Thomas Jefferson believed that virtue was to be found innthe Spartan simplicity of ancient Greece rather than innthe decadent cities of Caesar’s Rome. Agriculture, Jeffersonnwrote, was what developed moral and political virtue. Bigncities corrupted people, he thought, and neither city men ofncommerce and capital nor city men who labored could bentrusted to preserve democracy. He idealized agriculture as anway of life and affected rustic dress and a casual pose innpublic. The secretary of the British legation commentednthat Jefferson as President looked like a “tall, large-bonednfarmer.”nIn 1801, when Jefferson took the oath as third Presidentnof the United States, some 95 percent of all Americans livednon farms. Jefferson tried to insure that this ratio wouldncontinue through the Louisiana Purchase of April 30, 1803.nIn fact, Jefferson so wanted this great block of land that henignored his principles to get the treaty ratified.nA strict constitutionalist, he could find nothing in thenConstitution authorizing the government to acquire newnterritory. At first he considered an amendment to authorizenthe purchase, but amending the Constitution took time.nJefferson therefore simply sent the treaty to the Senate fornratification, ignoring his constitutional scruples about whatnOdie Faulk is an emeritus professor of history and residesnin Waco, Texas.n16/CHRONICLESnVIEWSnThe Lure of Rural Lifenby Odie Faulknnnthe government could or could not do. He felt thatnacquiring the Louisiana Territory was far more importantnthan debates about the powers of the federal government,nfor, he reasoned, the Louisiana Territory would satisfy thenAmerican need for agricultural lands for the next fivenhundred years and thereby guarantee that the countrynforever would be a land of yeoman farmers.nJefferson was not sufficiently optimistic about how fastnAmericans could move west and settle the LouisiananTerritory. His dream of owning land had become thenAmerican dream. Americans wanted to be farmers, and theynbelieved that virtue was on the land, not in cities. As HoracenGreeley would urge them decades later, they went west,nespecially in the years after the Civil War.nDuring this period the government, along with mostnAmericans, believed that the public domain should be putninto the hands of those who would make productive use of itnas fast as possible. This meant actually searching for ways tonturn over public lands to farmers, miners, timbering concerns,nand anyone else who would begin using the land.nLegislation to this end included the Homestead Act ofn1862, the Timber Culture Act of 1873, the Desert LandnAct of 1877, and the Carey Act of 1894.nAlso hastening the pace of settlement on the Plains werenthe slaughter of buffalo in the 1870’s; the removal of thenIndians to reservations, largely completed by 1877; and an