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Thomas Jefferson


Key Terms and Events

terms Key Terms and Events


Alien and Sedition Acts  -  · The Alien and Sedition Acts were a pair of laws passed under the Adams Administration to draw attention away from the XYZ Affair. All criticism and dissent against the sitting government were outlawed, forcing opponents to air their objections anonymously. These measures sparked Jefferson into publishing the Kentucky Resolutions under an assumed name.
Anglican Church  -  · The Anglican Church was organized under King Henry VIII in 1534 after the Roman Catholic Church failed to grant him a divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon. As the official religion of England, Anglicanism quickly gained a prominent place within the Protestant hierarchy, and continued to exercise its influence in the American colonies. Today, the Episcopalian Church functions as the American wing of the Anglican Church.
Anti-Federalist -  · An Anti-Federalist was opposed to the strong centralized government structure provided under the Constitution. Such a thinker would have supported a looser organization of political power, as detailed by the Articles of Confederation (See the Articles of Confederation SparkNote).
Articles of Confederation -  · The Articles of Confederation laid out the plan for the loose system of government originally assumed by the United States from 1781 to 1789, before the Constitution officially replaced it as the fundamental document of political organization. (See the Articles of Confederation SparkNote)
Assumption Plan -  · The Assumption Plan, arrived at by Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton in 1791, was an arrangement that provided for the federal government to forgive all outstanding state debts in exchange for the relocation of the government seat from Philadelphia to its present site in Washington, D.C.
Bank of the United States -  · The Bank of the United States was a centralized federal institution devoted to the control of the national economy. Originally conceived by Alexander Hamilton, it fell in and out of favor in the ensuing decades, supported by advocates of strong government and decried by those who valued local and state rights. The fiercest opponent of the National Bank was Andrew Jackson, who waged a savage war against it during the 1830s. Eventually, the necessity of federal involvement in financial affairs was conceded as a given, and today the Federal Reserve Board wields unsurpassed power over the world economy.
Barbary States -  · The Barbary States are the present-day countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Barbary, which in Latin means "foreign," designated the nature of this territory in relation to the Roman Empire, and the name has stuck. As Islamic powers with control of the southern Mediterranean coast, the Barbary States were able to exact exorbitant tributes from American and European seafarers during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, before they lost their sovereignty to the extended reach of colonization.
Bill of Rights -  · The Bill of Rights is the name given to the first ten amendments to the Constitution, passed as a group in 1791. These amendments outline the basic rights of all American citizens, including the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. (See the Constitution SparkNote)
College of William and Mary -  · The College of William and Mary, founded in 1693 at Williamsburg, Virginia, is the second oldest institution of higher learning in America.
Constitution  -  · The Constitution is the basis of the American system of government, outlining the demarcation between federal and state power, and enumerating the several powers of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. Further, a Bill of Rights and several successive amendments have served to refine the direction of government. Upon being ratified in 1788, the Constitution replaced a more weakly organized system of government as outlined under the Articles of Confederation. (See the Constitution SparkNote)
Democratic-Republican Party  -  · The Democratic-Republican Party, organized under Thomas Jefferson during the 1790s, initially stood in opposition to the consolidating principles of the Federalist party. Composed of many old-time Anti-Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans were initially suspicious of the powers of the Constitution and believed in the necessity of strict construction. Upon gaining executive power under Jefferson in 1801, the party began to suffer from an identity crisis, as they were forced to serve in capacities that they fundamentally opposed. Over time, the Democratic-Republicans effectively became the sole party in the United States, enjoying over two decades of federal power under the presidencies of Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Correspondingly, their first principles became muddled, and they suffered a partition in the 1820s, out of which an entirely new political organization occurred.
Disestablishment -  · Disestablishment, spurred by Jefferson in the late 1770s, was the means by which the Anglican Church lost its position as the official and exclusive state religion in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
East India Company -  · The East India Company was a mercantile venture in the Asian subcontinent that did much to fuel the overall success of the British empire. First established in the seventeenth century, its progress gave rise to corresponding initiatives in far-flung corners of the globe, and its rise and fall were closely linked with British successes in other colonial ventures.
Enlightenment -  · The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that began in Europe during the seventeenth century, and stressed the values of humanism and rationality over divine principles.
Entail -  · Entail, a long-standing institution in British law, outlined a codified inheritance pattern within an immediate family structure rather than allowing the deceased to disperse property according to preference via an itemized will. Jefferson attacked and dismantled the institution of entail in the late 1770s.
Essex Junto -  · The Essex Junto was a group of New England secessionists that congealed in opposition to the Embargo Act during Jefferson's Second Administration.
Federalist Party  -  · The Federalist Party came together in the 1790s under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton. Supporters of a strong central government and the loose construction of the Constitution, they advanced the powers of the federal government under the executive leadership of Presidents George Washington and John Adams. Upon losing executive power to Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans in 1801, the Federalists watched as the new establishment proceeded to subsume many of their ideals and positions, gradually extinguishing the cause of Federalism into a distant memory.
House of Burgesses -  · The House of Burgesses was a legislative body established in 1619, for the purpose of granting a measure of autonomy to colonists in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was overseen by a royal governor and ultimately subject to the power of Parliament and the British monarch.
Impeachment -  · Impeachment is an official measure of censure against a government official, followed by an investigation that may or may not lead to removal from office.
Impressment -  · Impressment was the method by which the British navy would forcibly remove deserters from American merchant ships and return them to service under command of the crown. American sailors were also frequently subject to such belligerence.
Judicial Review -  · Judicial review, established in 1803 per the terms of Chief Justice John Marshall s Marbury v. Madison decision, set the precedent whereby the judiciary reserved the right to declare legislative measures unconstitutional and therefore void.
Kentucky Resolutions -  · The Kentucky Resolutions, authored anonymously by Jefferson in 1799 out of opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, advanced states rights and outlined the compact and nullification theories of government.
Louisiana Territory -  · The Louisiana Territory, a vast tract of land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, was claimed for France in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century it was held briefly by Spain. During this period many Europeans settled amongst the several native tribes who previously occupied the land. Since 1803, the Louisiana Territory has belonged to the United States, and presently makes up over one-third of the country's total land mass.
Mandamus -  · Mandamus is a right of authority by a supreme court over a lower court. In the United States, such a right was initially established by the Judiciary Act of 1789, but later repealed by Chief Justice John Marshall in the Marbury v. Madison decision of 1803.
Massachusetts Bay Company -  · The Massachusetts Bay Company was a mercantile enterprise chartered by a group of English entrepreneurs in 1629 to establish a firmer second foothold along the Atlantic seaboard, in competition with the existing enterprise in Virginia.
Mercantile System  -  · The mercantile system is an arrangement by which an imperial power strips raw materials and profits from a colony, providing manufactured goods for sale in return. Thus, a system of dependency and exploitation is developed, fueling globalization through industrialization. Far from merely a seventeenth-century phenomenon, mercantilism, in altered form, is alive and well today.
Monticello -  · Monticello, meaning "hillock," or "little mountain," in Italian, was the longtime homestead of Thomas Jefferson, built on the family estate at Shadwell in present-day Albermarle County, Virginia. Construction and renovation on Monticello occurred throughout Jefferson's lifetime, and today the building and grounds stand as a testament to his architectural and agricultural vision. Monticello was auctioned off upon Jefferson's death in 1826, and today is privately maintained as a national attraction by a private foundation.
Parliament -  · Parliament is the legislative governing body of the British Empire. First established in the thirteenth century, Parliament gradually increased its power through various reforms. After the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century, the Parliament became the fundamental unit of government in the British system, and today enjoys considerable authority over the monarchy, which persists as an icon more than a governing power.
Poplar Forest -  · Poplar Forest was Jefferson's second home in Virginia, a country retreat with an octagon house located in Bedford County, ninety miles from Monticello.
Primogeniture -  · Primogeniture, a long-standing institution in British law, outlined a codified inheritance pattern whereby the eldest son inherited all lands and means from the deceased patriarch. Jefferson attacked and dismantled the institution of primogeniture in the late 1770s.
Shadwell -  · Shadwell was the Jefferson family estate, originally secured and developed by Jefferson's father, Peter Jefferson. After the Shadwell house burned down in 1770, Jefferson proceeded with the construction of Monticello, which would come to replace Shadwell as the Jefferson family homestead.
Tuckahoe -  · Tuckahoe was the Randolph family homestead, where the Jefferson family lived for a brief time during the 1740s. Jefferson spent his early childhood years at Tuckahoe, and received his first schooling there.
Unitarianism -  · Unitarianism was a reform movement that grew out of the early New England Congregationalist Church. The most conspicuous aspect of their doctrine is a denial of Jesus' humanity, a view that causes many to cast them beyond the pale of Christianity. Today the Unitarians have merged with the Universalists, and exist primarily in California and New England.
University of Virginia -  · The University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson, was chartered in 1819 and first opened its doors in 1825. With its main campus in Charlottesville, the University remains a prime example of Jefferson's neoclassical architectural vision.
Virginia Assembly -  · The Virginia Assembly coalesced in the dissolution of the House of Burgesses, functioning as the commonwealth's first completely autonomous legislature. From its initial formation in the early days of the Revolutionary War, the Virginia Assembly has been a bastion of states rights and a benchmark of state government in general.
Virginia Company -  · The Virginia Company was chartered in 1606 by King James I and VI of England and Scotland as a colonial venture along the Atlantic seaboard. Despite gradual economic progress, widespread casualties led to the loss of the charter in 1624 and the eventual dissolution of the company in 1630.
Virginia Resolutions -  · The Virginia Resolutions, authored anonymously by James Madison in 1799 out of opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, were a milder rebuke to the federal government than Jefferson's caustic Kentucky Resolutions.


Barbary Wars - The Barbary Wars were a series of conflicts fought with various North African principalities, chiefly Algiers and Tripoli. Jefferson initiated an American offensive in 1801 after tribute demands from the Muslim suzerains grew outlandish. Fighting ensued for several years, and never reached a conclusive endpoint.
Battle of Bunker Hill - The Battle of Bunker Hill, fought June 17, 1775, was a violent triumph for the British over rebellious colonials at Charlestown, Massachusetts. Despite their success, the British were unable to take control of the port of Boston, and the Revolutionary War suddenly became more than a brief flare-up confined to the Atlantic seaboard.
Battles of Lexington and Concord - The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first conflicts of the Revolutionary War, fought April 19, 1775 just to the northwest of Boston. A surprise triumph for rebel colonials led to increased confidence in the cause of secession, providing a renewed sense of purpose at the Second Continental Congress, which began in Philadelphia a few weeks later.
Berlin Decree  - The Berlin Decree, issued by Napoleon on November 21, 1806, established a blockade of all British ports. However, in the initial months of this system, the shipping interests of neutral nations such as the United States were left alone, allowing the American economy to prosper and sparking the resentment of Parliament. Tensions between the three nations bubbled over one year later, when France, Britain and the United States passed strong trade measures–the Milan Decree, the Orders in Council, and the Embargo Act, respectively–in quick succession.
Bloody Kansas - Bloody Kansas was the term given to the widespread violent conflict that arose in the Kansas Territory during the 1850s as a result of Stephen Douglas' principle of popular sovereignty, established via the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
Boston Port Act - The Boston Port Act, one of the so-called Intolerable Acts passed by Parliament in 1774, resolved to close the Port of Boston until the East India Company was compensated for tea destroyed during the Boston Tea Party. It was met with stiff opposition throughout the colonies.
Civil War - The Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865, was a battle to determine the fate of slavery and union in America. Under the stern leadership of Abraham Lincoln, union was eventually preserved, and slavery was abolished per the Thirteenth Amendment. (See the Civil War SparkNote)
First Continental Congress  - The First Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia in 1774. An attempt to bring cohesion to colonial dissent, it was followed by the more radical Second Continental Congress, which began the following year.
Second Continental Congress  - The Second Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia in 1775-76, and took a radical turn upon the news of conflict between British and colonial forces at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Eventually, the Second Continental Congress culminated in a Declaration of Independence and the establishment of a sovereign national government.
Declaration of Independence  - The Declaration of Independence, initiated by a call to national sovereignty by Richard Henry Lee, was drafted by Jefferson in June of 1776. Approved after a lengthy debate by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, the Declaration was later signed by President John Hancock and fifty-five other delegates to the congress. (See the Declaration of Independence SparkNote)
Embargo Act - The Embargo Act, passed December 22, 1807, forbade all import/export trade between the United States and foreign nations. It was a stronger re-formulation of the existing Non-Importation Act, and was passed in response to the Berlin and Milan Decrees of Napoleon and Parliament's Orders in Council. Because it was essentially unenforceable, the Embargo Act was an out-and-out failure from both an economic and political standpoint, and was repealed upon the inauguration of James Madison on March 4, 1809.
English Civil War - The English Civil War, fought from 1642 to 1648, was a battle between royalist supporters and a radical wing of Parliament under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. Ultimately, the sitting monarch, King Charles I, was deposed and beheaded, and Cromwell ruled over the newly established Commonwealth for nearly a decade. The monarchy was restored in 1660, but Parliament had permanently strengthened its role within the English government.
French Revolution - The French Revolution was a major political reorganization that began in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille and the rise of the Third Estate, the mass of common people who had been oppressed for centuries under the authoritarian rule of an absolute monarchy. The sitting monarch, Louis XVI, was deposed, imprisoned and eventually beheaded in the political chaos known as the Reign of Terror that eventually led to the rise of Napoleon as an emperor every bit as powerful as the monarchs who had come before him. ( See the French Revolution SparkNote)
Glorious Revolution - The Glorious Revolution occurred in 1688, when King William III and Queen Mary II usurped the English throne from King James II. In exchange for this turnabout, King William III agreed to function as a limited monarch, further increasing the growing power of Parliament.
Intolerable Acts - The Intolerable Acts were so-called by the rebellious colonials who reacted harshly against a series of measures passed by Parliament in 1774 as a response to the Boston Tea Party, including the Boston Port Act and the Quebec Act.
Louisiana Purchase - The Louisiana Purchase, accomplished in 1803, was a sale of the Louisiana Territory from France to the United States for a sum of $15 million. Although the Louisiana Purchase raised several thorny issues of constitutional interpretation, it was ultimately approved by Congress, thus initiating the rapid growth of an American Empire in the Western Hemisphere.
Marbury V. Madison - The Marbury v. Madison decision, issued by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall on March 3, 1803, overturned the Judiciary Act of 1789. In so doing, the decision established the principal of judicial review, greatly expanding the role of the judiciary within the federal government structure.
Milan Decree - The Milan Decree, formally issued in December 1807, was the result of a long- standing promise by Napoleon to enforce the content of his Berlin Decree. This aggressive foreign policy led to the corresponding passage of the Orders in Council by Britain and the Embargo Act by the United States.
Missouri Compromise - The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was engineered by Henry Clay. It allowed for the entry of Missouri to the Union as a slave state, largely in exchange for the creation of a demarcation line categorically prohibiting the extension slavery north of Missouri's southern border. This legislation was later repealed by Stephen Douglas s Kansas-Nebraska Act and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney's Dred Scott decision.
Monroe Doctrine - The Monroe Doctrine, published during President Monroe's second administration on December 2, 1823, called for an end to European intervention in the Western Hemisphere. It was largely the brainchild of then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Although virtually unenforceable at the time it was issued, the United States later continued to expand its imperial domain in the Western Hemisphere with perceived justification via the Monroe Doctrine.
Non-Importation Act - The Non-Importation Act had its foundations in the colonial protests that occurred in reaction to the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts. During Jefferson's second administration, a Non-Importation Act was proposed and passed but immediately suspended. Eventually, the Embargo Act filled its function, only to be repealed upon the inauguration of James Madison. At this point, a Non-Intercourse Act directed toward Britain and France was passed. Eventually, these tensions over trade boiled over into the War of 1812.
Orders in Council - The Orders in Council, passed in November of 1807, functioned as Parliament's response to Napoleon's Berlin Decree. As a countermeasure to the French blockade of British ports, the British resolved to blockade French ports, and to hold American shipping interests to the same degree of surveillance that British ships suffered under the watch of the French. This usurpation of American sovereignty led to the issue of the Embargo Act, and laid another portion of hostile foundation creating the conditions for the War of 1812.
Panic of 1819 - The Panic of 1819 was a financial catastrophe brought about by injudicious budgeting in the midst of the War of 1812. It was the first of several major panics that hobbled the volatile American economy in the nineteenth century.
Quebec Act - The Quebec Act of 1774, classed as one of the Intolerable Acts by the American colonials who reacted against it, extended the borders of the Quebec territory well into the Great Lakes region. This land, which was also simultaneously claimed by the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia as well as several native tribes, was the focus of intermittent fighting throughout the Revolutionary War, eventually reverting to the control of the newly- established United States.
Revolutionary War - The Revolutionary War was fought between 1775 and 1782, beginning with the first shots fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord and ending with Lord Cornwallis' surrender to George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia. In the initial fighting, British forces overwhelmed the inexperienced and undermanned colonial rebels. However, significant military assistance from French forces on land and at sea eventually helped ensure an American victory.
Secessionist Plots  - Various secessionist plots sprung up during Jefferson's presidential administrations. Two regions proved especially vulnerable: the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory, which was briefly captivated by the master plan of Aaron Burr, and New England, which under lingering Federalist influence formed a rebellious faction known as the Essex Junto in objection to the woefully ineffective Embargo Act. Later, during the War of 1812, the idea of secession briefly resurfaced in New England. Ultimately, none of the plots amounted to a serious threat.
Seven Years War - The Seven Years War was fought between 1755 and 1763, and involved a complicated web of alliances and adversaries in European and American theaters. The fighting that occurred in the American theater is often referred to as the French and Indian War. The big winners in the event were the British and the Prussians, who increased their claims in North America and Northern Europe, respectively. As a result of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the war, the Floridas passed from Spanish to British control. As compensation, the French transferred control of the Louisiana Territory to Spain.
Stamp Act - The Stamp Act was passed in 1765 by Parliament in an attempt to raise revenue for the flagging British economy. Via this measure, a taxed stamp was required on various documents and printed materials traded in the colonies. It was met with fierce opposition, and repealed in the following year.
Tea Act - The Tea Act was the lone Townshend Act to remain in place after Lord North repealed the several others in 1770. By continuing to levy a tax on tea, Parliament symbolically indicated its continuing authority over the American colonies while at the same time attempting to revive the fortunes of the floundering East India Company. Such manipulation was met with fervent hostility, and led indirectly to the start of the Revolutionary War.
Townshend Acts  - The Townshend Acts were passed by Parliament in 1767, shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act. The Townshend Acts placed duties on several import/export goods, including glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea.
First Virginia Convention - The First Virginia Convention was held in 1774 as a nominating prelude to the First Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia later that same year. Held in Williamsburg, the First Virginia Convention was the occasion at which Jefferson published his Summary View on the Rights of British America.
Second Virginia Convention - The Second Virginia Convention was held in 1775 as a nominating prelude to the Second Continental Congress. Moved from Williamsburg inland to Richmond, this convention was more radical in character than the First Virginia Convention, and served as a fitting political capstone to the tense period leading up to the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
War of 1812 - The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain over control of international commerce on the high seas. After a lengthy campaign, the United States emerged victorious, producing in the process a new set of war heroes including Andrew Jackson and Winfield Scott.
Whiskey Rebellion - The Whiskey Rebellion was a 1794 uprising in protest of taxes imposed under the financial regime of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The rebellion was summarily squashed by troops sent in under orders from President Washington.
XYZ Affair - The XYZ Affair was an aborted bribery scheme involving France and the United States, in which French minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand suggested to American ministers Elbridge Gerry, John Marshall and Charles Pinckney that an exorbitant tribute sum be paid in advance of diplomatic negotiations between the two nations. The resulting political flap, which caused significant turmoil for the administration of President John Adams, resulted in the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

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