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Thomas Jefferson and Philosophical Consistency

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Upon his inauguration, Thomas Jefferson was eager to implement many of his Republican views into the government of the United States. Jeffersons presidential service, however, turned out to be fairly contradictory to his original views. Jefferson was forced to alter his views for the good of the nation when presented with difficult situations, and he did not hesitate.

One of Jeffersons inconsistent but necessary philosophical moves was the enlargement of the naval fleet. The root of this decision lies in the pirate activity of the four African Barbary states (Document D). When Tripoli demanded the US buy protection in order to stop the naval harassment, Jefferson refused, negating the views of other Federalists who would have done differently. Tripoli declared war on the United States, and Jefferson was forced to augment the size of the navy in order to defeat the Barbary pirates.

The Louisiana Purchase is another course of action taken by Jefferson known for contradicting his strict constructionist views. Neglecting the fact that there is no clause in the Constitution permitting him to purchase land, Jefferson used Napoleons European conquest to help him get rid of New World worries. Napoleon compares this decision to saying to your grown child, I did this for your good. I pretend to no right to bind you, you may disavow me, and I must get out of the scrape as I can. I thought it my duty to risk myself for you (Document C).

The Embargo Act of 1807 is perhaps the most contradictory decision Jefferson has made in his presidency. Due to impressments of America sailors into the British Army, as well as Great Britain and France both trying to hinder American trade with the other side, Jefferson passed the act which prohibited all foreign trade, to and from the United States. This obliterated any views he was believed to have of a weak central government. The American people were infuriated. Nerve your arm with vengeance against the Despot [Jefferson] who would wrest the inestimable germ of your Independence from you!!! (Document E).

Jeffersons presidency was a rollercoaster in terms of philosophical consistency. The defeat of the Barbary pirates, the Louisiana Purchase and the Embargo Act of 1807 are the prominent pieces of his presidency that prove the alteration of Jeffersons views.

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