Practice 3.3.2 Comparing the Federalists and Republicans
To what extent were the policies of Presidents Jefferson and Madison a departure from those of Federalist Presidents Washington and Adams?
The policies of Presidents Jefferson and Madison differed dramatically from those of Presidents Washington and Adams in that they advocated civil and states' rights instead of favoring a strong central government and preferred an agricultural rather than mercantile society. However, Jefferson followed the Federalist's way and embraced a loose interpretation of the Constitution during his tenure, reducing the difference between his and Washington's policies.
First and most importantly, while Federalists saw the necessity of a strong federal government and a meritocracy, Presidents Jefferson and Madison focused on liberty and individual rights and tried to limit the power of the national government. For example, Jefferson slashed the government's budget and payed down the national debt after he took office in 1801, believing that a large federal debt would bring high taxes and government corruption. Contrast with Hamilton, Jefferson did not regard the national debt necessary to maintain public credit. In his perspective, "that government is best which governs least". Therefore, he reduced taxes and repealed one of the Alien Acts as well as the whiskey tax to limit the size of the government and protect individual rights. Moreover, he cut the size of the military and relied on citizen soldiers to defend the country in case of attack, further weakening the power of the central government. In this way, he successfully created a frugal government which based its income primarily on tariffs and the sale of government owned western lands. Throughout these actions, Jefferson somewhat deprogrammed government of federalist plans, and weakened most of Hamilton's greatest successes, which are a national budget, a funded government debt, a federal tax system, a national bank, a customs service, and a coast guard. While Hamilton focused on the prosperity of the national government rather than of the states, Jefferson wanted to concentrate power at the state level to protect individual rights. As he concluded in his inaugural address, America under Jefferson's presidency aimed to promote equal and exact justice to all men...; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none...; freedom of religion; freedom of the press; and freedom of person, under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected".
Next, as Republicans, President Jefferson and Madison favored an agricultural America composed of rural, small town yeoman, disagreeing with the Federalists, who supported industry and commerce. For example, during Washington's presidency, Hamilton authored the "Report on Manufactures", which proposed an extensive program of government aid and other incentives to encourage capitalists to launch new...