Thomas Jefferson: Pragmatist

By: Kruti Tailor & Ryan Payton

Definition Of Pragmatist

It is someone who deals with problems in a sensible, practical way instead of following a set of ideas

Jefferson was a pragmatist because whenever there is a problem he deals the situation for what would be good for the people and not because his beliefs. Even though he has a set a beliefs and follows them, he knows when it's the appropriate time to not follow his set of ideas.


Views on Political Problems

Jefferson's Views of the Consitution

Jefferson supported a “strict construction or interpretation” of the Constitution; and viewed it as the supreme law of the U.S. Thomas Jefferson thought anything that was not given to the Federal government or prohibited from the states in the Constitution, are then reserved to the states and the people, rather than the Federal government. He implied the Constitution should be strictly abided, and ultimately disapproved of the Elastic or “Necessary and Proper” Clause. Jefferson thought what the Constitution did not permit it forbade (Federal gov’t).

Jefferson's Views of the Government

Jefferson notioned all powers not granted to the Federal gov’t, nor prohibited to the states, in the Constitution, should then be reserved to the states and the people. He thought the Federal gov’t should possess very limited power (limited government) and there should not be a strong centralized government, and wanted strong state governments.

Jefferson's Views on the Role of people with Federal Government

Thomas Jefferson placed deep trust in the common people and distrusted special privileges, which benefited the wealthy and educated (aristocracy). That is why he wanted to have strong state governments rather than a strong centralized government (Federal gov’t), because it allowed the people to be more integrated into the government and society. He thought highly of farmers, artisans, and others, that comprised from the south, and he thought the people can be trusted with the government as long as they are properly informed. Jefferson also wanted the common people to be a part of decision-making.

Jefferson's Views on Individual Rights

Jefferson, along with his passion and respect for the common people, thought it was essential to maintain, preserve, and protect the peoples’ individual rights and liberties. Rights and liberties were a very important part to the constitution, and Jefferson believed that the country should follow the constitution strictly. Therefore, he was outraged with the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by the Federalist political parties to stall the growth of the Democratic-Republican party and restrain the people of their individual rights. He wanted a more democratic government where people had more freedom and were not limited of their natural rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness).


Jefferson's Presidency Events

The Jeffersonian Restraint:

During this event two laws were passed that were called the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Act made it harder to become a citizen, and made it easier for the president to deport people back to their original countries. The Sedition Act went against the freedom of speech and didn't allow citizens to publish against government. There was many harm that was caused by them and Jefferson tired to undo the harm. To undo the harm he enacted the Naturalization law of 1802. This law reduced the residency requirement from fourteen years back to the previous and more reasonable requirement of only five years.

Thomas Jefferson hated Hamilton from the bottom of his heart, but kept some of his financial plan. Jefferson kept the federalist programs that funded the national debt. Jefferson also didn’t launch an attack on the bank of the United States, and didn’t repeal the Federalist tariff. Keeping these aspects in our economy helped America, even though Jefferson hated Hamilton and his ideas. Jefferson kept the financial because he wanted the economy to stay strong, and wasn’t selfish and hypocritical in his choice.

The Louisiana Godsend

Jefferson saw Napoleon’s control of the Port of New Orleans as a more serious threat than the Spanish control of the area. Napoleon was very intelligent in his field, and foreshadowed a bad future, which seemed to pertain to violence and darkness. Jefferson was afraid America would have to seek allies, which would break the anti-alliance policy.

Jefferson’s actions toward the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon were pragmatic. Initially, He did not approve of the terms of negotiation pronounced by Monroe and Livingston, simply because it meant for treaties to be signed, as well as $5 million more than what he wanted for Louisiana; and he got much land to the west of Louisiana in addition, rather than to the east which he expected. However, Jefferson soon realized the situation and was willing to submit these terms of negotiation, since he was afraid of Napoleon’s withdrawal, which could only harm the U.S. even more.

The Dead Clutch of the Judiciary: The Constitution

During the Death Clutch of the Judiciary Jefferson was a pragmatist. He went against his belief of having a strict interpretation of the constitution for the good of the country, and the reason for doing that was because Jefferson’s ill-advised attempt at “judge breaking’’ was a reassuring victory for the independence of the judiciary and for the separation of powers among the three branches of the federal government. The outcome of doing this in Jefferson’s opinion was for something good. One of Jefferson's strong moral beliefs was to use a “strict construction or interpretation” of the Constitution and he did not want a strong centralized government (limited gov’t). Yet, he did not listen himself when he was urging the impeachment of Samuel Chase, since the Constitution specifies that indictments by the House are based on “high crimes, and misdemeanors”, and the judge happened to not be guilty of any “high crimes”.

Jefferson Fought Against Slavery

Even though Jefferson was never able to end slavery, he was against it. Jefferson hated the idea of slavery calling it a "moral depravity". Jefferson believed that slavery went against the right that everyone should have personal liberty. In 1778, Jefferson drafted a Virginia law that prohibited the importation of enslaved Africans. Jefferson had the right idea to abolish slaves, but slavery only skyrocketed from 292,627 in 1790 to 469,757 in 1830.

Jefferson's ideas of abolishing slavery proves that he was a pragmatic leader. In this situation, Jefferson went against the rules that stated slavery was necessary for the good of the country. Jefferson couldn't abolish slavery, but showed he cared and wasn't afraid to speak his opinion.

Marbury vs Madison Case

In the Marbury vs Madison case, Jefferson was worried for the country that all of the Federalists would mess up America, so when Marbury was supposed to be the new judge, Jefferson wouldn't let him because he didn't want people with bad ideas on the judiciary court



In Conclusion Jefferson was a pragmatic leader because whenever there is a problem he deals the situation for what would be good for the people and not because his beliefs. Even though he has a set a beliefs and follows them, he knows when it's the appropriate time to not follow his set of ideas.