chapter  V
V Jeffersonian Republicanism
Pages 19

Jefferson also rejected the Hamiltonian vision of a powerful commercial and industrial state, hoping instead for a nation of self-suffi cient farmers independent of powerful economic interests. “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens,” he wrote. “They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country & wedded to it’s liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.” Having observed fi rsthand the degraded condition of the masses in the crowded cities of Europe, Jefferson wanted something better for the United States. “The mobs of great cities,” he wrote, “add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.” If government promoted an agrarian way of life that kept people economically free to make their own political choices, personal liberty would be safe, and peace and general prosperity would naturally follow. Although he was not naïve about

human nature or the pitfalls of democracy, Jefferson believed wholeheartedly in the ability of people to govern themselves. Without majority rule, republican government would soon degenerate into oligarchy and the tyranny of the few over the many. “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself,” Jefferson noted in his inaugural address. “Can he, then, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”