex Junto realized that in order to succeed, it would have to include New York and New Jersey in addition to New England. The group tried to recruit Alexander Hamilton to the scheme in order to bring New York in, but he refused because he believed that destruction of the union would be a sacrifice of a successful government like the union, for one that would probably fail in the long run. Hamilton did not want to support this failure, and Essex Junto fell apart.

  1. Why did Aaron Burr hate Alexander Hamilton so much? What was the "Burr Conspiracy?" What was the larger issue at stake here for the nation?

Aaron Burr hated Alexander Hamilton so much because they were great political rivals, and Hamilton accused Burr of plotting treason by supporting Essex Junto in New York. Hamilton made numerous shots at Burr’s character, which he called “despicable”, and this affair was highly covered by the press. Burr lost the electron for governor of New York, and blamed the loss on Hamilton’s remarks. He challenged Hamilton to a duel and mortally wounded him; Hamilton would die the next day. The “Burr Conspiracy” was Burr’s plan lead an expedition that would capture Mexico from the Spanish. Other rumors circulated that he wanted to separate the Southwest US from the Union and create a western empire as a tyrant. Burr led a group of armed followers down the Ohio River by boat in 1806, and it appeared an attack on New Orleans was imminent. As a result, Jefferson ordered Burr and his men arrested as traitors. He was brought to Richmond for trial, but Chief Justice Marshall limited the evidence the government could present and defined the charge, forcing the jury to acquit Burr. The big issue that this illustrated to the nation was the peril of a small, weak central government that could not control the vast tracts of land. In this environment, it would be easy for an ambitious political leader to come to power in their own separate places, especially in the West. It showed that the existence of the US as a table and united nation had not yet been fully established.


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