Jefferson the Free Thinker

When Jefferson returned from France, he was appointed as George Washington's first secretary of state. He spent much of his time trying to help maintain peace with Europe and the Native Americans. He led the charge for America to recognize the new French Republic. However, he disagreed with Washington's decision to remain neutral when other European countries declared war on France.


Thomas Jefferson regretted being asked to become Washington's secretary of state because he wished to return to France to witness the French Revolution. He believed the Revolution would be “certainly and happily closed in less than a year.”

Clash with Hamilton

Shortly after becoming secretary of state, Jefferson began to have problems with Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury. He thought Hamilton's creation of the Bank of the United States was unconstitutional because this power was not specifically granted in the Constitution. They clashed over other issues, including neutrality toward France. Jefferson eventually felt that Washington was listening more to Hamilton than to him and resigned from his post in 1793.

Leader of the Democratic-Republicans

After Jefferson's resignation, he spent time at Monticello. However, this did not keep him from becoming involved with public policy again. When Jay's Treaty was ratified, he openly expressed disgust at its neutrality. He felt that America should be spending more time supporting the French.

He was nominated and ran for president against Federalist John Adams in 1796. He only lost to Adams by three votes. Because of the way the Constitution was written, whoever received the second most votes became vice president. Therefore, he served as John Adams's vice president from 1797 to 1801, the only time in American history that members of opposing parties served in the two top positions.

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