Analyze the way that the Louisiana Purchase represented a shift in the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jeffersonian democracy was based upon an ideal of an agrarian state in which power was exercised by virtuous landowners dedicated to the principles of republican liberty. This, it was believed, would act as a check upon the ambitions of elites such as bankers and commercial interests who tended to support an expansion of the Federal government's powers.

In that sense, we can see the rationale for Jefferson's decision to make the Louisiana Purchase. He saw the expansion of the United States as an opportunity to create more landowners, who in turn would act as a bulwark against the Federalists and their plans to concentrate power among the commercial elite they represented.

Jefferson had expressed a desire to do all he could to defeat the Federalists, whose policies he genuinely believed undermined the republican principles to which he'd devoted his entire political life. The westward expansion of the United States would, it was further hoped by Jefferson, decentralize power, enhancing the political sovereignty of the states, a fundamental principle among Republicans.

The shift in Jeffersonian democracy represented by the Louisiana Purchase took place solely at the formal level. In substantial terms, however, the underlying principles remained intact, given new life by a practical instrument of policy, a means to an end.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Louisiana Purchase represented a shift in the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy. President Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. They believed the power of the federal government should be limited while the state governments should have more power. They also believed that the federal government could only do the things that were specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

When the French offered the United States the entire Louisiana Territory for $15 million, President Jefferson hesitated to make the purchase even though it was a good deal for the US. The Louisiana Purchase would double the size of the country and would give the United States control of the vital port of New Orleans. President Jefferson was encouraged by his Cabinet to make the deal. When he did agree to make the Louisiana Purchase, it represented a shift in thinking by President Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jefferson's principles of agrarianism emphasized the importance of the yeoman, or self-sufficient farmer, in a country without a strong federal government. He believed, instead, in the power of states. However, in making the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, he strengthened the power of the federal government and of the country as a whole. In addition, Jefferson funded an expedition by Lewis and Clark to map the new territory and claim it for the United States.

In purchasing such a large swath of land, Jefferson was also committing the nation to the increased costs and responsibilities of having to defend the purchase, populate it, and legislate issues that arose in the new territory. All of these tasks would require a more developed and powerful federal government. In many ways, Jefferson himself went against the principle of agrarianism that he advocated.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To the extent that the Louisiana Purchase represented a shift in Jeffersonian Democracy, it was because it departed from the Jeffersonians' ideal of strict limitations on the power of the federal government.

The Jeffersonians believed in a very limited federal government that stuck strictly to the powers that were given to it in the Constitution.  The power to buy territory from a foreign country is not specifically given to the president in the Constitution and so it was not at all clear that it was Constitutional for Jefferson to make the purchase.  However, he did so even though it represented something of a break from the ideals that he and his party espoused.