This article brought to you by the years 1801 - 1809!
Have you ever had two close friends get into a big fight and then ask you to pick a side? There's no worse place to be. Either choice will hurt one of your friends. Like so many things in the world today, we might be able to find a good way of dealing with this by looking to history . . . Thomas Jefferson knew this feeling better than most. He saw his country being pulled between America's first two political parties. That is why after winning the presidency, he said in a speech, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists." He was the kind of man who tried to help both sides.
Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the U.S. The man before him, John Adams, did not have as great a start. The country was only fourteen years old and people had very different ideas about how it should be run. So if they thought the wrong person was coming into power, a fight would start. The transition of power is when the presidency is passed from one person to another. One group of people did not want Jefferson as their leader, and things almost became very ugly. At first, Jefferson tied in the vote, and it seemed like he would lose. Then, a man named Alexander Hamilton told everyone to vote for Jefferson, because he did not like the other man running. At last, he won and tried to stop the fights between the parties
Fun Fact! Jefferson's safety was in question, so guard armed with swords marched him to his inauguration. This had not happened before.
Now that Jefferson was in charge, he had to put his money where his mouth was, so to speak. He had to find a way to run the country that would make all people happy. This was easier said than done. Popular sovereignty is the idea that the government is made and run by the will of the people. This sounds easy, but the people had different ideas about how the country should be run. It was now Jefferson's job to figure out how to make the Federalists happy by making a strong government that could help out the states. He also needed to keep the Republicans happy by following written laws, which gave the states the freedom to do what they wanted.
It was a hard job, but Jefferson did end up making most people in the country happy. He ruled with one idea in mind above all. Equality is the state of being the same when it comes to rights and many other things. He spent his time trying to make sure both sides were treated the same. He made the navy stronger, cut down money the country owed, and started the trip by Lewis and Clark to explore the West. Of course, his ideas of equality only stretched so far. He owned slaves, even though he said he was very much against the idea. As much as we look up to Jefferson today, not all of his good ideas in government were used at home.
Thomas Jefferson also helped to grow the United States. A lot. More people were moving to and being born in the United States, and those people looked for new places to put their farms or start trade. To the East was a big ocean -- so people looked West! In order to help make the country bigger, Jefferson bought a lot of land in 1803. The Louisiana Purchase is the name of the deal that added over 800,000 square miles of land from France. This doubled the size of the United States! This land would become fifteen different states. It also made sure that the United States was able to control trade on the Mississippi River and out of New Orleans. At first, the French leader Napoleon did not want to make this sale -- he did not want to lose out on all that land or trade! But, it turned out that he needed the money to pay for his own wars. So, he sold all the land for $15 million. This sale made the United States a world power.
Thomas Jefferson was a light of reason in a time when Americans were breaking into two parties. With his words, his writing, and his understanding of how to rule, he brought a warring country together. His speech was all about the two American parties working together. He followed popular sovereignty, the idea that the government should work for the people. He tried to find equality between parties. The man did a lot more than just write the Declaration of Independence. He can be a great person to look to if you ever find yourself between two fighting friends.
History.com. "1801 - Thomas Jefferson is Elected" A & E, 2013. <http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/thomas-jefferson-is-elected>
Center for Legislative Archives. "1800 Presidential Election" archives.gov, 2011. <http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/1800-election/1800-election.html>
Smithsonian. "Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and the Election of 1800" smithsonianmag.org, 2011. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thomas-jefferson-aaron-burr-and-the-election-of-1800-131082359...>