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Jeffersonians in Power

The Rhetoric of Opposition Meets the Realities of Governing
Edited by Joanne B. Freeman and Johann N. Neem

BUY Ebook · 336 pp. · ISBN 9780813943060 · $39.50 · Sep 2019
BUY Cloth · 336 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813943053 · $39.50 · Sep 2019

In the 1790s, the Jeffersonian Republicans were the party of "no." They opposed attempts to expand the government’s role in society, criticized the Washington administration’s national bank, railed against a standing army, and bemoaned the spirit of the Federalist regime, which, they claimed, favored elite over ordinary Americans.

Accordingly, Thomas Jefferson asserted that his election as President in 1801 was a "revolution": with Jeffersonians in power, the government could be stripped down in size and strength. But there was a paradox at the heart of this image. Maintaining the security, stability, and prosperity of the republic required aggressive statecraft, and as a result, Jeffersonians deployed state power to reduce taxes and the debt, enforce a shipping embargo, go to war, and ultimately to support a national bank during Madison’s administration.

This book explores the logic and logistics of Jeffersonian statesmanship. Focusing on Jeffersonian Republican statecraft in action, Jeffersonians in Power maps the meeting place of ideology and policy as Jeffersonians shifted from being an oppositional party to exercising power as the ruling coalition.

Contributors: Andrew Burstein, Louisiana State University * Benjamin L. Carp, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York * Christa Dierksheide, University of Missouri * Kevin R. C. Gutzman, Western Connecticut State University * James E. Lewis Jr., Kalamazoo College * Martin Öhman, Gothenburg University * Robert G. Parkinson, Binghamton University * John A. Ragosta, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello * Leonard J. Sadosky III * Richard Samuelson, California State University, San Bernardino * Brian Schoen, Ohio University * Mark Smith, John Burroughs School, St. Louis * Andrew Trees, Roosevelt University


"These essays address, in light of the latest scholarship, the longstanding and important problem of how the Jeffersonians used power and how they went about translating their opposition ideas into policy and statecraft. The result is a book that does for the Republicans what Doron S. Ben-Atar and Barbara B. Oberg’s Federalists Reconsidered did for the Federalists: unsettles what we thought we knew, consistently offering complex new insights and opening avenues for further research. It is required reading for students of the era."

—Brian Steele, University of Alabama at Birmingham, author of Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood

Freeman (history and American studies, Yale) and Neem (history, Western Washington Univ.) bring together historians from around the US to discuss this paradoxical situation the Jeffersonians faced as they became the governing coalition.... The book provides a thorough introduction to the Jeffersonians’ rise to power and the actions that took place once majority status was achieved.


About the Author(s): 

Joanne B. Freeman is Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University and the author of The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War.

Johann N. Neem is Professor of History at Western Washington University and the author of Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America.

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