Leader: Thomas Jefferson
• Rule by the people
• Strong state governments
• Emphasis on agriculture
• Strict interpretation of the Constitution
Jefferson was born in Virginia to an wealthy and respected family. One of ten children, he was gifted with many talents. As a boy, he learned to ride, hunt, sing, dance, and play the violin. Later, he carried a violin with him in all his travels.
With land inherited from his father, Jefferson set himself up as a Virginia tobacco planter. Once he was established as a planter, Jefferson entered Virginia politics. As a politician, he lacked the ability to make stirring speeches. Instead, Jefferson spoke eloquently with his pen. His words in the Declaration of Independence and other writings are still read and admired today.
View of Human Nature
Jefferson’s view of human nature was much more hopeful than Hamilton’s. He assumed that informed citizens could make good decisions for themselves and their country. “I have so much confidence in the good sense of men.” Jefferson wrote when revolution broke out in France, “that I am never afraid of the issue where reason is left free to exert her force.”
Jefferson had great faith in the goodness and wisdom of people who worked the soil – farmers and planters like himself. “State a problem to a ploughman and a professor,” he said, and “the former will decide it often better than the latter.”
human nature – human
behavior that does not change over time
informed – having enough knowledge to understand something
exert – to make a strenuous physical or mental effort
ploughman – farmer
Best Form of Government
Democratic-Republicans had no patience with the Federalists’ view that only the “best people” should rule. To Democratic-Republicans, this view came close to monarchy, or rule by a king.
Democratic-Republicans believed that the best government was the one that governed the least. A small government with limited powers was most likely to leave the people alone to enjoy the blessings of liberty. To keep the national government small, they insisted on a strict construction, or interpretation, of the Constitution. The Constitution, they insisted, meant exactly what it said, no more and no less. Any addition to the powers listed there, was unconstitutional (against the law) and dangerous.
Like most Americans in the 1790s, Jefferson was a country man. He believed that the nation’s future lay not with Federalist bankers and merchants, but with plain, Democratic-Republican farm folk. “Those who labor in the earth,” he wrote, “are the chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people.”
an economy based on agriculture. They opposed any measures designed to encourage
the growth of business and manufacturing.
(to make something
into a product using raw materials)
Differences between First Political Parties
Leader: Alexander Hamilton
Leader: Thomas Jefferson
Rule by the people