Thomas Jefferson remains one of the most important figures in all of American history. His landmark election to the Presidency in 1800 has been called “The Jeffersonian Revolution”. Now, the use of the word revolution would infer that the election yielded a great realignment and fundamental change in the political system. Some historians have stated this is mere hyperbole and others contend that Jefferson’s election truly was revolutionary in nature. This begs the question as to whether or not it was truly revolutionary.
When one looks at the election, the main result was the emergence of the Democratic-Republican Party as the primary political party for future generations. Additionally, the election’s aftermath yielded the end of the Federalist Party as a serious national party. This is no minor point. Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party was a party of limited, decentralized government. This was the polar opposite of the Federalist Party which preferred a more active, centralized government. In addition to vanquishing a rival political party, the Revolution of 1800 established forever the ideology of Jeffersonian Liberalism. This political belief system still exists in one form or another in both major political parties to this very day.
In general, Jefferson’s victory ensured that democracy would remain the mitigating factor of the political landscape. The Federalists preferred elected officials who were put in place to “rule” as opposed to be held accountable to the electorate. While the Federalists were not tyrants, they were definitely elitists. As such, the ascension of Jefferson to the Presidency ensured that the principles the nation was founded upon remained secure. While revolution may be somewhat of a hyperbole, the importance of the impact of Jefferson’s election can never be discounted.
US History: Pre-Columbian to the New America. (2008) “Jeffersonian America: A Second Revolution?” Retrieved 8 Feb 2009 from http://ushistory.org/us/20.asp