Page:Writings of Thomas Jefferson, III, IV.djvu/16

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vi
The Louisiana Purchase

tinct, definite and unmistakable good? As a political philosopher Jefferson taught great doctrines. As President of the United States he met the direct and immediate responsibilities. He did not violate the Constitution — whatever was said at the time, we know it now; but in a great public emergency he departed from his general theory of interpretation, and in doing so he did an act of transcendent statesmanship and he achieved an incalculable advantage for the republic.

I have not been trained in the Jefferson school of thought, belonging to the opposing school. But I recognize and honor the incalculable services which Jefferson rendered to the country, not merely in its first great expansion but in the influence of his whole administration. The Constitution had not then gained any traditional sanctity. There were thousands of honest men who believed that it was dangerous to the liberties of the people. They felt that in the hands of Washington, of Hamilton and of Adams it had been directed along imperialistic lines, and that it was hostile to the spirit of the Revolution. The immeasurable value of Jefferson's incomparable service was that, as the leader of the opposing host, he came into authority, calmed the disquietude, exercised the same rights and powers and met the same high responsibility in the same statesmanlike way, and he dissipated any lingering fear that the Constitution and government of our republic involved any peril to the freedom of the people.