Jefferson DBQ. Possible thesis statement.
Thomas Jefferson as leader of the Republican party and Thomas Jefferson as president of the United States were really two different men. The party leader could argue fine philosophical points of political debate, but the chief executive had to deal in practicalities. Thus, it was that Jefferson as president would contradict himself in his decisions and policies when compared against the Republican principles he had espoused during the election of 1800.
Politics is the art of the practical while philosophy is the study of theories. When Jefferson crossed over from the philosopher Republican into the practical politician, he found that many of his theories did not work. Jefferson was forced as president to compromise his theories against the reality of politics and adjust his actions according to what would work in the practical world.
The Republican party espoused high ethical beliefs regarding what we today would call the principals of democracy. Unfortunately as president, Thomas Jefferson would sometimes fail to rise to these high ethical beliefs in his actions and decisions as President. In events as varied as the Louisiana Purchase and the Chase impeachment, Jefferson as president would divert from the principles of the Republican party and response instead to the practical situation with which he was faced with actions which he considered appropriate.
* In regards to new territory—Congress appointed a government—i.e. the people did not elect their government—clear violation of Jefferson’s ideals of by the people for the people and republican citizenship.
Midnight judges & impeachment of Samuel Chase: Pushed congress to repeal Federal Judiciary Act of 1801 in which Federalists had planned to put Federal judges into positions for life. Ignored republican beliefs on limiting federal powers.
* Marbury v Madison established the principle of judicial review by the Supreme court—even though part of the Constitution as a checks and balances process, Jefferson did not want the Judicial branch to have this power.
* Impeachment of Samuel Chase was a method of Jefferson to teach the Federalists and Chief Justice Marshall a lesson. Violation of the checks and balances, but Jefferson tries to use impeachment to take out Federalist judges or bad judges—even the Republican Senators went against Jefferson on this one.
Jefferson’s followers and Thomas Jefferson himself believed that the only secure republic was one that limited the powers of its government and divided those powers among several levels of government in what later became known as states rights position.( Doc I) Jefferson so strongly believed in this division of powers that in the case of the national bank dispute when Washington asked Jefferson’s opinion o of the constitutionality of Hamilton’s proposed national bank, Jefferson replied with the strict construction argument that powers which are not literally assigned to the central government are reserved to the states and to the people respectively. (Doc C) In the Constitution there is no specific authority for the federal government to purchase territory for the expansion of the nation. In 1803, when faced with the option of purchasing Louisiana from Napoleon, Jefferson was faced with a quandary. Did he have the authority to buy Louisiana? In 1806, he proudly reported to Congress on the results of three expeditions sent to Louisiana to survey the territory, especially that of Lewis and Clark, so obviously Jefferson made the purchase. (Doc J)
He also had the approval of the Congress which funded not only the purchase of the territory, but the expeditions to explore the land. Faced with the possibility of losing Louisiana, Jefferson ignored his political theories and bought the territory.
In the case of the Samuel Chase impeachment, Jefferson had less benign motives, but he was equally willing to violate his own political theories. Angry over Federalist attempts to pack the federal courts with their followers after losing the election of 1800, Jefferson had already urged Congress to repeal the Judiciary act of 1801 and abolish those judgeships. This action was of questionable constitutionality as judges are appointed for life and in effect Jefferson and the Congress were dismissing these jurists from their positions. Successful with his manipulation of the lower federal courts, Jefferson decided to manipulate the Supreme court after Marshall had issued the irksome decision in Marbury v Madison (1803), Jefferson proposed that Congress chastise the Court with impeachment proceedings against Justice Samuel Chase. Although Congress did impeach Chase in 1805 (Doc. G), even Republican senators argued that this was a violating of the intent of the Constriction and voted to acquit Justice Chase. Jefferson , the man, was capable of violating his own principles and beliefs when angered enough. This very human trait does not detract from the significant accomplishments of Jefferson the president.