Upholding the Rights of States and Individuals
One thing our founding fathers learned throughout the course of their lives was that rising against tyranny was much easier than learning how to govern fairly themselves. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is perhaps one of the most influential leaders of that generation. He penned the Declaration of Independence, served in Virginia’s House of Burgesses; the Continental Congress; the Congress of the Confederation; as Virginia’s Governor; as ambassador to France after Benjamin Franklin; as Secretary of State; and Vice President all before taking on the highest office in the land.
Many of his views of government would sound familiar to Conservatives today even though he founded the party of opposition to the Burkean Conservatives of his day. He advocated government decentralization, states rights, and self-government as chief principles of the Revolution.
“When once a Republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.” - Thomas Jefferson
While the Federalists sought wisdom from the institutions of government that had come before them, Jefferson wanted a clean break with the institutions of the past which in his opinion had led to the tyranny they had sacrificed so much to be rid of. The Federalists supported Britain in foreign policy because of their supremacy in world trade, Jefferson argued that the new nation owed some allegiance to France for their support during the Revolution. The views between these two parties were so deeply entrenched that Jefferson's own Vice President, Aaron Burr, dueled with Federalist Alexander Hamilton over this argument and won. Can you imagine if our politicians were dueling over their differences in ideology today?
Jefferson was also a great manipulator of the press, using it effectively to target his political opponents and persuade the people to his ideas. This particular skill alienated him from his onetime friend, George Washington. Who still had not reconciled with Jefferson at the time of his death.
The greatest achievement of Jefferson’s presidency was arguably the Louisiana Purchase, without which we may never have had the great state of Wyoming we have today. However, for Jefferson, this was a great Constitutional overreach on his part, yet the lure of the West was too much for him to pass up, especially at the grand price that Napolean was offering.
Sadly the greatest failure of his administration was the embargo he placed on U.S. trade in order to remain neutral in the war between Britain and France. By closing the nation’s ports to all imports and exports, he wreaked havoc on the American economy setting the stage for the opposition to take power once more. Despite even these efforts, within the next few years, the young nation would be drawn into the War of 1812.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” - Thomas Jefferson
Following in the footsteps of the precedent set by Washington, Jefferson did not pursue a third term. One could argue that even without this precedent Jefferson would have left office after two terms partly because of his waning political popularity, but also because he was an early advocate during the framing of the Constitution for Presidential term limits. He wanted to make sure that this new government would not be setting up a King in disguise by calling him something else and still allowing him to remain in power for the rest of his life.
*All opinions expressed by WYO Conservative guests are theirs alone and may not represent the views of WYO Conservative’s Founder and Owner, Donna K. Rice, or any WYO Conservative affiliates.