Reform with Restraint
IT HAS OFTEN been pointed out that there was very little that was truly democratic about Jeffersonian Democracy. Jefferson talked much, but did little for the "common man." It should be remembered, nevertheless, that such questions as suffrage and representation were the province of the states. However much Jefferson might have wished for change, he did not feel it was his place, as President, to interfere. In regard to other social concerns, moreover, the federal government in this period had no power whatsoever. National politics was largely confined to taxes, trade, and treaties. Such important questions as separation of church and state, advancement of public education, and eradication of slavery had to be fought on the state level.
The question, then, is how democratic-minded were the Jeffersonians without Jefferson? Did the party represent an independent force for reform? Conversely, were the Federalists as elitist as statements made by some of their national leaders seemed to indicate?
There is no clear answer. Early in the decade neither party