History 3.3
Nov. 8, 2001

The Jeffersonian Experiment and its Ironies

I. President Jefferson: An Experiment in "Governing Without Government"

A. Jefferson's Inaugural Address: Defending the American "experiment" in non-authoritarian and laying out the principles of the new administration.

B. Domestic policy: making the government smaller, cheaper, and less coercive.

1. Dismantling the Federalist security program: expiration of Alien and Sedition Acts, abolition of direct tax, greater tolerance, cancellation of military build-up.

2. Phasing out of Hamilton's financial system: debt would be paid off, B.U.S. allowed to expire in 1811.

C. A Republican Foreign Policy

1. Overall goal: allow U.S. to stay predominantly agricultural for as long as possible, postponing need for urbanization or manufacturing.

2. Main principles in international affairs: Neutrality (preventing wars & need for large military) and free trade (maximizing markets for U.S. farmers).

3. Primary in western hemisphere: Expansion of nation's agricultural land base, by acquiring new territory and clearing existing territory of Indians.

4. Chief methods: example, negotiation, and "peaceable coercion" (idea of punishing nations that did not allow free trade, such as British, by restricting access to U.S. market).

II. Source of the Ironies: Jeffersonian Expansionism

A. The Louisiana Purchase: Triumph of the Jeffersonian Style of Foreign Policy

1. Accidental nature of the Purchase. Main goal had been control of New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

2. Jefferson got worried when Spain, a weak power, gave Louisiana back to Napoleon's France in 1800.

3. Western Federalists urged war with Spain before French could take over Louisiana. TJ sent mission to buy New Orleans from France.

4. Losing interest in Americas because of failure to reconquer French colony Sainte-Domingue (present Haiti), Napoleon offered to sell all of Louisiana for $15 million.

5. Jefferson hesitated, because constitution did not grant power to buy new territory, but then accepted.

6. Problem: Trans-Mississippi West was a considered a desert.

B. The Louisiana Purchase and Jefferson's two-faced Indian policy

1. Lewis and Clark as ambassadors to the far western Indians.

3. Intended use of Louisiana: dumping ground for remaining Indians east of the Mississippi. Jefferson as the father of "Indian removal."

C. Reactions to the Louisiana Purchase: The Northern Confederacy and the rise of New England sectionalism.

III. Embargo and War: Breakdown of the Jeffersonian Experiment

A. Jefferson's Embargo, 1807-1809: an experiment in "peaceable coercion" that grew less and less peaceable and more and more coercive.

1. Cause was British and French practice, during Napoleonic Wars, of treating U.S. ships as enemies if they tried to trade or cooperate with the other power.

2. Definition of the embargo: total ban on U.S. trade with foreign countries.

3. Followed example of Revolution-era trade boycotts: Europe (especially British) needed our food & money more than we needed their manufactured goods.

4. Impact: little on British or French policy, but met with great resistance from Americans, especially in New York and New England.

5. Jefferson resorted to military force and progressively more repressive enforcement laws to make the Embargo work.

6. Jefferson's principles desert him: The Giles Enforcement Act, Jan. 1809.

B. New Pres. James Madison's drift toward war, using weaker versions of the embargo, 1809-1812.

IV. The War of 1812

A. Humiliating stalemate in the North and East, including two failed invasions of Canada and the burning of Washington, D.C. in 1814.

B. Smashingly successful war of conquest in the West and South, mostly against Indians.

1. The Indians as an impediment to expansion, especially of the Southern plantation economy.

2. Catalyst for renewed Indian resistance: religious revivals/resistance movements led by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa in NW, Red Sticks in South. Became armed rebellions somewhat supported by British & Spanish.

3. Gen. William Henry Harrison's conquest of the Northwest. Key battles: Tippecanoe (1811), Put-in-Bay (1813) & the Thames River (1813).

4. Andrew Jackson's conquest of the Southwest, including victory over the Creek rebels (Red Sticks) at Horseshoe Bend (1814) and the British at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), the lone defeat of British troops by American troops in this war.

C. New England Reaction: The Hartford Convention, 1814-1815.

1. War and embargo especially harmful to economy and unpopular in New England. Region losing population. Resentment at long and apparently permanent Southern control of federal government.

2. Convention of New England states called at Hartford, Conn. Some leaders had wanted to secede, but moderates gained control.

3. Passed resolutions calling for various constitutional amendments to reduce power of the South and protect power of New England within the Union.

4. Followed some ideas of VA and KY Resolutions, employing compact theory, and originated idea of a minority or sectional veto over national policies.

5. Bad timing: Hartford Convention killed Federalist Party a national force, branding it as disloyal.

D. Immediate Aftermath and Results of the War

1. During "Era of Good Feelings", Republicans adopted many old Federalist policies, including the resurrection of the Bank of the United States.

2. US government, through agency of Gen. Andrew Jackson, used naked military aggression to seize Spanish territory and finish off Indians in t he South: postwar Indian treaties, First Seminole War (1818), Arbuthnot and Ambrister case, Transcontinental Treaty (1819).

3. The War of 1812 and the Origins of the Westward Movement: The Great Migration of 1815-1819.

New states carved from Jackson and Harrison’s conquests: LA (1812), IN (1816), MS (1817), IL (1818), AL (1819).

Spurred westward movement of regional cultures, economic boom in sales of land & equipment to emigrants, expansion of banking to finance it all.

V. The Experiment's Greatest Irony:
The Origins of the U.S. Industrial Revolution

A. Preconditions in trends before and during the war.

1. Overpopulation and land shortages in the Northeast.

2. Pre-industrialization: War period as the golden age of "household manufactures" and outwork.

3. Massive fortunes made in shipping boom before 1807, by merchants trading with both sides during Napoleonic Wars.

B. Francis Cabot Lowell and the Boston Associates: Pent-up merchant capital, wartime restrictions, and the origins of the New England textile industry.

1. Lowell was wealthy Boston merchant whose business was stalled by Jefferson's embargo.

2. Looking for other investment opportunities, Lowell traveled in Europe and in process stole British technology for mechanized textile production (the "power loom.")

3. Lowell and the Boston Associates opened state-of-the-art textile factory in Waltham, Mass., and later a whole series of them in new town of Lowell, Mass. First workers were young farm women.

C. Waltham and Lowell were beginning of a process that would transform U.S. into a manufacturing giant, with New England (along with Middle States) as center of it.