The Jeffersonian Vision, 1801-1815: The Art of American Power During the Early Republic

The Jeffersonian Vision, 1801-1815: The Art of American Power During the Early Republic

by William Nester


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The Jeffersonian Vision, 1801–1815, reveals how the nation’s leaders understood and asserted power during those crucial years between Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration as the third president and the firing of the last shots at the Battle of New Orleans. Seeking to overcome the bitter political animosities that had plagued the years leading up to his presidency, Jefferson declared in his inaugural address that “we are all Federalists, we are all Republicans.” His words proved to be prescient. The Republican Party, soon to be renamed the Democratic Party, would dominate American politics for another half century. Most Americans laud Jefferson’s presidency for the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, which extended the United States westward to the Rocky Mountains, and for the launch of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which journeyed to the Pacific Ocean and back. But critics then and since have blasted Jefferson and his immediate successor, James Madison, for a series of ideologically driven blunders. Jefferson envisioned a largely autarkic nation with yeoman farmers serving as its economic and political backbone. That notion was at odds with an America whose wealth was increasingly gleaned from foreign markets. The Republican policy of wielding partial or complete trade embargos as a diplomatic weapon repeatedly backfired, inflicting grievous damage on America’s economy and culminating with an unnecessary war with Britain that was devastating to America’s power and wealth, if not its honor. Despite their philosophical and political differences, Federalists and Republicans alike proved capable enough at the art of power when they headed the nation. They implemented a spectrum of mostly appropriate means, first to win independence and then to consolidate and eventually expand American wealth and territory. Readers today will recognize the roots of red state/blue state conflict in these earliest competing visions of the roots of American power—and of what America might be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597976763
Publisher: Potomac Books
Publication date: 01/28/2013
Pages: 294
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

William Nester is a professor in the Department of Government and Politics at St. John's University in New York City. He is the award-winning author of thirty-seven books on multiple dimensions of international relations, American national security, military history, and the nature of power. His "George Rogers Clark: I Glory in War" won the Army Historical Foundation's best biography award for 2013. His "Titan: The Art of British Power in the Age of Revolution and Napoleon" won the New York Military Affairs Symposium's 2016 Arthur Goodzett Book Award.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: The Inauguration 1

Part 1 Jefferson, 1801-1805 7

1 The Revolution of 1801 9

2 The Battle for the Courts 13

3 Thomas Jefferson and American Power 16

4 The Louisiana Dilemma 24

5 Squaring Off with Spain 30

6 The Louisiana Purchase 33

7 Where to Draw the Line? 44

8 Rising Tensions with Britain 47

9 To the Shores of Tripoli 50

10 To the Ends of the Earth 57

Part 2 Jefferson, 1805-1809 61

11 Faltering Steps 63

12 The Fate of West Florida 66

13 The Burr Conspiracy 71

14 The Chesapeake Atrocity 79

15 Within the Turtle Shell 93

16 Abolishing the Slave Trade 99

17 Across the Wide Missouri 101

18 Passing the Torch 105

Part 3 Madison, 1809-1813 107

19 James Madison and American Power 109

20 From Embargo to Non-Intercourse 115

21 Florida Coups and Intrigues 121

22 The Struggle for the Northwest Frontier 123

23 Down the Slippery Slope 126

24 Into the Abyss 138

25 Second Thoughts? 141

26 Mustering the Nation 143

27 The Great Lakes Front 150

28 The War at Sea 154

29 Staying the Course 156

30 Paying the Piper 158

31 Truth and Consequences 162

Part 4 Madison, 1813-1815 165

32 The Politics of War 167

33 The Lake Ontario Deadlock 170

34 "We Have Met the Enemy and They Arc Ours!" 174

35 The Red Stick War 176

36 "Don't Give Up the Ship!" 178

37 Groping for a Way Out 180

38 Politics as Usual 186

39 First the Good News 189

40 The Rock of Sisyphus 192

41 Moral and Diplomatic Dilemmas 197

42 Indian Summer Campaigns 200

43 Is Washington Burning? 203

44 Conformists and Dissidents 209

45 The Treaty of Ghent 212

46 The Battle of New Orleans 217

47 A Distant Mirror? 223

The Art of American Power in the Early Republic 229

List of Abbreviations 245

Notes 247

Index 269

About the Author 277

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