John Taylor of Caroline

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John Taylor of Caroline

John Taylor of Caroline (born John Taylor) (1753-1824), was an exponent of Jeffersonian Democracy and republicanism. He was born into a rich planter family in Virginia and is known as "John Taylor of Caroline." Taylor engineered Virginia's resolution against the Sedition Act (1798); and helped pass the Twelfth Amendment. He served multiple terms in the state legislature and U.S. Senate, and was an ally of James Monroe.

Taylor is best known for his attacks against what he considered aristocratic theories of Federalist Party leaders Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. Taylor feared cities as cesspools of evil and ardently defended the honest independent farmer—called a yeoman. That required a prosperous agricultural economy so Taylor threw his energies into scientific farming that would reverse the damage done to the soil by heavy reliance on tobacco.

His series of newspaper articles in 1810,[1] appeared in book form, as Arator, Being a Series of Agricultural Essays, Practical and Political in 1813. In 1814 he published his major book, An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States.

Early life

Taylor was born in 1753 in Orange County, Virginia, to James and Ann Taylor, and was related to Zachary Taylor, a future President. Taylor served in the Revolutionary War.


As the most articulate exponent of republican agrarianism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Taylor feared that in the America forms of "paper and patronage aristocracy" could get the upper hand and undermine republicanism. His argued that a virtuous republic should be based on agriculture and the predominant role of the landowner in society. Taylor condemned corruption and patronage and exalted good moral principles and the practice of civil virtue as the basis of a republic which would safeguard freedom and political independence. Hamilton, on the contrary, considered the construction of a strong central government and financial institutions, such as the Bank of the United States, which could direct the national economy and increase the prosperity of citizens, as indispensable to the growth of the United States.

Conservative historian Adam Tate (1998) argues that Taylor believed that the government of the United States was the best yet formed, but he argued that the nation suffered from an overpowerful president and Supreme Court and from finance capitalism and its paper money system. Taylor, a modern rather than a classical Republican, believed that an agrarian society was best. To protect farmers, he advocated easy taxation and improved farming techniques, and he opposed protective tariffs and government-subsidized internal improvements. He urged farmers to form an agricultural party to defend their economic interests. At the end of his life, Taylor invoked states' rights as a way to save Southern farmers from capitalist tyranny.

However, Lenner (1997) argues that Taylor has been misinterpreted by historians as a strict constructionist, states' rights Southerner, and virulent Jeffersonian Republican. In fact, he went beyond mainstream Republican thought in his suspicion of federalism and his belief that the new federal republic was merely a collection of independent states, all with the duties and rights of independent nation-states which had merely collected themselves into a voluntary league of nations. Ruled by the "Law of Nations," Taylor's federal republic was neither a mainstream Federalist or mainstream republican society, but a third alternative of American political thought in the antebellum period.

Further reading

  • Bailor, Keith M. "John Taylor of Caroline: Continuity, Change, and Discontinuity in Virginia's Sentiments toward Slavery, 1790-1820," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 75, No. 3 (Jul., 1967), pp. 290–304 in JSTOR
  • Hill, C. William, Jr. The Political Theory of John Taylor of Caroline. (1977). 343 pp.
  • Lenner, Andrew C. "John Taylor and the Origins of American Federalism." Journal of the Early Republic 1997 17(3): 399-423. in JSTOR
  • Macleod, Duncan. "The Political Economy of John Taylor of Caroline." Journal of American Studies 1980 14(3): 387-405. 0021-8758
  • Shalhope, Robert E. John Taylor of Caroline: Pastoral Republican (1980), 304pp; the standard scholarly biography
  • Stromberg, Joseph R. "Country Ideology, Republicanism, and Libertarianism: The Thought of John Taylor of Caroline." Journal of Libertarian Studies 1983 6(1): 35-48. 0363-2873
  • Tate, Adam L. "John Taylor and the Formation of an American Ideology." Continuity 1998 (22): 55-76. 0277-1446 by a conservative historian
  • Tate, Adam L. Conservatism and southern intellectuals, 1789-1861: liberty, tradition, and the good society (2005) excerpt and text search

Primary sources

  • Taylor, John. Arator, Being a Series of Agricultural Essays, Practical and Political: In Sixty-Four Numbers. (1813) online original edition; new edition ed. by M. E. Bradford, Liberty Fund, 1977. 394 pp.
  • Taylor, John. An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States. (1814) online edition

See also


  1. Not 1803 as some books say.