The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation

The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation

Language: English

Pages: 440

ISBN: 0306821273

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In the months after her husband's death, Martha Washington told several friends that the two worst days of her life were the day George died—and the day Thomas Jefferson came to Mount Vernon to offer his condolences.

What could elicit such a strong reaction from the nation's original first lady? Though history tends to cast the early years of America in a glow of camaraderie, there were, in fact, many conflicts among the Founding Fathers—none more important than the one between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The chief disagreement between these former friends centered on the highest, most original public office created by the Constitutional Convention—the presidency. They also argued violently about the nation's foreign policy, the role of merchants and farmers in a republic, and the durability of the union itself. At the root of all these disagreements were two sharply different visions for the nation's future.

Acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming examines how the differing temperaments and leadership styles of Washington and Jefferson shaped two opposing views of the presidency—and the nation. The clash between these two gifted men, both of whom cared deeply about the United States of America, profoundly influenced the next two centuries of America's history and resonates in the present day.

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Jefferson’s chief contribution to the struggle was drafting the Declaration of Independence. The opening paragraph’s soaring insistence that every human being was entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would ultimately give the document world-transforming power. But few people emphasized this aspect of the Declaration—or thought of Jefferson as its author—during the War for Independence. Congress had heavily edited and revised his draft before issuing it on July 4, 1776.

strategy of keeping the frigates and other ships in ports. Sent to sea, the sailors amazed the British—and the Democratic-Republicans—by defeating British frigates in nine of ten encounters. These victories inspired Congress to junk Jefferson’s anti-Navy doctrine. In late November 1812, the House Committee on Naval Affairs voted to build four ships of the line and six heavy frigates. The Committee defended this decision in a labored statement that claimed it was “a bright attribute of the tar

Patrick J. Garrity, A Sacred Union of Citizens: George Washington’s Farewell Address and the American Character (Lanham MD 1996) 1. A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875, House of Rep 6th Congress, 1st Session, 194. 15. Smith, Patriarch, 359 16. Axelrad, Philip Freneau, 344 17. Edward G. Lengel, General George Washington, New York 2005, 358. Lengel, who is a professor of history at the University of Virginia and editor-in-chief of the

Washington fell back to urging Madison to become one of the two senators who would be chosen by the Virginia assembly. Madison, again seeing no hope of victory against Patrick Henry, was inclined to run for the House of Representatives instead. But Washington virtually insisted he become a candidate, to prevent two anti-federalist senators from representing the nation’s largest state. Henry campaigned ferociously against Madison, declaring that he was “unworthy of the confidence of the people.”

The current rulers in Paris presumed that the sovereignty of the United States was a mere blip in a worldwide tornado of enthusiasm for their empire of liberté. But Jefferson decided to give up on defending Citizen Genet. In private letters, he carefully spelled out to Madison and Monroe why they had to jettison the reckless envoy. On August 18, the Secretary of State sent Madison a copy of his message requesting Genet’s recall, and urged him to show it to Monroe.21 A lot had been happening in

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