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Thomas Jefferson’s Hypocrisy Regarding The Louisiana Purchase

1476 words - 6 pages

Thomas Jefferson proved his hypocrisy through his ever changing views of the Constitution throughout his presidency. At the beginning of his presidency, Jefferson took a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He did not believe the Implied Powers were valid. Later in his presidency, Jefferson changed from his strict views to a loose interpretation of the Constitution using the Implied Powers as his reason. Jefferson proved his hypocrisy through his changing interpretation of the Constitution and his policies regarding the Louisiana Purchase did not cohere with his previously strict views.
Although Jefferson did not originally agree with presidents having power to expand the nation by purchasing land, he did end up expanding west with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. The Purchase showed Jefferson at his most hypocritical. Bothered by the extra Constitutional nature of what he had done, he considered authorizing an amendment until Treasury secretary Albert Gallatin and others persuaded him that the power to acquire territory was implied by the power to make treaties (Kauffman). Because the Constitution does not allow the president the power to purchase foreign territory, Jefferson initially recommended that the administration propose a constitutional amendment that would allow him to obtain Louisiana while still maintaining his strict constructionist principles (Kauffman). Even though creating this amendment would make it seem as if he were not changing is views of the Constitution, it also represents how he would be taking advantage of his power in order to change the Constitution of his own benefit. If this amendment were passed, Jefferson could make the purchase without changing his strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Jefferson took a large risk with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. Though the land was cheap, and The United States only paid 15 million dollars or about 3 cents per acre, for the territory, it was completely unexplored by Americans. Jefferson decided to go ahead with the purchase anyway in order to remove France's presence in the region and to protect both U.S. trade access to the port of New Orleans and free passage on the Mississippi River (Newbold). He used this as reason to purchase the territory hastily and without exploring first. Louisiana's strategic and economic importance was immense. The western portion of the U.S. needed use of the Mississippi River and New Orleans for their economic growth. Their posture towards was dictated by the importance of open access to and use of the Mississippi River (Newbold). “Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette that the official position of the U.S. with respect to Louisiana was that the nation wanted ‘scarcely anything but the free navigation of the Mississippi (which we must have and as certainly shall have as we remain a Nation)’” (Heidenrich). Louisiana's position on the west bank of the Mississippi gave its rulers the ability to...

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