Jeffersonian democracy refers to the principles held by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Some of these principles, such as the belief in the inalienable rights of the individual and the hatred of despotism, can be found in the Declaration of Independence, of which he was the principal author.

Jefferson's ideal was an agrarian society, made up of self-sufficient farmers, under the leadership of natural aristocrats by means of republican institutions. Jefferson disliked industrialization and big cities. He also wanted a weak federal government, with authority vested in state and local government, as a protection against government abuse of power.