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The Jefferson Presidency

The Jefferson Presidency

 Table of Contents

The Jefferson Presidency Terms

Anglophilic, Anglophile

Characterized by an attachment to England or a great respect or fascination for English customs, history, and/or culture.

Embargo, Embargos, Embargoed

A government-ordered suspension of foreign trade. The embargo requested by President Thomas Jefferson, and enacted by Congress between 21 December 1807 and 1 March 1809, forbade American ships from engaging in foreign commerce in hopes of pressuring Great Britain and France to recognize American commercial rights as a neutral nation.

The Enlightenment, Enlightenment

This term refers to a philosophical movement as well as a period in history centered in the eighteenth century. Central to the philosophy and the period was a belief in reason as both the organizing force within nature and the defining attribute of humanity. The Enlightenment was therefore highly optimistic about the character of the universe and man's ability to unravel its logic. A blind obedience to tradition and a reliance on faith were replaced with a confidence in the scientific method and the demand that ideas be supported by evidence.

Federalist, Federalists

This term can be confusing as it was employed to describe two overlapping but different groups. It was first adopted by those supporting ratification of the Constitution. They wanted a term that distinguished this new government from the "confederation" established under the Articles and by comparison suggested the increased strength of the new government. But they also wanted to avoid the suggestion of a too strong government—the sort that might be suggested by the term "nationalists." The term "federalist" satisfied this need. When political parties started to form during Washington's administration, the term was re-employed to identify those favoring a stronger, more assertive federal government. But it also carried other connotations—most importantly, a belief that the views of the people needed to be filtered through the experience and education of the "wise and the good."

A term for someone who favors a strong federal government. The Federalist position came about during the 1787-8 debate over whether to ratify the new U.S. Constitution. Alexander Hamilton initiated The Federalist, a.k.a. The Federalist Papers, a series of 85 essays printed in newspapers and as a two-volume edition, designed to persuade voters to accept the new plan for federal government. Hamilton wrote at least 51 of the essays; James Madison wrote fourteen, and John Jay wrote five; the authorship of the remaining fifteen essays remains in dispute—either Hamilton or Madison wrote them, or some fraction of them (the essays were each published under pseudonyms). After the Constitution was ratified, the Federalist party emerged from this ideology, and it remained closely tied to Alexander Hamilton and his views; namely, a conservative perspective that favored a strong national executive, centralized government, and encouragement of merchants, landowners, and national industry. But not all supporters of the Constitution became members of the Federalist party! James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others who had strongly supported the Constitution later became founding members of the Democratic party, which generally stood for state's rights, individual liberties, a limited federal government, and emphasized agrarianism (farming) as opposed to manufactures and the cities that tended to develop along with them.

This term can be confusing as it was employed to describe two overlapping but different groups. It was first adopted by those supporting ratification of the Constitution. They wanted a term that distinguished this new government from the "confederation" established under the Articles and by comparison suggested the increased strength of the new government. But they also wanted to avoid the suggestion of a too strong government—the sort that might be suggested by the term "nationalists." The term "federalist" satisfied this need.

When political parties started to form during Washington's administration the term was re-employed to identify those favoring a stronger, more assertive federal government. But it also carried other connotations— most importantly, a belief that the views of the people needed to be filtered through the experience and education of the "wise and the good."

Impressment

The forced conscription or drafting of men into military service. Great Britain claimed, as a matter of national security, the right to force British citizens into the Royal Navy. Britain also claimed the right to intercept foreign vessels in order to search for and seize deserters from its navy as well as British citizens attempting to avoid naval service.

Jay Treaty

A treaty between the United States and Great Britain, ratified by the United States Senate in 1795. Negotiated by John Jay, the treaty increased American access to British West Indian ports and established a commission to negotiate compensation for American cargoes seized by the British. In return, the United States agreed to the establishment of a commission to resolve debt disputes dating to before the Revolutionary War. The Jay Treaty triggered intense political debate. While opposition to the treaty came from several directions, southern Republicans were most outraged. The treaty's commercial clauses most benefited the North, while the debt commission established by the treaty forced Southerners to pay old debts they hoped had become unrecoverable as a result of the Revolution. Jay also failed to even raise the issue most critical to southern planters: compensation for their slaves that had been either freed or confiscated by the British during the Revolutionary War.

Judicial Review

The right of the Supreme Court to review and take action against any legislation—local, state, or federal—it deems to be unconstitutional.

Judicial review is the idea that the judicial branch of government (in the United States, the Supreme Court) has the right and responsibility to invalidate actions by the other branches of government if they are judged to be unconstitutional. If Congress passes a law or the President undertakes an executive action that a majority of the Supreme Court believes to run afoul of the Constitution, the Court can overturn that law or executive action. Judicial review is a critical part of the American system of checks and balances, giving the judicial branch its most powerful tool to limit the executive andlegislative branches. Interestingly, the power of judicial review is not explicitly named in the Constitution; the Supreme Court itself declared that it had the power of judicial review for the first time in the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison.

The authority of the courts to rule on the constitutionality of legislative actions. This power was not expressly granted in the Constitution and thus was not universally acknowledged with the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist #78 that it was implied by Article III of the Constitution. But others argued that this claim placed the judiciary above the legislative branch and contradicted the democratic premises of America's political system. In Marbury v. Madison (1803) the Supreme Court asserted this power for the first time; Chief Justice John Marshall's Court would assert the same power in fifteen additional cases. Some continued to challenge the court's authority to do so, but the principle of judicial review was widely established by Marshall's death in 1835.

Manumit, Manumission

To free or emancipate a slave. Prior to the American Revolution southern states forbade private manumission; a slave could only be freed through legislative act. After the Revolution, Virginia, in 1782, was the first southern state to legalize private manumission. While the law allowed slaveowners, either still living or in their wills, to free their slaves, the latter was the more common practice. Consequently, the term is commonly equated with the practice of freeing a slave through one's will.

Nullification

A constitutional theory claiming the right of the states to nullify or void federal laws deemed "unconstitutional." The theory further asserts that individual states, not just the courts, possess the authority to determine the constitutionality of federal laws or actions. Thomas Jefferson advanced the theory in the Kentucky Resolves he authored in 1798.

The doctrine of nullification claimed that individual states had the authority to cancel or void a federal law that they believed was incompatible with the constitution, or in some cases, contrary to the interests of a particular state.

Radical Whigs

The Radical Whigs were a British political faction critical of the king and his court that first emerged in the late seventeenth century. Their writings about the tendency of all governments to abuse their powers were very influential in the years preceding the American Revolution.

Republican, Republican, Republicanism

This term described a philosophy before it did a party. Republicanism held that individuals should subordinate their interests to the common good and the aim of the political process was to identify and build consensus around that common interest. As republicanism required self-sacrifice, the philosophy also emphasized the need to cultivate a virtuous and rational electorate.

While persons across the political spectrum identified with this term, Jefferson's followers adopted the name Republican, or at times, Democratic-Republican, for their emerging party during the 1796 election.

As a party, Republicans sought to reverse the government-expanding policies of the Federalists who dominated the national government during the 1790s. Believing that common people were inherently virtuous and capable of managing their own affairs, and that governments had a tendency toward corruption, Republicans advocated a small and frugal central government.

This party should not be confused with either of the current major parties. The evolution of American political parties is much more complex. But in very simple terms, this process can be traced to the 1820s when the Democratic-Republican Party began to divide. One group would follow Andrew Jackson and call themselves Democrats. The other faction, labeled National Republicans in the 1820s, would evolve into the Whig Party. Members of the Whig Party, like Abraham Lincoln, would play an important part in the development of the modern Republican Party of the 1850s.

Scientific Racialism

A constellation of scientific theories advanced in the nineteenth century which argued that there were fixed and immutable differences between the races. These new theories challenged the older Enlightenment theories which had asserted the fundamental universality of humankind and had linked racial differences to environmental and historical causes. Instead, drawing upon new disciplines such as comparative anatomy and craniology, these newer theories argued that the races were physiologically and intellectually distinct and that some were inherently superior to others.

Strict Constructionism, Strict Constructionist

A philosophical and legal approach to the Constitution that insists on a narrow and literal interpretation of the Constitution's provisions. It contrasts with loose constructionism which favors a broader, more flexible interpretation of the Constitution.

Writ Of Mandamus

A court order demanding that a government official or agency do something, usually complete some legally required duty that has been neglected or ignored. In Marbury v. Madison, a historic Supreme Court case, William Marbury requested a writ of mandamus ordering Secretary of State James Madison to deliver the appointment letter signed by former President John Adams naming Marbury a justice of the peace for the city of Washington.

Yeoman Farmer, Yeoman Farmers, Yeomen, Yeoman

Land-owning farmers of moderate means celebrated by political thinkers like Thomas Jefferson as the backbone of America's egalitarian society.
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