American Expansion as Creating “An Empire of Liberty”


Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, proposed a theme “an Empire of Liberty” that meant the state’s mission to promote freedom around the world. In the current essay, his referring to American expansion as creating “an empire of liberty” will be discussed. Specifically, the meaning of his expression will be addressed and analyzed. Moreover, a contradiction between the terms “an empire” and “liberty” will be presented.

Main body

The idea behind “an empire of liberty” by Thomas Jefferson was more than a statement. It introduced the concept of The United States of America as a unique place in the world and human history. Jefferson’s phrase had a deep meaning: America has a great mission. It implies spreading liberty, freedom, and progress worldwide by expanding the country’s influence and intervening in other states (Sheehan, 2004). “An Empire of liberty” implied being an opposite force for totalitarian world and tyranny. Practical implementation of these ideas has realized itself in many historical events, including the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and modern foreign politics. However, the contradiction between the two terms, “an empire” and “liberty” is apparent. Usually, “an empire” is perceived as a state’s structure that logically implies tyranny and lack of freedom, whereas liberty is exactly the opposite: freedom and moderate control from authorities. However, Jefferson saw “an empire” as a powerful place that controls numerous lands and helps other countries maintain freedom and equality.


In conclusion, “an empire of liberty” is one of the most famous concepts proposed by the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. He saw America’s mission in spreading freedom, liberty, and progress all around the globe. Liberty was his central value, and he believed the state’s power was to implement it in other countries even though by some intervention. The realization of those ideas can be seen until modern times. Regardless the fact that the contradiction between “an empire” and “liberty” is apparent, Jefferson perceived it as a help for the world.


Sheehan, B., W. (2004). Jefferson’s “Empire for Liberty”. Indiana Magazine of History, 100(4), 346-363. Web.

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