Historian Dr. Kevin Gutzman recently appeared on episode 38 of the podcast, The Liberty Chronicles hosted by Dr. Anthony Comegna to discuss a variety of topics, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the Revolution of 1800, the Louisiana Purchase, and the War of 1812.
Gutzman pointed out that the election of 1800 brought a bloodless revolution to the newly formed country. One party relinquished power to another without resorting to arms. Not only was there a new administration, but one that had very different policy agenda – reducing the military and taxes. Referring to newly elected President Jefferson, Gutzman remarked:
I do believe there was real difference between the Federalists and the Republicans and that right side won in the end and that immediately on taking office began making substantial changes.
During the interview, Gutzman also shared his thoughts about how the Constitution should be viewed:
There are also some disagreements among libertarians about the question how republican our society ought to be. A lot of libertarian constitutional legal thinkers really don’t mind the idea of an extensive policy making role for federal judges, as long as they have the feeling they will get the policy outcomes from those judges that they prefer. I could name names, but I’m sure you will know whom I mean. So, this is one way which I find myself sometimes at variance with the mainline of libertarian thinkers These days, I consider myself a Jeffersonian, a libertarian personally. But, I think the Constitution ought to have a fixed meaning not whatever the judges could be persuaded to say it means. And of course, that is a Jeffersonian position.
There was also discussion on how democratic early America was and about whether elections truly reflect the will of the people, considering only those with property could vote. Dr. Gutzman stated:
Compared to today, when the Constitution declares that blacks, women and basically any man can vote, it wasn’t democratic. For the Eighteenth Century, it was crazy democratic. (laughs) There was no place like it, and of course, I said that in Virginia that they had a more widely distributed suffrage than essentially anyplace in Europe except for some Swiss Cantons. New England was even more democratic than that virtually every male could vote in New England.
Another intriguing point brought up during the interview was Jefferson’s belief that he violated the Constitution when he authorized the Louisiana Purchase and hoped the people would understand his reasons. He hoped they would forgive him for his actions. This is not something one would expect to see today regardless of party affiliation.
Dr. Gutzman also pointed out something that Tenthers will embrace. Jefferson believed that with the exception of the postman, the average citizen would never encounter federal officials.
Dr. Kevin Gutzman is the author of several books, including , James Madison and the Making of America, and his lThe Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution latest, Thomas Jefferson-Revolutionary. He’s also a faculty member of Tom Wood’s Liberty Classroom.
Dr. Anthony Comegna is the host of The Liberty Chronicles Podcast and earned his Ph.D. (2016) in history from the University of Pittsburgh. He has taught courses in American history and Western Civilization.