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Jeffersonian Economic Model Research Papers

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States, was a brilliant philosopher and a masterful politician, and had a specific economic vision of the United States based on the triumph of the yeoman farmer. A Jeffersonian economic model research paper explores the following aspects of Jefferson's plan for the economic model of the United States:

  • As President, Jefferson wanted to eliminate the public debt and reduced the size of the military
  • Jefferson borrowed heavily from England in order to make the Louisiana Purchase and established the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in order to create a professional officer corps
  • Jefferson held onto the idea that agriculture was superior to industrialization.
  • Jefferson believed that the individual should be self-sufficient

As a planter from Virginia, a state whose economy and wealth relied on slave-based agriculture. However, Many of Jefferson’s policies and philosophies are seeming contradictions.

Jefferson as an Economist

Jefferson did believe that the expansion of industrialization would lead to a perpetual under class of wage laborers reliant on others for survival. Jefferson believed that the individual should be self-sufficient, and some levels of industry were good, so long as they were controlled like a family farm. His own plantation at Monticello had several small industries.

Jefferson’s thought was influenced by Adam Smith, who wrote of the “invisible hand” guiding the economy towards efficiency. His ideal of the yeoman farmer as the basis for the American economy was largely based on the idea of personal freedom from government, an ideal he saw as the opposite of Europe at the time.

Reflecting on Results of Jeffersonian Economic Model

Although Jefferson experienced both successes and failures during his two-term tenure as President, the most damaging incident served to taint his historical legacy and effectively end his career in politics. In the midst of rising French and English tensions, Jefferson had attempted to assert America’s role without resorting to the use of military force. As such, he decided to leverage the country’s growing economic might as a tool in the conflict. Signed into law on December 22, 1807, the Embargo Act expressly forbade virtually all exports and many imports.

Not only did the Embargo Act fail politically as an inducement to the recognition of America’s rights, it is also failed as an economic measure. Instead of inflicting irreparable damage upon France or England, the Act ultimately damaged the American economy, negatively affecting many Americans’ finances, particularly the trades persons and merchants in the Northeast. As a result, many Northerners began to operate their businesses in open defiance of the provisions of the Act.

This illegal defiance, in turn, prompted other Americans to initiate a resurgence of support in favor of strong, centralized federal government. As a means of quelling the controversy and reducing the economic damage wrought by the Act, Jefferson reversed the measure fifteen months after its introduction. The misstep and seeming indecisiveness that this incident displayed proved to be extremely damaging to Jefferson’s reputation.


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