Student Reader

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was a wealthy planter by background, but as president he conveyed to the public an image of plain, almost crude disdain for pretension. Like an ordinary citizen, he walked to and from his inauguration at the Capitol. In the presidential mansion, which had not yet acquired the name "White House," he disregarded the courtly etiquette of his predecessors. He did not always bother to dress up, prompting the British ambassador to complain of being received by the president in clothes that were "indicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to appearance." Brinkley, p 176
Jefferson was, above all, a shrewd and practical politician. He worked hard to exert influence as the leader of his party, giving direction to Republicans in Congress by quiet and sometimes even devious means. Although the Republicans had objected strenuously to the efforts of their Federalist predecessors to build a network of influence through patronage, Jefferson used his powers of appointment as an effective political weapon. Like Washington before him, he believed that federal offices should be filled with men loyal to the principles and policies of the administration. By the end of his second term, practically all federal jobs were held by loyal Republicans. Jefferson was a popular president and had little difficulty winning reelection against Federalist Charles C. Pinckney in 1804. Jefferson won by the overwhelming electoral majority of 162 to 14, and Republican membership of both houses of Congress increased. Brinkley, p 176
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