The Embargo of 1807 was an attempt to keep US merchant ships out of harm’s way. Outlawing international trade, however, had a devastating effect on the economy, especially in New England. The Jefferson administration’s heavy-handed policing of merchants led some to claim that the President was on the road to becoming a tyrant.
The Devil: Pull away pull away my son don’t fear! I’ll give you all my assistance.
Jefferson: I fear it is stronger rooted than I expected but with the assistance of my old friend and a little more brandy I will bring it down.
Questions to consider:
- How does this cartoon characterize Jefferson?
- What is Jefferson trying to “bring down”?
- Based on what you know of Jefferson’s political beliefs and actions, what specific actions or opinions might have inspired this cartoon?
Despite pro-Constitution writers’ arguments that the new government’s powers were limited, those limits were tested very quickly. George Washington, the first President under the new Constitution, inherited a financial disaster of debt. His treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, proposed a central banking system–the Bank of the United States–to manage the national debt and issue currency. Nowhere did the new Constitution define “creating a bank” as one of the federal governments powers.