Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Kyle Zelner

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Dr. Susannah Ural

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Dr. Heather Stur

Committee Member 3 Department



President Thomas Jefferson is a well-known figure, who is not well understood. His military policies are under-examined in the historiography. Yet, he had a tremendous impact on martial development in the Early Republic. Jefferson reshaped the military to suite his pragmatic republican ideals. His militia system expanded while the regulars were disbanded. The Navy was greatly decreased, and the remainder of his military was used for frontier exploration, riverine trade, road development, and other public works. This disrupted the precedent of strong federal military development as set by his predecessors: George Washington and John Adams. His reforms also left the military in a state of decay from which it was unable to recover before the War of 1812.

Through a blend of financial and presidential policy analysis, this paper examines Jefferson’s effect on the evolution of the armed forces in the tumultuous days of the Early Republic.