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Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition

This is a guide to the Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition. The essay competition was endowed in 1997 and was designed to have students reflect on the principles and ideals in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

2009 Carret Essay Prompt

"All the world is becoming commercial. Was it practicable to keep our new empire separated from them we might indulge ourselves in speculating whether commerce contributes to the happiness of mankind. But we cannot separate ourselves from them." Men and women living in the new United States, in other words, bought and sold goods in a global economy, and they realized that their economic decision had important domestic and international political significance. Indeed, in Jeffersonian America, statesmen, essayists, merchants, farmers, and other routinely politicized American's economic decisions and assigned partisan attributes to their choices. During the Revolution, for example, Patriot leaders mobilized sentiment against Britain through a series of economic boycotts, and New England Federalists were so frustrated with Jeffersonian restrictions on international trade from 1807-1815 that they contemplated secession. Meanwhile, rising economic rivalries between the nation's sections generated increasing political tensions. Clearly, Americans' political ideas about economic development were increasingly shaped by global concerns that reverberated in every town and state. In a well organized essay, address the relationship between economic development and politics in Jefferson's America (roughly 1770-1826). You might consider how and with what consequences a political leader or party addressed Americans' economic anxieties and hopes at the domestic or international level. Or you might assess how the nation's economic development shaped the country's political landscape. Please note that you do not have to cover the entire date range -- nor should you limit your treatment to the ideas and actions of Thomas Jefferson himself.