Financial History of the United States: Fiscal, Monetary, Banking, and Tariff, Including Financial Administration and State and Local Finance

By Paul Studenski; Herman E. Krooss | Go to book overview

CHARTER 6: JEFFERSONIAN FINANCE

Being more a state of mind than an organized political party, Federalism gradually faded away, leaving the field to agrarian Republicanism for the next twenty-four years.

In general, the National Republican party, under the leadership of Jefferson, was opposed to the increase of industrialism. It favored a society composed of small landholders and repudiated the Hamiltonian ideal of an alliance between the government and the capitalist group. Representing the small farmer who had little to gain from a strong government, its economic philosophy was laissez faire. It wanted a "happy and not a powerful nation," believing "that government best which governs least." The Jeffersonians, therefore, opposed the cornerstones of the Hamiltonian system: a protective tariff, internal taxation, a national bank, and a strong Federal government. They won popular support on a platform which pledged frugality, tax reduction, rapid debt retirement, and the decimation of government bureaucracy. Despite these pledges, the necessities of the times forced the Jefferson and Madison administrations, much against their will, to do more to strengthen the Federal government and advance industrialism than even Hamilton had thought possible.

Reorganization of Expenditures . Jefferson appointed Albert Gallatin, for many years the principal Republican Congressional critic of Hamiltonian finance, Secretary of the Treasury. Gallatin's primary aim was to reduce the public debt, chiefly by reducing expenditures. Unlike Jefferson, he had little hope of cutting civil expenditures significantly, but from the beginning, he believed that great economies could be achieved in the military establishment. Even after it appeared probable that the United States would become involved in the war between England and France, Gallatin urged Congress to reduce, rather than increase, military expenditures. For a time he was successful, but his program of extreme economy was eventually blocked because it antagonized a large group of government officials and congressmen, including the Smith brothers, Robert, the Secretary of the Navy, and Samuel, the leader of the Senate.

Although Gallatin thought that public expenditures were generally unproductive, he twice was willing to unloosen the strings of the public purse. In 1803 he strongly supported the purchase of Louisiana from France for $15 million. The cost was covered by $2 million from current revenue and the sale of $11 ¼ million of 15-year 6 per cent stock and $1 ¾ million of temporary obligations. Under the terms of the treaty, $11 ¼

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