Thomas Jefferson

A Pragmatic Leader

By: Bailey Young and Bella Ragomo

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson. Third President of the United States. Talented writer and leader. He was head strong with his ideas of having a strict interperatation of the constitusion, an economy run on agriculture and, a government run by the states. When Jefferson stepped into office, ready to follow his true princapals, he realized that not everything would work as planned. Jefferson is pragmatic due to his way of trying to stay true to principles but in the end changing his beliefs for the better.

Keeping Hamilton's Financial Plan

Jefferson had a “Revolution”, as he liked to say, when in the year 1800, he was elected president. He entered office with an abundance of ideas to keep the national debt at a low. Jefferson had kept three aspects of Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan for the nation.


  1. Kept the federalists' ideas of funding the national debt at par
  2. Had not taken any actions to remove the national bank
  3. Also kept the mildly protective federalist Tariff law

Hypocritical? Not quite.

Jefferson may have been contradicting himself. He was a democrat- republican who was headstrong about his beliefs and what he wanted for the nation. Although the Hammilton Financial system was working, and wasn't failing. Thomas Jefferson wanted what was best for the nation, and wanted to keep the national debt at a low. He had to make a decision, right or wrong in his opinion, only to help the nation.

Marbury VS Madison

During the Marbury vs. Madison case, Chief Justice, John Marshall, had formed the idea of Judicial review. The Judiciary act of 1801 was an act, that gave the supreme court the power to declare if a law was unconstitutional or not.

Seeking Revenge

Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonians despised the idea, and sought revenge in ways to put this precedent to and end. Thomas jefferson urged to impeach Chief Justice, John Marshall for speaking out against the government . Although the democrat-republicans were unsuccessful, being that the senate was unable to find any actual crime committed.

A Pragmatist

Jefferson was very Pragmatic in this situation, once again contradicting himself. He had wanted to take someone out of the supreme court. Why? Just becasue he had spoken out against the government. Thomas Jefferson had his views on individual rights and strongly supported the first amedment. At the same time, he disagreed with the federalist party.

The Louisiana Purchase

Spain had made a treaty with France, to end the long war. By doing so, Spain gave the area they controlled in the U.S. to France. Napoleon had the idea of expanding the area further into the land. The French began to over expand and America became fearful.


Jefferson had sent envoys to France to make negotiations to buy New Orleans and any land west for $10 million. Instead they had bought New Orleans and every other piece of land for $15 million. Much more than needed.

Conscience Stricken

Thomas Jefferson always believed in a strict interpretation of the constitution. No where in the constitution did it say that the executive branch had the power to buy land from other countries. He was very pragmatic in this situation because it was a matter of national security. Jefferson had feared the French expanding in America, and wanted to protect the people. Even if it meant going against his own pricipled beliefs.

The Hated Embargo

The long war between Spain and France continued. As Napoleon wanted to gain even more power, he closed all European ports. When both France and Spain were seizing ships, an american ship was held in a dangerous crossfire. Not to mention that the British were still practicing impressment. All of these events pushed Thomas Jefferson to close off all foreign trade; to form the Embargo Act.

Negative Effects

The embargo act had many negative effects:

  • Bad for the nation's economy. Exports had fallen

from $108 million in 1807 to just $22 million in 1808

  • Extreme unpopularity; resulted in the smuggling of goods
  • Shippers suffered. Harbors were filled with large amounts of ships and unemployed sailors.

Best Decision?

Was this a good decision for the nation?

Maybe to Thomas Jefferson it was. Although he was extremely pragmatic either way. Jefferson had always wanted a strict interpretation of the constitution, to stay away from any changes. At the same time, he wanted to do what was best for the nation, and form an act for safety. Although this time, this decision wasn't as favorable as others.

An Owner of Slaves

After the Revolution it was normal to own slaves. In fact, slavery and slave trade were allowed by law! By the time Jefferson was in his early twenties slave trade had been around for about 145 years. It was perfectly normal for people to own and trade slaves.

Jefferson expressed his opinion on slavery; he wanted to abolish it. The only odd thing was, Jefferson owned slaves himself.

Opinion On Slavery

Jefferson was very much against the idea of owning people. He felt that the nation would grow apart due to anger made between whites and blacks. Jeffeson spoke out against slavery but he felt that freeing the slavess would be too hard of a task to handle. In the Declaration of Independance he wrote "... all men are created equal...", then why did Jefferson own slaves?

He Owned Slaves But, Was Against Slavery?

In this situation Jefferson is portrayed as someone who is hypocritical yet, this is not the case. Before Jefferson became president had made many efforts to abolish slavery. He stuck to his true beliefs but his banning slavery did not impact slave owners decisions. When Jefferson became president, slavery was so much of the nation’s trade and labor. In Virginia the population of slaves had sky rocketed to 469,757. Jefferson began to lose faith that he would abolish slavery and kept quiet. Since slavery was so popular when Jefferson was president he owned slaves also. It seems odd that he would own slaves due to the fact he was against slavery before.

Only Doing What The Nation Wanted

Really Jefferson is only being pragmatic. Jefferson knew his fight with slavery was over; it had already become too much a part of a normal lifestyle. Instead of being principled and pushing his idea to abolish it, he kept his beliefs but, molded himself into normal society; to benefit his nations beliefs. Jefferson is a true pragmatist due to his effort to stay true to his ideas but in the end changing it for the nation.