Review of Richard E. Ellis’ Book on the Jeffersonian Era
An examination of how attitudes toward the judiciary in the Jefferson era reflected the historical partisanship of the judiciary, the desire for spoils, as well as contemporary partisan and ideological differences.
“Forging of new governmental institutions and policy were the primary themes of affairs in the early American republic. A foreign policy was developed that regulated American relations with foreign powers. Most contentious was the French-British issue. Attitudes regarding each power varied by region, with New England tending to favor amicable relations with Britain more so than the rest of the nation. Regionalism also divided the nation in areas of economic policy; more industry and shipping based New England favored a proactive national government that would protect its interests from foreign competition. The structure of government was also not completely finalized. Although the Constitution provided a framework for government, governmental institutions hardly remained static after ratification of the Constitution. Among the most significant developments was the growth of political parties. Condemned by George Washington as a morally reprehensible faction bent on overthrowing the government and destroying the Constitution, the Republicans were hardly valued as a “loyal opposition” during the early years of government under the constitution. Later, political parties became valued as effective interest aggregators. Jefferson’s victory in the election of 1800 was also a victory of the Republican Party over the Federalists, not just over President Adams. However, the most significant controversy regarding governmental institutions was that concerning the judiciary. The question of the judiciary became the dominant issue during President Jefferson’s administration. Attitudes toward the judiciary reflected the historical partisanship of the judiciary, the desire for spoils, as well as contemporary partisan and ideological differences.”