Thomas Jefferson's Presidency Questions and Answers

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What was Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the United States?

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Jefferson's vision for the United States was that it would become an agrarian nation, composed of white yeoman farmers who owned their own lands. He viewed European societies, especially Great Britain, as corrupt, controlled by moneyed interests and afflicted with the problems that he saw as endemic in urban settings. He thought a society based on manufacturing would always generate class conflict, and he once famously compared cities and the mobs of working class people who inhabited them to "sores" on the body politic. Small landholders, on the other hand, would be independent of the influence of wealthy men, and they would thus be able to participate in republican government. He described these farmers as "the chosen people of God," and he thought that the massive exports that would be generated by their work (and that of enslaved people) could best maintain American independence. 

Jefferson sought to promote his vision through westward expansion. He drafted the Land Ordinance of 1784, which facilitated the incorporation of territories west of the Appalachian Mountains. As President, he authorized the Louisiana Purchase, which added the vast territory between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River to what he called an "empire of liberty." Jefferson's vision for the United States was complicated by slavery, which he thought would eventually die out as enslaved people were diffused into the West. He thus opposed restrictions on the spread of the institution in the nineteenth century. As for Native Americans, Jefferson gradually moved from a policy of assimilation to advocating forced removal in the nineteenth century. His vision for America, complete with the liberties he imagined would flow from an agrarian society, was ultimately for the benefit of white people.

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Thomas Jefferson's vision of the United States was that it would be a nation of small farmers.  This is somewhat strange given that he owned a large plantation but he, nonetheless, believed that the US should be a very democratic and egalitarian nation made up mainly of independent farmers.

To Jefferson, the only person who was really free was one who worked for himself.  He felt that only small farmers were truly their "own men" because they had no bosses.  Only those who had no bosses could be trusted to vote in a democratic society because people who had bosses would surely vote in the way that their bosses told them.

Jefferson was dedicated to the idea of a nation made of men who were independent of one another.  It was for this reason that he wanted to maintain the US as an agrarian nation rather than allowing it to become industrialized and stratified (between workers and bosses) as Hamilton and the Federalists wanted.

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