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Robert Kennedy's United States History Class


Learning Objective IV

Discuss the elements within society that are necessary to create a democracy for Jefferson and show how they compare to those of Andrew Jackson.

For Jefferson there were three key elements for creating a democracy. They were (1) land, (2) education, (3) and time.  

To Jefferson, a republic was a form not merely of political but also of social organization. It depended upon the predominance in the population of yeomen farmers, each with enough PROPERTY to value order. The significance of LAND for Jefferson was American liberty rested on the firm foundation of agriculture. Jefferson found much to admire in America's rural life which avoided the evils of the European economic system. American cities were small and thus contained no great factories and therefore had no oppressed laboring class among their residents. Jefferson expressed the threat of the cities with the following quote: "When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another as they do there."


An abundance of land was a guarantee that no worthy person need ever become dependent, because he could always find opportunity in the empty space of the country. Hence, the general public could resist the influences of merchants or plantation aristocrats who might seek economic power and influence over them. The significance of the Louisiana Purchase comes into perspective for Jefferson and the country when viewed with Jefferson's ideas of developing an agrarian democracy. Jefferson felt the "Valley of Democracy" would always provide elbowroom for future generations to preserve their liberties.

Virtuous yeomen were the masters of none and servants to no one, but this alone was not enough to create a democracy. Working their own farms they were content and free; but once they were content, free, and educated they would be capable of making the proper civil and political choices.


It was at this point the yeomen could be entrusted with the conduct of their own government. They were not merely to consent to

being governed; they were to participate actively . This had been the significance of the addition of the adjective, Democratic, to the term Republican in Jefferson's party designation. Virtuous citizens would spontaneously single out those best qualified to rule over them. A good educational system would teach the people the necessity and methods of this selection process. The process would also help select and train the leaders that the people would choose and who would form an aristocracy of ability rather than of birth .

Andrew Jackson was the first President to be elected under Jefferson's formula. Jackson typified the ideal of the American man and success story. He was the first President who did not come from a well-established American family. He rose from the log cabin environment to the White House.Jackson believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and promised to reduce the government to the simple machine which the Constitution created.


Jackson idealized an agrarian society and described the agricultural interest as "superior in importance" to all others. Jackson and his supporters favored state sovereignty, strict construction of the Constitution, and laissez-faire because they hoped for a return to old-fashioned, agrarian-oriented Jeffersonianism. For Jefferson, the solution to America's problems was (1) LAND, (2) EDUCATION, and (3) time. So long as all three were available, nothing could threaten the security and liberty of society.