1800-1841: Launching the Republic


Jefferson was the head of the Democrat-Republican party, which strictly abided by the constitution and believed the states should have more power than the federal government. He ran against Aaron Burr. They had a tie, but the House of Reps said Jefferson won and Burr would be the Vice President.

Marbury versus Madison was a famous court case in 1803. Before he left office, President Adams hired Federalists judges. When Jefferson took office he told Secretary of State James Madison to hold their work papers so they couldn’t be judges. One of the judges, William Marbury, took Madison to court and won. The Supreme Court ruled that Congress did something unconstitutional and asserted its power in government.

In 1803 Jefferson bought a huge mass of land stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. It was called the Louisiana Purchase. He bought it from the French for $15 million. Napoleon Bonaparte had to sell it, but he didn't want the British to have it. He decided if he sold it to the States, Britain would never get it. So Jefferson got a bargain. Then he sent Lewis and Clark to go check it out.

Some Northern Federalists wanted to form their own union. They tried to get Alexander Hamilton (Federalist) to go along with the plan, but he said, "no." Instead, they turned to Aaron Burr (Federalist Vice President). They both ran for governor of NY, but Burr lost. He got mad at Hamilton for insulting him and they had a duel. Hamilton was shot and died.


In 1807 Jefferson stopped all American trade ships from going to other countries with a fifteen-month trade embargo. England and France had been trying to keep ships from trading with each other because they were at war. Instead of solving trade problems, this embargo pleased England and France and screwed up the American economy.

Jefferson's Non-Intercourse Act was not about sex. Jefferson changed the embargo so that Americans could trade with any country other than France and Britain. This still did damage to the economy.


James Madison was elected President in 1808 and again in 1812. He declared the War of 1812, which went on till 1814. Britain was still causing problems for trade ships. Also, Britain had been helping Indians in Canada to attack American settlers. This needed to stop. At one point, the White House was set on fire by the British.

Dolly Madison, the first lady, rescued lots of portraits and important documents from the fire. To honor her quick thinking a cake is named after her.

The war took care of most of the trade problems with Europe, so the economy was doing much better. The rest of America was opened up for exploration and eventual settlement. The citizens were proud. The country had asserted itself as an independent nation that could defend itself.

A couple of legislators form the south asked for restrictions on foreign goods so that Americans would have to buy domestic products. This was the beginning of the "Made in the USA" campaign. Also, tariffs were regularly imposed on imported products to make them more expensive than American goods.


James Monroe was president from 1817-1825. A lot of changes were happening in the rest of the New World. In Europe Napoleon conquered Spain in 1808. As a result, Latin Americans had their own revolution. By 1822 much of Hispanic America had become independent. Monroe was able to recognize them as new countries and neighbors. This was a hands-off gesture to Europe.

He also wrote the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. This announced that Europe no longer had any control over America.

There was a lot of tension at home. Slavery was still going on in the South even though the slave trade had ended in 1808. Most plantation owners were not willing to give up slave labor. To prevent it from becoming outlawed, Southern politicians were very careful to keep a balance of people in favor of slavery in office. Whenever a new anti-slavery state was admitted to the union, a slavery state was admitted. For example, Illinois (a free state) was admitted in 1818. Right away Alabama was admitted as a slave state. Anti-slavery advocates opposed Missouri becoming a state in 1819 because they had slaves. But the Missouri Compromise admitted Maine as a free state so that Missouri could be a slave state.


None of the candidates won a majority of votes; therefore, the House of Representatives was responsible for choosing a President. Henry Clay swayed the votes to John Quincy Adams. Adams wasn't very popular because he didn't build any roads or canals, and he seemed like too much of a politician. He was mostly interested in being reelected, and he appointed Clay as his Secretary of State. People thought this was fishy because Clay was being rewarded for his vote.


Andrew Jackson was president from 1828 until 1836. At this time, elections were becoming bigger because more people could vote. Before, only well-educated, property holding, and tax-paying men could vote. By 1828 some states gave voting privileges (suffrage) to all men, other states reduced voting requirements. These changes are reflected in the election of the very popular and self-educated Jackson.

Jackson started the spoils system. He gave powerful jobs to people that supported his campaign. He also had to deal with the nullification crisis. Some states wanted the power to nullify or get rid of federal laws. South Carolina started building a militia to resist some of Jackson's tariff laws. He sent the Navy, and he told South Carolina their actions were treason. Eventually Henry Clay negotiated a tariff compromise that calmed down everyone.

Jackson had a long history of nasty dealings with native people. During the War of 1812 he crushed a Creek uprising. The Creek ended up giving the States most of their land. Jackson also chased the Seminole out of Florida. He was ruthless with the Indians.

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This set aside money to move all the indigenous populations (natives) west of the Mississippi. In 1834 they were sent to what is now Oklahoma. While in office, Jackson got Indians to give the country huge amounts of their land in return for smaller amounts of land further west. Of course, these trades weren't effective for very long. Gold was discovered on Cherokee land in 1829. Jackson made them leave the land and walk all the way to Oklahoma in 1835. A lot of them died along the way. This was called the "Trail of Tears".


Jackson's VP, Martin Van Buren was elected. He held office from 1837 to 1841, but he wasn't as suave as Jackson. The country was suffering from an economic depression. No matter what he did, the country blamed him for the poor economy.