Nothing terrified the thinking of the American Republic in the first 30 years of its existence more than the fear that somehow the United States would be ground to pieces between the conflicts of the great European powers and then re-colonized by one or several of them.
The fear of conquest and re-colonization became sharper by the accusations and counter-accusations of both Republicans and Federalists. Each accused the other of being willing to sell the United States back into colonial subjugation in order to further their own secret anti-Republican interests. Jefferson’s Republicans, accused Hamilton and the Federalists of secret sympathies for British aristocracy. John Adams was pointed out as having written political treatises that advocated monarchy.
Federalists like Fisher Ames were convinced that Jefferson’s election as president in 1800 would lead nowhere except to war with Great Britain. Jefferson attempted to calm those anxieties by denying any intention of linking American interests with European power. Especially after Napoleon betrayed the Republican hopes of France by proclaiming himself Emperor of France in 1804, Jefferson declared his perfect hostility to any American involvement in European affairs.
Question of Self-reliance
Jefferson was convinced that the survival of Republican principles depended on promoting American self-sufficiency, especially the agricultural economy. That meant opening up the Republic’s undeveloped western territories, lying between the Appalachian Mountains and America’s western boundary on the Mississippi River.
Jefferson, in his inaugural address in 1801, predicted that Americans would find enough land to make everyone an independent land holder, absorb 1,000 generations of new settlers, make the American Republic an empire of liberty that had no need for commitments to Europe.
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Unique Process of Self-sufficiency
Jefferson cast aside every roadblock that appeared on the path to Western settlement. He cut the price of publicly owned lands in the West, to make land purchase more affordable, cut the minimum size required for the purchase in order to make such purchases more manageable for the individual farmer. He also turned a blind eye to squatting on the public lands that pioneers, farmers, or entrepreneurs would, without buying the land from the federal government, set up shop on it, build a house, a cabin, farm the ground, and after a period, demanded that their title to that land be recognized.
Jefferson’s New Land Legislation
Americans hardly needed encouragement to move West, because the growth of the American population by natural increase and immigration was already pushing people out of the older settled regions of the Atlantic coastline. In 1790, at the time of the first federal census, about 100,000 white settlers lived in the western territories between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. By 1800, that number increased to 400,000, twice as fast as the overall growth of the American population. After 1800, Jefferson’s new land legislation and policies turned immigration into a flood, spilling down the Ohio River from western Pennsylvania and over the western mountain passes of Virginia.
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Growing White Population
A chaotic sprawl of white squatters and settlers swept over a huge western triangle, stretching from one point on Lake Erie, to a second at Natchez on the Mississippi, and a third to the Georgia coastline. By 1803, the state of Ohio was organized, and admitted as the 17th state in the union. By 1810, the entire trans-Appalachian white population doubled again, to approximately one million.
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Challenges of the Trans-Appalachian Territories
There was a serious difficulty in opening up of the trans-Appalachian territories. The further westward over the Appalachians the farmers moved, the more remote they became from the markets of the Atlantic coastline, and beyond them, of war-torn Europe, which was one of the chief markets for American exports of grain. It was costlier and unprofitable to ship agricultural products to New York or Philadelphia.
Western farmers found temporary solution by abandoning any unreliable roads leading eastward over the Appalachians, sending their grain to south on cheaply built flatboats going down the river valleys of Ohio, Cumberland, and the Tennessee down to the Mississippi River. Once on the Mississippi River, the grain was sold and exported faster and at better prices than from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Charleston.
Concerns over the New Orleans
New Orleans did not belong to the United States but to Spain, and that meant a foreign power held the chokepoint of Jefferson’s new agricultural empire of liberty in the West. That hitch was compounded in 1800, when Napoleon Bonaparte bullied the Spanish monarchy into signing over to his empire not only New Orleans, but the entire vast stretch of Spanish Louisiana.
Jefferson had turned westward to avoid entanglements in Europe, but now, in New Orleans, faced the most serious European entanglement. Napoleon Bonaparte, intended to do more than merely taking possession of New Orleans by resurrecting the colonial empire in North America that France lost to Britain at the end of the French and Indian War, 40 years back. Napoleon took the first step in the recreation of French Empire by dispatching his brother-in-law, General Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc, and 20,000 veteran French troops to re-conquer the key Caribbean island of San Domingue, the island referred to as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Common Questions about the History of the United States
Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton disagreed on the issue of recolonizing the United States. With accusations and counter-accusations of both Republicans and Federalists, each accused the other of being willing to sell the United States back into colonial subjugation in order to further their own secret anti-Republican interests.
Jefferson’s agrarian vision for America was to promote its self-sufficiency, especially the agricultural economy. He was convinced that the survival of Republican principles depended on promoting that idea. That implied opening up the Republic’s undeveloped western territories, lying between the Appalachian Mountains and America’s western boundary on the Mississippi River.
Ohio became a free state in 1803, and was admitted as the 17th state in the union.
General Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc was the brother-in-law of Napoleon. It was Napoleon who took the first step in the recreation of the French Empire by dispatching his brother-in-law and 20,000 French troops to re-conquer the key Caribbean island of San Domingue, the island that today we refer to as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.