Did Jefferson stay true the the values of "Jeffersonian Democracy" while he was president

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Jefferson proved to be quite pragmatic rather than idealistic as President. As a result, he often abandoned his previously held positions when he believed it prudent to do so.

During his inaugural speech, Jefferson commented

We are all Republicans—we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.

Although he did repeal the Whiskey Tax and other excise taxes, he did not dismantle the Bank of the United States which he previously had bitterly opposed as he considered it a necessity. Later, when offered the possibility of purchasing Louisiana from the French, Jefferson considered a Constitutional amendment as his strict reading of the Constitution did not give him the power to acquire territory in the name of the U.S. He did not wish to risk Napoleon Bonaparte backing out of the deal, however, so he determined that his authority under the Constitution to "make treaties" gave him authority to complete the purchase. When asked about his change in philosophy, he remarked

The good sense of our country will correct the evil of loose construction when it shall produce ill effects.

Jefferson's pragmatism and conciliatory policies won him re-election; but also made enemies for him among the old guard Republicans who attempted to form a third party known as the Tertium Quid, ("Third something.") They insisted on "old Republicanism." Their ideas went nowhere at the time, but years later provided fruitful argument for secessionists and states' rights advocates.