What obstacles did Thomas Jefferson face throughout his presidency?

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Thomas Jefferson faced several obstacles while he was president. One of those obstacles dealt with events at home.  Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican.  The courts had many judges who were Federalists, and they blocked many of his ideas.

Another issue dealt with our relationship with other countries. Britain and France were at war. Neither country wanted us to trade with the other.  Thus, both Britain and France interfered with our trade.  Jefferson tried a total stoppage of trade to keep our sailors and merchant ships safe. (Embargo Act of 1807)  However, our economy was very dependent on trade, causing this policy to fail.

Jefferson did stand up to the pirate countries of North Africa. We refused to pay them bribes so that they would leave our ships alone.  We fought them, and they stopped attacking our ships.

Jefferson had a moral conflict regarding the Louisiana Purchase. When Spain (and then France) wouldn’t let us use the port of New Orleans, Jefferson offered to buy this area from France.  When Napoleon offered the entire area of Louisiana, Jefferson wasn’t sure he could legally buy all of this land. He believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  Nowhere in the Constitution did it say the president could buy land. Jefferson was persuaded to make the purchase!

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thetall | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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One of the greatest challenges to Thomas Jefferson’s presidency were the Federalists. After Jefferson and Burr won the elections, the Federalists tried to vote against Jefferson. However, abstention by some Federalists saw Jefferson assuming the well-deserved title of president.

As president, Thomas Jefferson attempted to reform the judiciary, but his attempts failed. Jefferson was interested in removing partisan judges from public office, but Federalist appointees to the judiciary and other Federalist members fought successfully against the plan.

In the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson was forced to set aside his philosophy in order to secure the deal. He understood that the Constitution did not provide explicit procedures with regards to foreign territory, but the land was important for the greater good of the people. Some Federalists challenged the purchase based on the lack of constitutional provisions to make new land purchases. However, the President made his move, and the land was purchased. The purchase was approved by Congress five months later.