Comparison of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1485 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: American History

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are perhaps the most revered of the Founding Fathers. Even during their time, they were looked at as the leaders of the fledgling republic before they became the leaders of their respective parties. Their beliefs, as well as their actions, established a political struggle that has persisted to this day, where the debates are as lively as they were during the framing of the constitution.

Washington and Jefferson's respective beliefs took on special significance in the area of "internal improvements." Larson uses the 1780's term "internal improvement" to refer to all kinds of public works programs designed to encourage security, prosperity, and enlightenment among the people.

Internal improvements implicated the two leaders because of the heavy involvement of the federal government in public works programs.

Thesis: Washington and Jefferson adopted opposing positions on the role of the federal government because they had different views about human nature. Washington believed the average person was selfish and would not do the right thing, so the federal government has to do the right thing for him. Jefferson believed that the average person was capable of being a good citizen if given the space and abundance to cultivate himself, which would be impossible if the federal government is too powerful.

Development of Beliefs

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Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had many similarities. They were both from Virginia, owned huge farms, and practiced the doctrine of self-sufficiency. Throughout their lives, they were curiously reluctant to take on more power. In a sense, they were true aristocrats, representing the ideal of the gentleman-farmer.

Washington referred to people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and himself as part of a distinct social class, the "monied gentry."

According to Larson, this class "…assumed a right to lead based on superior knowledge, patriotic feeling and what they called their "wisdom."

Term Paper on Comparison of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Assignment

Indeed, many men of this class were truly brilliant. They were not only intellectual elites relative to their American countrymen, but intellectual elites when compared with their contemporaries in Europe, the great statesmen and philosophers of their day. Men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison possessed brilliance in historic proportions and were the equals of Locke, Hobbes, and De Tocqueville.

In addition to being talented, the monied gentry were uniquely industrious, paternalistic and patriotic. It was if the Republican experiment was their little baby in need of nurturing and guidance, of which only they could provide. They truly cared for the welfare of the American people, although but they probably cared more deeply about the success of their Republican experiment.

The Role of Washington's Beliefs in Internal Improvement Projects

Although he had a fatherly concern for the welfare of the American people, Washington held deep suspicions about the character of his countrymen. He had doubts about their ability to "do the right thing,"

to put the interests of the nation before their own interests. Generally, he thought the average American was lazy, selfish, and short-sighted, especially when compared to the founding fathers.

This view is indicative of the Federalist attitude in general.

For Washington, the lack of civic-mindedness among his countrymen was especially frustrating. He believed that the nation had to make huge sacrifices and investments up front to make the Republican experiment work. Washington, a highly self-sacrificing individual, expected the same from others. He understood the Republican experiment as a chance for his nation to "do the right thing." For Washington, the preservation of liberty required a strong federal government that "would do the right thing" when selfish individuals would not.

Jefferson, though a member of the monied gentry himself, differed from Washington in his opinion of common people. He believed in the innate capacity of human beings and attributed their low level of development to misgovernment, neglect, and exploitation by the religious and aristocratic authorities of the old world.

He believed that anyone can become a dutiful, civic-minded citizen if given sufficient space and resources to cultivate himself. For Jefferson, this space could only be created through the removal of oppressive government intrusion.

Jefferson had his own understanding of the Republican ideal. He believed that the mission of Republican experiment in the United States was not just to guarantee the liberty of Americans, but to invent a "…natural, rational, and egalitarian order & #8230;"

Jefferson had a universal, humanist perspective of the American revolution. He was the idealistic philosopher to Washington's practical general.

Washington started out with very similar orientation to Jefferson. In fact, Washington might… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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