when we consider that this government is charged with the external & mutual relations only of these states, that the states themselves have principal care of our persons, our property, & our reputation, constituting the great field of human concerns, we may well doubt whether our organisation is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices & officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily, & sometimes injuriously to the service they were meant to promote.
First Annual (State of the Union) Address, November 27, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand the limits of their responsibility.
Jefferson’s understanding of the U.S. Constitution was that the job of the federal government was two-fold:
1. Foreign relations and national defense (“external …relations”)
2. Promoting commercial relationships and mediating issues between the states (“mutual relations”)
Instead, he saw a national government, desiring to do all manner of good for its citizens, that had expanded its reach far beyond those limited Constitutional responsibilities. The result was a government that was:
1. Too complicated
2. Too expensive
3. Had too many offices and too many employees
4. Sometimes hurt the very causes they intended to help
Jefferson went on in his State of the Union message to explain what he was doing to limit Washington’s overreach.