The Jeffersonian Revolution (1800–1820) for AP US History

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Updated on Mar 3, 2011

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The Jeffersonian Revolution (1800–1820) Review Questions for AP US History

Summary: The election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 was a critical election in American history; Jefferson's view of America differed greatly from that of the Federalists. Alexander Hamilton and other Federalists envisioned America as a future industrial power; for Jefferson, the independence and pride of the yeoman farmer would guide America into the future. During the time when John Marshall was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court the power of the federal courts increased. The overall size of America also increased in this era as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. The War of 1812 was fought over continued tensions between the Americans and the British. Many Americans in this era envisioned massive economic growth in the United States; this was the focus of Henry Clay's "American System."


Marbury v. Madison (1803): critical Supreme Court decision that established the principle of judicial review, stating that the Supreme Court had the right to review all federal laws and decisions and declare whether or not they are constitutional.

Louisiana Purchase (1803): massive land purchase from Emperor Napoleon of France that virtually doubled the size of the United States.

Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804): expedition that discovered much about the western part of the North American continent and the economic possibilities there.

War of 1812: War between the British and the Americans over British seizure of American ships, connections between the British and Native American tribes, and other tensions. The British sacked Washington, DC, in 1814. Treaty ending the war merely restored diplomatic relations between the two countries.

American System: Plan proposed by Senator Henry Clay and others to make America economically independent by increasing industrial production in the United States and by the creation of a second national bank.

Missouri Compromise (1820): political solution devised to keep the number of slave states and free states equal; Missouri entered the Union as a slave state and Maine entered as a free state. Potential states in the northern part of the Louisiana territory would also come in as free states in the future.

The Election of 1800

John Adams, despite much criticism over the Sedition Act, stood for reelection in 1800.The vice presidential candidate of the Federalists was Charles Pinckney. The candidate for the Republicans was Thomas Jefferson, with Aaron Burr running for vice president. At this point, all candidates were eligible for votes in the Electoral College; Jefferson and Burr each received 73 votes. (The Twelfth Amendment of 1804 would change this, stating that the Electoral College could vote for president and vice president separately.) The Constitution in 1800 threw the election to the House of Representatives, where each state received one vote. Federalists supported Burr, and it was only on the thirty-sixth ballot that Jefferson was elected president. Jefferson's victory was only assured when Alexander Hamilton convinced some Federalists to switch their votes to Jefferson, telling them that Burr was "the most unfit man in the United States for the office of president." Some historians term this election the "Revolution of 1800"; as previously stated, Jefferson's vision of America had almost no similarity with the views of the Federalists, who had been in power since the beginning of the republic, yet they peacefully gave up power when the balloting was completed in the House of Representatives.

Some historians maintain that Thomas Jefferson was one of the most brilliant men ever to be elected president. Recent biographies and exposés on the life of Jefferson have largely ignored his immense political skills and intellect. Jefferson had been a diplomat, was familiar with European affairs, was a skillful politician, and was a distinguished political philosopher. He implemented Republican policies almost as soon as he took office, with the goal of cutting back on the growth of the federal government that had taken place under Adams. The Alien and Sedition Acts of Adams were not renewed, taxes such as the whiskey tax were eliminated, and Jefferson opposed further expansion of the national debt. On the other hand, Jefferson remained a pragmatist. As a member of Washington's cabinet, he had vigorously opposed the creation of a National Bank, yet as president he supported it. (He reasoned that American economic growth was dependent on the existence of the Bank.)

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