Thomas Jefferson spent most of his adult life in public office even before he was elected president in 1800. He was a Democrat-Republican whose philosophy on government greatly effected the evolution of the American Government. A revolution is how Jefferson described his election. A revolution to restore the nation to what it had been before the economic programs of Alexander Hamilton, including the creation of a national bank; as well as Alien and Sedation Acts of John Adams in 1798, that were put in place to quite the criticism of the Federalist Party. Jefferson considered himself a strict constructionist and objected to both as loose interpretations. Jefferson was also highly motivated to end the national debt by elimination of many expenses including internal taxes and military expenditures. Jefferson believed in the simplification of government.
To some extent Jefferson followed the ideology which he spoke of. He did believe that strict constructionism, or the literal reading of the Constitution, was the best way in which to run a government. Meaning, he believed that the Constitution of the United States should be read word for word, and that if it was not written in the Constitution it should not be interpreted as if it were implied. The loose interpretation of the constitution was prevalent in the Madison administration otherwise known as the Era of Good Feelings. Though Jefferson believed in strict interpretation he still, despite this belief backed the Louisiana Purchase and the Embargo Act. Both can be considered as being loose interpretations. Though it may be said that these fit into Jefferson's pattern of governing it is also argued that they do not.
Jefferson, veering away from his normal pattern of governing, decided to buy the Louisiana Purchase in 1807. There were many reasons why Jefferson desired the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase. The major reason for this purchase is the Mississippi. The Mississippi is an extremely large river in the United States that is very important for inland trade. The river allows for trade from north to south in the interior of the country as well as an inlet into the ocean. Besides this advantage New Orleans, a major trading city, is located on the Mississippi. Jefferson also desired to have an "empire of liberty" (Visions 241). This empire would extend across North America and extend even into South America. He believed that the empire would not be won by military conquest but through the..."inevitable expansion of the free and virtuous American People" (Visions 241). This belief fit Jefferson's philosophy because he believed that expansion was inevitable. He also believed that in doubling the land size of the United States it would ensure the American farmers land to farm and in turn help the economy of the United States. The way in which he achieved expansion did not fit his normal pattern of governing. Being a strict constructionist means that he believed that the government could not claim powers that were not given to them in the Constitution. The power to Purchase land was not given to the federal government. Jefferson got around this by making the Louisiana Purchase a trade rather than an actual purchase. Spain ceded the Louisiana Territory to France, who was emerging as a power under Napoleon, in the Treaty of Ildefonso in 1800. Jefferson soon saw what the ramifications of being bordered by both England, in the north and France in the south. Jefferson soon after learning of the French cession of Louisiana began negotiations for the land. He, concerned over the constitutionality of the purchase began drafting an amendment that would allow for the power to be granted to the national government, but fearing that it would take too long he dropped the amendment and submitted a treaty to the Senate that was quickly ratified.
Another issue that has been debated as to weather it fit into Jefferson's normal patterns of governing is the Embargo Act of 1807. The Embargo Act prohibited ships form leaving American ports for foreign ports. This was not an act that prohibited the foreign ships from entering the United States ports but it left foreigners with little desire to enter them because they were not allowed to leave with any cargo. Jefferson hoped that the Embargo Act would convince the French and