The Zeal for Land

Thomas Jefferson, from his earliest years, imagined that all of the North American land known in the 1790s would one day belong to the United States. He imagined that Florida would become part of the United States, that Cuba would join, that Mexico’s provinces would join, and that ultimately, Canada would join as well. Gordon […]

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The Louisiana Controversy

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 added approximately 823,000 square miles to the United States’ territory. At that time, Thomas Jefferson favored the purchase, as it protected America from the threat of France or Britain invading the United States, particularly through New Orleans. Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 369. The acquisition also would force the territory of […]

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The Ohio System

Ohio was admitted into the Union in 1803, and it introduced a new political system to the United States. Each county in Ohio had county commissions that each county’s citizens elected, rather than the states of the South and Southwest, who had self-perpetuating commissions. Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 365. Further, each county commission had overlapping […]

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The Great Replacement

By 1776, indentured servitude had become a widespread and prominent part of English life. By the 1810s, however, indentured servitude was seen by most Americans as inherently at conflict with the “natural rights of man.” Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 346. Some Americans concluded that servitude as a whole was “highly anti-republican.” Id. However, as indentured servitude […]

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Early American Behavior

Americans in the late 1700s were “known for pushing and shoving each other in public and for their dread of ceremony.” Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 329. Further, violence, rioting, and demonstrations in America had become commonplace, more than in England. See id. at 335-36. Some blamed this uniquely American behavior as being caused by an excessively alcohol-centered […]

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The American Spirit of Work

Arthur Young, an English writer who was supposedly enlightened and known for his writings about agriculture commented that “Everybody but an idiot knows that the lower class must be kept poor or they will never be industrious.” Derek Jarrett, England in the Age of Hogarth, (London, 1974), 79-80. This English belief, that the lower rungs of […]

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Shift to Idealism

The early Republic years were filled with hope and optimism for what the new country could achieve. The Republicans, through the 1790s and into the first decade of the 1800s, had a new idea about what government should be and how it should fit into the citizens’ lives. Republicans imagined “that people’s natural sociability and […]

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How Small is Too Big?

When Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans came to power in 1800, they had a major priority: reverse the Federalist trend of expanding the federal government. In Thomas Jefferson’s first message to Congress, in 1801, Jefferson framed the role of the federal government as only being “charged with the external and mutual relations only of these states.” […]

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The “Plebiscitarian Principle”

The president’s role in the government in the early Republic was different than today, and sometimes, it was unclear exactly what role the president would play in the federal government. With the election of 1800, the newly elected Republicans introduced the “plebiscitarian principle,” according to one scholar, Bruce Ackerman. Bruce Ackerman, The Failure of the Founding […]

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