With the triumph of Jefferson in the great struggle of 1800, the first democratic battle had been won at the polls, but victory remained still in doubt. The new liberalism was in the saddle, but how long it would keep its seat, or whither it would drive, no one could foresee. The aristocratic eighteenth century was still in secure possession of all the vantage points of polite culture. It still held the positions of honor and emolument and dictated the ways of society. The tie-wig and smallclothes had not yet been put to rout by homespun and coonskin, and were laying plans to make good the first defeat. Polite letters were still content with the old wit ideal, still enamored of the couplet, still in love with caustic satire, still transfixing democracy with its sharp quills. The nineteenth century with its cargo of romanticisms had not yet crossed the Atlantic, and while Napoleon was strewing Europe with the wrecks of old empires, America was still dwelling in the twilight of a century that was loath to be gone.
The account in the American ledger was complex and not easily cast up, yet Jefferson might well have regarded with satisfaction the results of two hundred years of new-world experience. The drift was all in the direction he was facing. The age of theology was gone, the age of political speculation was passing, the age of constitution building was over. Disintegration had come upon every system of caste brought hither from the old world; the free economics of a decentralized society had proved a sufficient solvent to destroy the principle of monarchy and of aristocracy, and prepare the American mind for a venture in republicanism. Overseas liberalisms had flourished in the soil that proved inhospitable to overseas conservatisms; and it was these European liberalisms that provided the mold into which ran the fluid experience of America to assume substantial form. That the venture in republicanism would inure to the benefit of agrarian America--to the producers on their scattered farms--Jefferson seems never to have doubted; and the ready naturalization of the philosophy of equalitarianism in the backwoods settlements might well have seemed to justify his hopes. Nevertheless new forces were preparing that were to bring about momentous changes in nineteenth-century America. Capitalism with its banks and credit and elastic currency and its psychology of speculation, and industrialism with its technique of factory production, were already at work preparing a different pattern of life for America, a pattern wholly unlike that of the simpler agrarianism with its domestic economy, which Jefferson represented. A new romanticism of the middle class was eventually to shoulder aside the aspirations of gentleman and farmer alike, and refashion America after its own ideal. What was implied in that momentous change provides the theme for another study, and cannot be entered upon here.