Thomas Jefferson's Presidency

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Explain how foreign events impacted the United States during the Jefferson and Madison administrations.

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By far the most important foreign event during the presidencies of both Jefferson and Madison was the Napoleonic wars raging throughout Europe. While there were periods of peace during both presidencies, U.S. foreign policy was a delicate balancing act between Britain, the former colonial master, and France, who had supported the American Revolution. The United States wanted to remain neutral, not wishing to commit its young military and treasury to a war thousands of miles away.

Even so, the Louisiana Purchase, by far the most important event of Jefferson's presidency, would not have been possible without this conflict. Napoleon was in desperate need of money to continue his campaigns and was eager to unload land he thought to be worthless, which is why the United States doubled in size for the cost of just $15 million.

Relations with the British at this time were very tense. The British did not like the U.S. trading with France and frequently seized U.S. merchant ships, taking goods...

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