Jefferson's lasting significance in American history stems from his remarkably varied talents. He made major contributions as a politician, statesman, diplomat, intellectual, writer, scientist, and philosopher. No other figure among the Founding Fathers shared the depth and breadth of his wide-ranging intelligence.
His presidential vision impressively combined philosophic principles with pragmatic effectiveness as a politician. Jefferson's most fundamental political belief was an "absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority." Stemming from his deep optimism in human reason, Jefferson believed that the will of the people香蕉成人视频app, expressed through elections, provided the most appropriate guidance for directing the republic's course.
香蕉成人视频appJefferson also felt that the central government should be "rigorously frugal and simple." As president he reduced the size and scope of the federal government by ending internal taxes, reducing the size of the army and navy, and paying off the government's debt. Limiting the federal government flowed from his strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Finally, Jefferson also committed his presidency to the protection of civil liberties and minority rights. As he explained in his inaugural address in 1801, "though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression." Jefferson's experience of Federalist repression in the late 1790s led him to more clearly define a central concept of American democracy.
Jefferson's stature as the most profound thinker in the American political tradition stems beyond his specific policies as president. His crucial sense of what mattered most in life grew from a deep appreciation of farming, in his mind the most virtuous and meaningful human activity. As he explained in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God." Since farmers were an overwhelming majority in the American republic, one can see how his belief in the value of agriculture reinforced his commitment to democracy.
Jefferson's thinking, however, was not merely celebratory, for he saw two dangerous threats to his ideal agrarian democracy. To him, financial speculation and the development of urban industry both threatened to rob men of the independence that they maintained as farmers. Debt, on the one hand, and factory work, on the other, could rob men of the economic autonomy essential for republican citizens.
Jefferson's vision was not anti-modern, for he had too brilliant a scientific mind to fear technological change. He supported international commerce to benefit farmers and wanted to see new technology widely incorporated into ordinary farms and households to make them more productive.
Jefferson pinpointed a deeply troubling problem. How could republican liberty and democratic equality be reconciled with social changes that threatened to increase inequality? The awful working conditions in early industrial England loomed as a terrifying example. For Jefferson, western expansion provided an escape from the British model. As long as hard working farmers could acquire land at reasonable prices, then America could prosper as a republic of equal and independent citizens. Jefferson's ideas helped to inspire a mass political movement that achieved many key aspects of his plan.
香蕉成人视频appIn spite of the success and importance of Jeffersonian Democracy, dark flaws limited even Jefferson's grand vision. First, his hopes for the incorporation of technology at the household level failed to grasp how poverty often pushed women and children to the forefront of the new industrial labor. Second, an equal place for Native Americans could not be accommodated within his plans for an agrarian republic. Third, Jefferson's celebration of agriculture disturbingly ignored the fact that slaves worked the richest farm land in the United States. Slavery was obviously incompatible with true democratic values. Jefferson's explanation of slaves within the republic argued that African Americans' racial inferiority barred them from becoming full and equal citizens.
香蕉成人视频appOur final assessment of Jeffersonian Democracy rests on a profound contradiction. Jefferson was the single most powerful individual leading the struggle to enhance the rights of ordinary people in the early republic. Furthermore, his Declaration of Independence had eloquently expressed America's statement of purpose "that all men are created equal." Still, he owned slaves all his life and, unlike Washington, never set them free.
For all his greatness, Jefferson did not transcend the pervasive racism of his day.