Thomas Jefferson's Presidency

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What is the domestic policy of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson?

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The domestic policy of Adams and Jefferson was many times driven by their backgrounds. Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Republican Party, a Virginian planter, developed a domestic policy that promoted agricultural expansionism and a self-sufficient society. His policy is perhaps best summarized by stating that he advocated that America live within a "bubble." His intent was to do anything within his power to promote farming in the young nation and thereby promote trade amongst the states. He envisioned that the United States would not have to leave its own shores to acquire anything it needed. To secure and maintain this vision or policy, only a militia would be needed.

Jefferson's predecessor and close friend, John Adams, was of a completely different mind set and was considered to be a member of the opposite political party, which was known as the Federalist Party. It is of course important to note that he never considered himself to be a "party man" and had personal as well as professional issues with the Federalist leader, Alexander Hamilton. Never the less, Adams, a Bostonian, believed that the nation should be world capitalists. He envisioned the young nation developing into one that would promote manufacturing, shipping and world trade. To secure this vision a powerful military, especially a navy, would be needed. Therefore under his presidential guidance, he began to build our US Navy.

In summary, their domestic policies are drastically in contrast with one another. Jefferson's is an agricultural, self-sufficient, militia-based policy whereas Adams' is a world capitalistic, navy-based policy. Ultimately, when all was said and done, the United States would develop into a quality mix of both their domestic policies for future generations that were yet to come.

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John Adam's domestic policy is largely overshadowed by and was also influenced by foreign difficulties. The major domestic action of his administration was passage of the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts which led Jefferson and Madison to respond by sponsoring the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. Adams was often ridiculed as being a monarchist. His cabinet were primarily members of Washington's cabinet, and he is normally seen as little more than a caretaker president who followed Washington's policies. He had reportedly said once that he wished to be addressed as "His excellency," which led his enemies to refer to him as "His rotundancy" because of his rather wide girth.

In his inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson stated, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists;" an indication of his intent to unite the country as best he could. (Adams had been the last Federalist President, Jefferson was a Democratic Republican.) Although Jefferson had heatedly opposed Alexander Hamilton's programs, he did not dismantle them wholesale. He did work for the repeal of the Whiskey Tax and other excise taxes, and, during his administration, Congress passed the Act of 1807 which made the slave trade illegal on January 1, 1808, the earliest date on which it could constitutionally be outlawed. Also, he kept the Bank of the United States (whose formation he had opposed) as a necessity.

Perhaps the most important domestic accomplishment of Jefferson's administration was the completion of the Louisiana Purchase. It began with his attempt to purchase the town of New Orleans but ultimately doubled the size of the country and made Jefferson immensely popular. Among his mistakes--or failures--was the Embargo Act which stopped the exportation of American goods and prohibited American ships from calling on foreign ports. The intent was to keep the U.S. neutral in the war between Britain and France; but the ultimate effect was to ruin the U.S. economy.

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