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Thomas Jefferson: Voice of Independence


Part 2: President in Training

Jefferson replaced Benjamin Franklin as minister to France in 1784. In the five years he spent there, he saw much political change, including the beginning of the French Revolution. He sympthasized with the revolutionaries, seeing in them the same spark for freedom that he had witnessed in his countrymen 10 short years ago.

George Washington appointed Jefferson Secretary of State in 1789. Jefferson almost immediately came into conflict with Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury and one of the founders of the Federalist Party. Their conflict over these political beliefs evolved into the nation's first political parties—Federalists (Hamilton) and Democratic-Republicans (Jefferson).

Jefferson refused to serve another term in government. When Washington was re-elected in 1793, Jefferson returned home to Virginia. He spent three years in quiet contemplation before returning to politics. He ran for president in 1796, losing by just three electoral votes to John Adams. Jefferson served as vice-president and, as such, was president of the Senate. To help such matters, he wrote the Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which is still in use.

One of the things that Jefferson found contemptible about the Federalist administration of John Adams was the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. The Sedition Act in effect outlawed the political and journalistic expressions of the Democratic-Republicans. This so angered Jefferson that he wrote an answering resolution that was passed by the Kentucky legislature. James Madison's similar resolution passed the Virginia legislature. Together, these Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions asserted that states had the right to decide if the national government had overstepped its bounds and was infringing on its people's basic rights.

Jefferson continued to actively oppose the Federalists and himself ran for president in 1800. He won, but he had help from his archrival Alexander Hamilton, who persuaded the House of Represenatives to elect Jefferson over Aaron Burr, whom Hamilton detested more. Burr and Jefferson had received exactly the same number of electoral votes, and the Constitution said that in such a case the House would select the president. So, with help from Hamilton, Jefferson became president.

Next page > Presidency and Legacy > Page 1, 2, 3

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