GREAT AMERICANS OF HISTORY
A CHARACTER SKETCH
BY EDWARD S. ELLIS, A. M. AUTHOR OF "The People's Standard History of the United States," "The Eclectic Primary History of the United States," Etc.
with supplementary essay by G. MERCER ADAM Late Editor of "Self-Culture" Magazine, Etc., Etc.
WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE TOGETHER WITH ANECDOTES, CHARACTERISTICS, AND CHRONOLOGY
No golden eagle, warm from the stamping press of the mint, is more sharply impressed with its image and superscription than was the formative period of our government by the genius and personality of Thomas Jefferson.
Standing on the threshold of the nineteenth century, no one who attempted to peer down the shadowy vista, saw more clearly than he the possibilities, the perils, the pitfalls and the achievements that were within the grasp of the Nation. None was inspired by purer patriotism. None was more sagacious, wise and prudent, and none understood his countrymen better.
By birth an aristocrat, by nature he was a democrat. The most learned man that ever sat in the president's chair, his tastes were the simple ones of a farmer. Surrounded by the pomp and ceremony of Washington and Adams' courts, his dress was homely. He despised titles, and preferred severe plainness of speech and the sober garb of the Quakers.
"What is the date of your birth, Mr. President?" asked an admirer.
"Of what possible concern is that to you?" queried the President in turn.
"We wish to give it fitting celebration."
"For that reason, I decline to enlighten you; nothing could be more distasteful to me than what you propose, and, when you address me, I shall be obliged if you will omit the 'Mr.'"
If we can imagine Washington doing so undignified a thing as did President Lincoln, when he first met our present Secretary of State, (John Sherman) and compared their respective heights by standing back to back, a sheet of paper resting on the crowns of Washington and Jefferson would have lain horizontal and been six feet two inches from the earth, but the one was magnificent in physique, of massive frame and prodigious strength,—the other was thin, wiry, bony, active, but with muscles of steel, while both were as straight as the proverbial Indian arrow.
Jefferson's hair was of sandy color, his cheeks ruddy, his eyes of a light hazel, his features angular, but glowing with intelligence and neither could lay any claim to the gift of oratory.
Washington lacked literary ability, while in the hand of Jefferson, the pen was as masterful as the sword in the clutch of Saladin or Godfrey of Bouillon. Washington had only a common school education, while Jefferson was a classical scholar and could express his thoughts in excellent Italian, Spanish and French, and both were masters of their temper.
Jefferson was an excellent violinist, a skilled mathematician and a profound scholar. Add to all these his spotless integrity and honor, his statesmanship, and his well curbed but aggressive patriotism, and he embodied within himself all the attributes of an ideal president of the United States.
In the colonial times, Virginia was the South and Massachusetts the North. The other colonies were only appendages. The New York Dutchman dozed over his beer and pipe, and when the other New England settlements saw the Narragansetts bearing down upon them with upraised tomahawks, they ran for cover and yelled to Massachusetts to save them.
Clayborne fired popguns at Lord Baltimore, and the Catholic and Protestant Marylanders enacted Toleration Acts, and then chased one another over the border, with some of the fugitives running all the way to the Carolinas, where the settlers were perspiring over their efforts in installing new governors and thrusting them out again, in the hope that a half-fledged statesman would turn up sometime or other in the shuffle.
What a roystering set those Cavaliers were! Fond of horse racing, cock fighting, gambling and drinking, the soul of hospitality, quick to take offense, and quicker to forgive,—duellists as brave as Spartans, chivalric, proud of honor, their province, their blood and their families, they envied only one being in the world and that was he who could establish his claim to the possession of a strain from the veins of the dusky daughter of Powhatan—Pocahontas.
Could such people succeed as pioneers of the wilderness?
Into the snowy wastes of New England plunged the Pilgrims to blaze a path for civilization in the New World. They were perfect pioneers down to the minutest detail. Sturdy, grimly resolute, painfully honest, industrious, patient, moral and seeing God's hand in every affliction, they smothered their groans while writhing in the pangs of starvation and gasped in husky whispers: "He doeth all things well; praise to his name!" Such people could not fail in their work.
And yet of the first ten presidents, New England furnished only the two Adamses, while Virginia gave to the nation, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and then tapered off with Tyler.
In the War for the Union, the ten most prominent leaders were Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, Farragut, Porter, Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J. E. Johnston and Longstreet. Of these, four were the products of Virginia, while none came from New England, nor did she produce a real, military leader throughout the civil war, though she poured out treasure like water and sent as brave soldiers to the field as ever kept step to the drum beat, while in oratory, statesmanship and humanitarian achievement, her sons have been leaders from the foundation of the Republic.
Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Albemarle County, Va., April 2,1743. His father was the owner of thirty slaves and of a wheat and tobacco farm of nearly two thousand acres. There were ten children, Thomas being the third. His father was considered the strongest man physically in the county, and the son grew to be like him in that respect, but the elder died while the younger was a boy.
Entering William and Mary College, Thomas was shy, but his ability quickly drew attention to him. He was an irrestrainable student, sometimes studying twelve and fourteen hours out of the twenty-four. He acquired the strength to stand this terrific strain by his exercise of body. His father warned his wife just before his death not to allow their son to neglect this necessity, but the warning was superfluous. The youth was a keen hunter, a fine horseman and as fond as Washington of out door sports.
He was seventeen years old when he entered college and was one of the "gawkiest" students. He was tall, growing fast, raw-boned, with prominent chin and cheek bones, big hands and feet, sandy-haired and freckled. His mind broadened and expanded fast under the tutelage of Dr. William Small, a Scotchman and the professor of mathematics, who made young Jefferson his companion in his walks, and showed an interest in the talented youth, which the latter gratefully remembered throughout life.
Jefferson was by choice a farmer and never lost interest in the management of his estate. One day, while a student at law, he wandered into the legislature and was thrilled by the glowing speech of Patrick Henry who replied to an interruption:
"If this be treason, make the most of it."
He became a lawyer in his twenty-fourth year, and was successful from the first, his practice soon growing to nearly five hundred cases annually, which yielded an income that would be a godsend to the majority of lawyers in these days.
Ere long, the mutterings of the coming Revolution drew Jefferson aside into the service of his country.
At the age of twenty-six (May 11, 1769), he took his seat in the House of Burgesses, of which Washington was a member. On the threshold of his public career, he made the resolution which was not once violated during his life, "never to engage, while in public office, in any kind of enterprise for the improvement of my fortune, nor to wear any other character than that of a farmer." Thus, during his career of nearly half a century, he was impartial in his consideration of questions of public interest.
His first important speech was in favor of the repeal of the law that compelled a master when he freed his slaves to send them out of the colony. The measure was overwhelmingly defeated, and its mover denounced as an enemy of his country.
It was about this time that Jefferson became interested in Mrs. Martha Wayles Skelton, a childless widow, beautiful and accomplished and a daughter of John Wayles, a prominent member of the Williamsburg bar. She was under twenty years of age, when she lost her first husband, rather tall, with luxuriant auburn hair and an exceedingly graceful manner.
She had many suitors, but showed no haste to lay aside her weeds. The aspirants indeed were so numerous that she might well hesitate whom to choose, and more than one was hopeful of winning the prize.
It so happened that one evening, two of the gentlemen called at the same time at her father's house. They were friends, and were about to pass from the hall into the drawing-room, when they paused at the sound of music. Some one was playing a violin with exquisite skill, accompanied by the harpsicord, and a lady and gentleman were singing.
There was no mistaking the violinist, for there was only one in the neighborhood capable of so artistic work, while Mrs. Skelton had no superior as a player upon the harpsicord, the fashionable instrument of those days. Besides, it was easy to identify the rich, musical voice of Jefferson and the sweet tones of the young widow.
The gentlemen looked significantly at each other. Their feelings were the same.
"We are wasting our time," said one; "we may as well go home."
They quietly donned their hats and departed, leaving the ground to him who had manifestly already pre-empted it.
On New Year's day, 1772, Jefferson and Mrs. Skelton were married and no union was more happy. His affection was tender and romantic and they were devoted lovers throughout her life. Her health and wishes were his first consideration, and he resolved to accept no post or honor that would involve their separation, while she proved one of the truest wives with which any man was ever blessed of heaven. The death of his father-in-law doubled Jefferson's estate, a year after his marriage. His life as a gentleman farmer was an ideal one, and it is said that as a result of experimentation, Jefferson domesticated nearly every tree and shrub, native and foreign, that was able to stand the Virginia winters.
Jefferson's commanding ability, however, speedily thrust him into the stirring incidents that opened the Revolution. In September, 1774, his "Draught of Instructions" for Virginia's delegation to the congress in Philadelphia was presented. The convention refused to adopt his radical views, but they were published in a pamphlet and copies were send to England, where Edmund Burke had it republished with emendations of his own.
Great Britain viewed the paper as the extreme of insolence and punished the author by adding his name to the list of proscriptions enrolled in a bill of attainder.
Jefferson was present as a member of the convention, which met in the parish church at Richmond, in March, 1775, to consider the course that Virginia should take in the impending crisis. It was at that meeting that Patrick Henry electrified his hearers with the thrilling words:
"Gentlemen may cry, 'Peace, peace!' but there is no peace! The war has actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the North will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it the gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, GIVE ME LIBERTY, Or GIVE ME DEATH!"
Within the following month occurred the battle of Lexington.
Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry were members of the committee appointed to arrange a plan for preparing Virginia to act her part in the struggle. When Washington, June, 20, 1775, received his commission as commander-in-chief of the American army, Jefferson succeeded to the vacancy thus created, and the next day took his seat in congress.
A few hours later came the news of the battle of Bunker Hill.
Jefferson was an influential member of the body from the first. John Adams said of him: "he was so prompt, frank, explicit and decisive upon committees that he soon seized upon every heart." Virginia promptly re-elected him and the part he took in draughting the Declaration of Independence is known to every school boy.
His associates on the committee were Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. It was by their request that he prepared the document (see fac-simile, page 49,) done on the second floor of a small building, on the corner of Market and Seventh Streets. The house and the little desk, constructed by Jefferson himself, are carefully preserved.
The paper was warmly debated and revised in congress on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of July, 1776. The weather was oppressively hot, and on the last day an exasperating but providential invasion of the hall by a swarm of flies hurried the signing of the document. Some days afterward, the committee of which Jefferson was a member provided as a motto of the new seal, that perfect legend,—E Pluribus Unum.
The facts connected with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence must always be of profound interest. The public are inclined to think that our Magna Charta was accepted and signed with unbounded enthusiasm and that scarcely any opposition to it appeared, but the contrary was the fact.
While Jefferson was the author of the instrument, John Adams, more than any one man or half a dozen men brought about its adoption. When the question was afterward asked him, whether every member of congress cordially approved it, he replied, "Majorities were constantly against it. For many days the majority depended on Mr. Hewes of North Carolina. While a member one day was reading documents to prove that public opinion was in favor of the measure, Mr. Hewes suddenly started upright, and lifting up both hands to heaven, as if in a trance, cried out:
'It is done, and I will abide by it.'
I would give more for a perfect painting of the terror and horror of the faces of the old majority at that moment than for the best piece of Raphael."
Jefferson has given a synopsis of the arguments for and against the adoption of the Declaration. It will be remembered that the hope of the colonies or new States, even after the war had continued for a considerable time, was not so much independence as to extort justice from Great Britain.
Had this been granted, the separation would have been deferred and when it came, as come it must, probably would have been peaceable. At the same time, there was a strenuous, aggressive minority who was insistent from the first for a complete severance of the ties binding us to the mother country.
The debate in congress showed that New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not ready to take the irrevocable step, but it was evident that they were fast approaching that mood, and the wise leaders tarried in order to take them in their company.
In the vote of July 1, the Pennsylvania and South Carolina delegates still opposed, while those from New York did the same, contrary to their own convictions but in obedience to home instructions, which later were changed.
The signs of unanimity became unmistakable on the Second, and two days later, as every one knows, the adoption of the Declaration took place, though it was not until the Second of August that all the members, excepting John Dickinson had signed.
Five years passed before the Articles of Confederation were formally adopted by the states, by which time it had become clear that they must totally fail of their purpose, for each state decided for itself whether to respond to the demands of congress. The poison of nullification thus infused into the body politic at its birth bore baleful fruit in the years that followed.
On six separate occasions, there were overt acts on the part of the States.
The first occurred in 1798, when Virginia and Kentucky passed nullification resolutions.
The second was the attempt of New England in 1803 to form a northern confederacy, comprising five New England States, and New York and New Jersey. The third was Aaron Burr's wild scheme in the Southwest.
The fourth, the resolution of the New England States to withhold cooperation in the War of 1812.
The fifth, the nullification acts of South Carolina in 1832.
The sixth and last, the effort of eleven states to form the Southern Confederacy. This brought the burning issue to a head and settled the question for the ages to come.
It seems incredible in these times that the country submitted for a month to the intolerable Alien and Sedition acts. Should any congressman propose their reenactment to-day, he would be looked upon as a crank and be laughed out of court. They were enacted when Jefferson was Vice President and were the creation of the brilliant Alexander Hamilton, whose belief was in a monarchy rather than a republic.
The Sedition act made it a felony punishable with a fine of $5000 and five years imprisonment for persons to combine in order to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate persons from taking Federal office, or to commit or advise a riot or insurrection or unlawful assembly.
It declared further that the writing or publishing of any scandalous, malicious or false statement against the president or either house of congress should be punishable by a fine of $2000 and imprisonment for two years.
It will be noted that this law precluded all free discussion of an act of congress, or the conduct of the president.
In other words, it was meant to be the death blow to freedom of speech.
But bad as it was, the Alien act, which congress passed at the same session, 1798, was ten fold worse.
There had been much unrest caused by the intermeddling of foreigners in the States, and it was now decided that the president might drive out of the country any alien he chose thus to banish, and to do it without assigning any reason therefor. It was not necessary even to sue or to bring charges; if an alien receiving such notice from the president refused to obey, he could be imprisoned for three years.
President Adams afterward declared that he did not approve of this stern measure which was the work of Hamilton, and boasted that it was not enforced by him in a single instance.
Nevertheless, the Sedition act was enforced to a farcical degree.
When President Adams was passing through Newark, N. J., he was saluted by the firing of cannon. One of the cannoneers, who was strongly opposed to him, expressed the wish that he might be struck by some of the wadding. For this remark, he was arrested and compelled to pay a fine of one hundred dollars.
Editor Frothingham printed his belief that Hamilton wished to buy the Aurora for the purpose of suppressing it. For expressing that opinion he was fined and imprisoned. Thomas Cooper made the remark that in 1797 President Adams was "hardly in the infancy of political mistakes," and these mild words cost him $400 and kept him in prison for six months.
It is hard to believe that the following proceedings took place within the present hundred years in the United States of America, and yet they did.
In the case against Callender, Judge Chase denounced the accused to the jurors and forbade the marshals to place any one not a Federalist on the jury. The lawyers who defended Callender were threatened with corporal punishment.
In Otsego, N. Y., Judge Peck obtained signers to a petition for the repeal of the obnoxious acts. For such action he was indicted and taken to New York city for trial.
That was the sacred right of petition with a vengeance.
Matthew Lyon, while canvassing his district in Vermont for re-election to congress, charged the president in one of his speeches with "unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation and a selfish avarice," certainly mild expressions compared with what are heard in these times, but because of their utterance, Mr. Lyon spent four months in jail and paid a fine of $1000.
When he had served out his term and been re-elected, a strong effort was made to prevent his taking his seat. It failed and in 1840, his fine was returned to him with interest.
It can well be understood that the passage and enforcement of such iniquitous measures caused alarm and indignation throughout the country.
Edward Livingston declared that they would "disgrace Gothic barbarism." Jefferson's soul was stirred with the profoundest indignation. Under his inspiration, the Virginia assembly adopted resolutions calling on the state to nullify within its limits the enforcement of the Sedition act. The Alien and Sedition laws were declared unconstitutional, and the sister States were invited to unite in resisting them, "in order to maintain unimpaired the authorities, rights and liberties reserved to the States respectively or to the people."
These views were not only those of Jefferson, but of Patrick Henry, George Mason and nearly all leading Virginians.
Kentucky, the child of her loins, seconded the action of Virginia, urged thereto by Jefferson who moulded her resolutions.
The revolt against the measures was so widespread that the Alien act was repealed in 1800, and the Sedition act in the following year.
Having been essentially Federal measures, they were buried in the same grave with the Federal party.
Having rendered these invaluable services, Jefferson resigned his seat in congress, on account of the illness of his wife and the urgent need of his presence at home. Moreover, he had been elected a member of the legislature of his State and was anxious to purge its statute books of a number of objectionable laws.
He had hardly entered upon the work, when he was notified of his appointment as a joint commissioner with Franklin and Deane as representatives of the United States in France. After reflection, he declined the appointment, believing his duty at home was more important. That such was the fact was proven by his success in securing the repeal of the system of entail, thus allowing all property in the State to be held in fee simple, and by the abolishment of the connection between church and state. The latter required years in order to effect complete success, but it was reached at last.
How forceful were many of the expressions he employed during that contest, such as: "Compulsion makes hypocrites, not converts;" "Truth stands by itself; error alone needs the support of government."
Jefferson's committee abolished the frightful penalties of the ancient code; he set on foot the movement for the improvement of public education; he drew the bill for the establishment of courts of law in the State, and prescribing their methods and powers; he destroyed the principle of primogeniture, and brought about the removal of the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond.
Jefferson succeeded Patrick Henry as Governor of the State, at the opening of the year 1779. The two years were marked by incessant trial and the severest labor, for the war had reached Virginia soil and the State was desolated.
More than once the legislature was obliged to flee before the enemy; Gates was crushed at Camden; Arnold the traitor scourged Richmond with his raiders; Monticello itself was captured by cavalry, and Jefferson escaped only by a hair's breadth. His estate was trampled over, his horses stolen, his barns burned, his crops destroyed and many of his slaves run off.
He declined a third election, and in the autumn of 1782, to his inconsolable sorrow, his wife died, leaving three daughters, the youngest a babe.
In the following November, he took his seat in congress at Annapolis, and during that session he proposed and caused the adoption of our present system of decimal currency.
In May, 1784, he was again elected plenipotentiary to France to assist Franklin and Adams in negotiating commercial treaties with foreign nations. He arrived in Paris in July, and in May, succeeding, became sole plenipotentiary to the king of France for three years from March 10, 1785.
Jefferson's residence in France produced a profound impression upon him and had much to do in crystallizing his ideas of the true form of government.
That country was groveling under the heel of one of the most hideous systems that the baseness of man ever conceived. Who has not read of the nobleman who, when his coachman ran over a child and crushed out its life, was only concerned lest its blood should soil his carriage, or of the poor peasants who were compelled to beat the bogs all night long, to prevent the frogs from croaking and thereby disturbing the slumber of their lordly masters? The condition of no people could be more horrible, than that of the lower classes in France previous to the uprising, with its excesses that horrified the world.
Jefferson enjoyed the music, the art and the culture of the gay capital, but could never shake off the oppression caused by the misery of the people.
"They are ground to powder," he said, "by the vices of the form of government which is one of wolves over sheep, or kites over pigeons."
He took many journeys through the country and made it a practice to enter the houses of the peasants and talk with them upon their affairs and manner of living. He often did this, using his eyes at the same time with the utmost assiduity. All that he learned deepened the sad impression he had formed, and he saw with unerring prevision the appalling retribution that was at hand.
But Jefferson was not the officer to forget or neglect his duties to his own government, during the five years spent in France.
Algiers, one of the pestilent Barbary States, held a number of American captives which she refused to release except upon the payment of a large ransom. It had been the custom for years for the powerful Christian nations to pay those savages to let their ships alone, because it was cheaper to do so than to maintain a fleet to fight them. Jefferson strove to bring about a union of several nations with his own, for the purpose of pounding some sense into the heads of the barbarians and compelling them to behave themselves.
One reason why he did not succeed was because our own country had no navy with which to perform her part in the compact.
France, with that idiotic blindness which ruled her in those fearful days, maintained a protective system which prevented America from sending cheap food to starving people, nor was Jefferson able to effect more than a slight change in the pernicious law. One thing done by him made him popular with the masses. His "Notes on Virginia" was published both in French and English. Like everything that emanated from his master hand, it was well conceived and full of information. In addition, it glowed with republican sentiment and delighted the people. He was in Paris when his State legislature enacted the act for which he had so strenuously worked, establishing the freedom of religion. He had numerous copies of it printed in French and distributed. It struck another popular chord and received the ardent praise of the advanced Liberals.
Jefferson was too deeply interested in educational work to forget it among any surroundings. All new discoveries, inventions and scientific books were brought to the knowledge of the colleges in the United States, and he collected a vast quantity of seeds, roots and nuts for transplanting in American soil.
It need hardly be said that his loved Monticello was not forgotten, and, as stated elsewhere, he grew about everything of that nature that would stand the rigor of the Virginia winters. No office or honor could take away Jefferson's pride as a cultivator of the soil.
Returning to Virginia on leave of absence, in the autumn of 1789, he was welcomed with official honors and the cordial respect of his fellow citizens. On the same day he learned of his appointment by Washington as his Secretary of State.
He would have preferred to return to his former post, but yielded to the wishes of the first president, and, arriving in New York in March, 1790, entered at once upon the duties of his office.
In the cabinet Jefferson immediately collided with the brilliant Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury.
The two could no more agree than oil and water.
Jefferson was an intense republican-democrat, and was shocked and disgusted to find himself in an atmosphere of distrust of a republican system of government, with an unmistakable leaning toward monarchical methods. This feeling prevailed not only in society, but showed itself among the political leaders.
Jefferson's political creed may be summed up in his own words:
"The will of the majority is the natural law of every society and the only sure guardian of the rights of man; though this may err, yet its errors are honest, solitary and short-lived. We are safe with that, even in its deviations, for it soon returns again to the right way."
Hamilton believed in a strong, centralized government, and on nearly every measure that came before the cabinet, these intellectual giants wrangled. Their quarrels were so sharp that Washington was often distressed. He respected both too deeply to be willing to lose either, but it required all his tact and mastering influence to hold them in check. Each found the other so intolerable, that he wished to resign that he might be freed from meeting him.
Hamilton abhorred the French revolution, with its terrifying excesses, and Jefferson declared that no horror equalled that of France's old system of government.
Finally Jefferson could stand it no longer and withdrew from the cabinet January 1, 1794.
An equally potent cause for his resignation was the meagreness of his salary of $3500. It was wholly insufficient and his estate was going to ruin. He yearned to return to his beloved pursuit, that of a farmer.
The request by Washington to act as special envoy to Spain did not tempt him, but he allowed his name to be put forward as a candidate for the presidency in 1796. John Adams received 71 votes and Jefferson 68, which in accordance with the law at that time made him vice-president.
President Adams ignored him in all political matters, and Jefferson found the chair of presiding officer of the senate congenial. He presided with dignity and great acceptability, and his "Manual of Parliamentary Practice" is still the accepted authority in nearly all of our deliberative bodies.
The presidential election of 1800 will always retain its place among the most memorable in our history.
The Federalists had controlled the national government for twelve years, or ever since its organization, and they were determined to prevent the elevation of Jefferson, the founder of the new Republican party. The Federal nominees were John Adams for president and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney for vice-president, while the Republican vote was divided between Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
A favorite warning on the part of those who see their ideas threatened with overthrow is that our country is "trembling on the verge of revolution." How many times in the past twenty-five, ten and five years have ranting men and women proclaimed from the housetops that we were "on the verge of revolution?" According to these wild pessimists the revolution is always at hand, but somehow or other it fails to arrive. The probabilities are that it has been permanently side-tracked.
During the campaign of 1800, Hamilton sounded the trumpet of alarm, when he declared in response to a toast:
"If Mr. Pinckney is not elected, a revolution will be the consequence, and within four years I will lose my head or be the leader of a triumphant army."
The Federalist clergy joined in denouncing Jefferson on the ground that he was an atheist. The Federalists said what they chose, but when the Republicans grew too careless they were fined and imprisoned under the Sedition law.
The exciting canvas established one fact: there was no man in the United States so devotedly loved and so fiercely hated as Thomas Jefferson. New York had twelve electoral votes, and because of the Alien and Sedition laws she withheld them from Adams and cast them upon the Republican side.
It may not be generally known that it was because of this fact that New York gained its name of the "Empire State."
The presidential vote was: Jefferson, 73; Burr, 73; John Adams, 65; C. C. Pinckney, 64; Jay, 1. There being a tie between the leading candidates, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, which assembled on the 11th of February, 1801, to make choice between Burr and Jefferson.
It is to the credit of Hamilton that, knowing the debased character of Burr, he used his utmost influence against him.
A great snow storm descended upon the little town of Washington and the excitement became intense. On the first ballot, eight States voted for Jefferson and six for Burr, while Maryland and Vermont were equally divided. All the Federalists voted for Burr with the single exception of Huger of South Carolina, not because of any love for Burr, but because he did not hate him as much as he did Jefferson.
Mr. Nicholson of Maryland was too ill to leave his bed. Without his vote, his State would have been given to Burr, but with it, the result in Maryland would be a tie.
It was a time when illness had to give way to the stern necessity of the case, and the invalid was wrapped up and brought on his bed through the driving snow storm and placed in one of the committee rooms of the house, with his wife at his side, administering medicines and stimulants night and day. On each vote the ballot box was brought to the bed side and his feeble hand deposited the powerful bit of paper.
Day after day, the balloting went on until thirty-five ballots had been cast.
By that time, it was clear that no break could be made in the Jefferson columns and it was impossible to elect Burr. When the thirty-sixth ballot was cast, the Federalists of Maryland, Delaware and South Carolina threw blanks and the Federalists of Vermont stayed away, leaving their Republican brothers to vote those States for Jefferson. By this slender chance did the republic escape a calamity, and secure the election of Jefferson for president with Burr for vice-president.
The inauguration of the third president was made a national holiday throughout the country. The church bells were rung, the military paraded, joyous orations were delivered, and many of the newspapers printed in full the Declaration of Independence.
The closeness of the election resulted in a change in the electoral law by which the president and vice-president must of necessity belong to the same political party.
Jefferson had every reason to feel proud of his triumph, but one of the finest traits of his character was his magnanimity.
The irascible Adams made an exhibition of himself on the 4th of March, when in a fit of rage, he rose before day-light and set out in his coach for Massachusetts, refusing to wait and take part in the inauguration of his successor. With the mellowness of growing years, he realized the silliness of the act, and he and Jefferson became fully reconciled and kept up an affectionate correspondence to the end of their lives.
Jefferson did all he could to soothe the violent party feeling that had been roused during the election. This spirit ran like a golden thread through his first excellently conceived inaugural. He reminded his fellow citizens that while they differed in opinion, there was no difference in principle, and put forth the following happy thought:
"We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us, who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."
There can be little doubt that he had Hamilton in mind when he answered, as follows, in his own forceful way the radical views of that gifted statesman.
"Some honest men fear that a republican government cannot be strong, that this government is not strong enough. I believe this, on the contrary, is the strongest government on earth. I believe it is the only one where every man, at the call of the laws, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern."
It was characteristic of Jefferson's nobility that one of his first efforts was to undo, so far as he could, the mischief effected by the detested Sedition law. Every man who was in durance because of its operation was pardoned, and he looked upon the law as "a nullity as obsolete and palpable, as if congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image."
He addressed friendly and affectionate letters to Kosciusko and others, and invited them to be his guests at the White House. Samuel Adams of Massachusetts had been shamefully abused during the canvas, but he felt fully compensated by the touching letter from the president. Thomas Paine was suffering almost the pangs of starvation in Paris, and Jefferson paid his passage home. Everywhere that it was possible for Jefferson to extend the helping hand he did so with a delicacy and a tact, that won him multitudes of friends and stamped him as one of nature's noblemen.
The new president selected an able cabinet, consisting of James Madison, Secretary of State; Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury; Henry Dearborn, Secretary of War; Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy; Gideon Granger, Postmaster-general; Levi Lincoln, Attorney General. This household proved a veritable "happy family," all working together in harmony throughout the two terms, and Jefferson declared that if he had his work to do over again, he would select the same advisers without exception.
Although the policy, "to the victors belong the spoils," had not been formulated at that time, its spirit quickened the body politic. Jefferson's supporters expected him to turn out a part at least of the Federalists, who held nearly all the offices, but he refused, on the principle that a competent and honest office holder should not be removed because of his political opinions. When he, therefore, made a removal, it was as a rule, for other and sufficient reasons.
But he did not hesitate to show his dislike of the ceremony that prevailed around him. He stopped the weekly levee at the White House, and the system of precedence in force at the present time; also the appointment of fast and thanksgiving days. He dressed with severe simplicity and would not permit any attention to be paid him as president which would be refused him as a private citizen. In some respects, it must be conceded that this remarkable man carried his views to an extreme point.
The story, however, that he rode his horse alone to the capitol, and, tying him to the fence, entered the building, unattended, lacks confirmation.
Jefferson was re-elected in 1804, by a vote of 162 to 14 for Pinckney, who carried only two States out of the seventeen.
The administrations of Jefferson were marked not only by many important national events, but were accompanied by great changes in the people themselves. Before and for some years after the Revolution, the majority were content to leave the task of thinking, speaking and acting to the representatives, first of the crown and then to their influential neighbors. The property qualification abridged the right to vote, but the active, hustling nature of the Americans now began to assert itself. The universal custom of wearing wigs and queues was given up and men cut their own hair short and insisted that every free man should have the right to vote.
Jefferson was the founder and head of the new order of things, and of the republican party, soon to take the name of democratic, which controlled all the country with the exception of New England.
Our commerce increased enormously, for the leading nations of Europe were warring with one another; money came in fast and most of the national debt was paid.
Louisiana with an area exceeding all the rest of the United States, was bought from France in 1803, for $15,000,000, and from the territory were afterward carved the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana, Oklahoma, the Indian Territory and most of the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming.
The upper Missouri River and the Columbia River country to the Pacific Ocean were explored in 1804-6, by Lewis and Clarke, the first party of white men to cross the continent north of Mexico. Ohio was admitted to the Union in 1802. Fulton's steamboat, the Clermont made her maiden trip from New York to Albany in 1807. The first boatload of anthracite coal was shipped to Philadelphia, and it was a long time before the people knew what to do with it.
The Tripolitan Pirates were snuffed out (1801-1805). The blight of the Embargo Act settled upon our commerce in 1807, in which year the opening gun of the War of 1812 was fired when the Leopard outraged the Chesapeake.
The Embargo Act was a grievous mistake of Jefferson, though its purpose was commendable. Under the plea of securing our ships against capture, its real object was to deprive England and France of the commodities which could be secured only in the United States. This measure might have been endurable for an agricultural people, but it could not be borne by a commercial and manufacturing one, like New England, whose goods must find their market abroad. Under the Embargo Act, the New England ships were rotting and crumbling to pieces at her wharves. It was not long before she became restless. The measure was first endorsed by the Massachusetts legislature, but the next session denounced it.
Early in 1809, congress passed an act allowing the use of the army and navy to enforce the embargo and make seizures.
The Boston papers printed the act in mourning and, meetings were called to memorialize the legislature. That body took strong ground, justifying the course of Great Britain, demanding of congress that it should repeal the embargo and declare war against France. Moreover, the enforcement act was declared "not legally binding," and resistance to it was urged.
This was as clear a case of nullification as that of South Carolina in 1832.
Connecticut was as hot-headed as Massachusetts.
John Quincy Adams has stated that at that time the "Essex Junto" agreed upon a New England convention to consider the expediency of secession. Adams denounced the plotters so violently that the Massachusetts legislature censured him by vote, upon which he resigned his seat in the United States senate.
The Embargo Act was passed by congress, December 22, 1807, at the instance of Jefferson, and repealed February 28, 1809, being succeeded by the Non-Intercourse Act, which forbade French and British vessels to enter American ports. It was mainly due to Jefferson's consummate tact that war with Great Britain was averted after the Leopard and Chesapeake affair, and he always maintained that had his views been honestly carried out by the entire nation, we should have obtained all we afterward fought for, without the firing of a hostile gun.
When on March 4, 1809, Jefferson withdrew forever from public life, he was in danger of being arrested in Washington for debt. He was in great distress, but a Richmond bank helped him for a time with a loan. He returned to Monticello, where he lived with his only surviving daughter Martha, her husband and numerous children, and with the children of his daughter Maria, who had died in 1804.
He devoted hard labor and many years to the perfection of the common school system in Virginia, and was so pleased with his establishment of the college at Charlottesville, out of which grew the University of Virginia, that he had engraved on his tombstone, "Father of the University of Virginia," and was prouder of the fact than of being the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Meanwhile, his lavish hospitality carried him lower and lower into poverty. There was a continual procession of curious visitors to Monticello, and old women poked their umbrellas through the window panes to get a better view of the grand old man. Congress in 1814, paid him $23,000 for his library which was not half its value. Some time afterward a neighbor obtained his name as security on a note for $20,000 and left him to pay it all.
In the last year of his life, when almost on the verge of want, $16,500 was sent to him as a present from friends in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, more than one-half being raised by Mayor Hone of New York. Jefferson was moved to tears, and in expressing his gratitude said, he was thankful that not a penny had been wrung from taxpayers.
In the serene sunset of life, the "Sage of Monticello" peacefully passed away on the afternoon of July 4, 1826, and a few hours later, John Adams, at his home in Quincy, Mass., breathed his last. A reverent hush fell upon the country, at the thought of these two great men, one the author of the Declaration of Independence and the other the man who brought about its adoption, dying on the fiftieth anniversary of its signing, and many saw a sacred significance in the fact.
Horace Greeley in referring to the co-incidence, said there was as much probability of a bushel of type flung into the street arranging themselves so as to print the Declaration of Independence, as there was of Jefferson and Adams expiring on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of that instrument; and yet one alternative of the contingency happened and the other never can happen.
Jefferson's liberal views have caused him to be charged with infidelity.
He profoundly respected the moral character of Christ, but did not believe in divine redemption through Christ's work. His dearest aim was to bring down the aristocracy and elevate the masses.
He regarded slavery as a great moral and political evil, and in referring to it said: "I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just."
No more humane slave owner ever lived, and his servants regarded him with almost idolatrous affection, while his love of justice, his hospitality, his fairness to all and his winning personality disarmed enmity and gave him many of his truest and warmest friends from among his political opponents.
A peculiar fact connected with Jefferson is the difference among his portraits. This is due to the varying periods at which they were made. As we have stated, he was raw-boned, freckled and ungainly in his youth, but showed a marked improvement in middle life. When he became old, many esteemed him good looking, though it can hardly be claimed that he was handsome.
When Jefferson was eighty years old, Daniel Webster wrote the following description of the venerable "Sage of Monticello:"
"Never in my life did I see his countenance distorted by a single bad passion or unworthy feeling. I have seen the expression of suffering, bodily and mental, of grief, pain, sadness, disagreeable surprise and displeasure, but never of anger, impatience, peevishness, discontent, to say nothing of worse or more ignoble emotions. To the contrary, it was impossible to look on his face without being struck with the benevolent, intelligent, cheerful and placid expression. It was at once intellectual, good, kind and pleasant, whilst his tall, spare figure spoke of health, activity and that helpfulness, that power and will, 'never to trouble another for what he could do himself,' which marked his character."
This sketch may well be closed with Jefferson's own words regarding life and happiness.
"Perfect happiness, I believe, was never intended by the Deity to be the lot of one of his creatures in this world; but that He has very much put it in our power the nearness of our approach to it, is what I have steadfastly believed.
"The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes, which may greatly afflict us; and to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes should be one of the principal studies and endeavors of our lives.
"The only method of doing this is to assume a perfect resignation to the Divine will, to consider that whatever does happen must happen, and that by our uneasiness we cannot prevent the blow before it does fall, but we may add to its force after it has fallen.
"These considerations, and others such as these, may enable us in some measure to surmount the difficulties thrown in our way, to bear up with a tolerable degree of patience under this burden of life, and to proceed with a pious and unshaken resignation till we arrive at our journey's end, when we may deliver up our trust into the hands of Him who gave it, and receive such reward as to Him shall seem proportionate to our merits."
THOMAS JEFFERSON. (1743-1826), By G. Mercer Adam
JEFFERSON, when he penned the famous Declaration of Independence, which broke all hope of reconciliation with the motherland and showed England what the deeply-wronged Colonies of the New World unitedly desired and would in the last resort fight for, had then just passed his thirty-third birthday. Who was the man, and what were his upbringings and status in the then young community, that inspired the writing of this great historic document—a document that on its adoption gave these United States an ever-memorable national birthday, and seven years later, by the Peace of Versailles, wrung from Britain recognition of the independence of the country and ushered it into the great sisterhood of Nations? To his contemporaries and a later political age, Jefferson, in spite of his culture and the aristocratic strain in his blood, is known as the advocate of popular sovereignty and the champion of democracy in matters governmental, as United States minister to France between the years 1784-89, as Secretary of State under Washington, and as U. S. President from 1801 to 1809. By education and bent of mind, he was, however, an idealist in politics, a thinker and writer, rather than a debater and speaker, and one who in his private letters, State papers, and public documents did much to throw light, in his era, on the origin and development of American political thought. A man of fine education and of noble, elevated character, he earned distinction among his fellows, and though opposed politically by many prominent statesmen of the day, who, like Washington, Hamilton, and Adams, were in favor of a strong centralized government, while Jefferson, in the interests of the masses, feared encroachments on State and individual liberty, he was nevertheless paid the respect, consideration, and regard of his generation, as his services have earned the gratitude and his memory the endearing commendation of posterity.
The illustrious statesman was born April 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," his father's home in the hill country of central Virginia, about 150 miles from Williamsburg, once the capital of the State, and the seat of William and Mary college, where Jefferson received his higher education. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a planter, owning an estate of about 2,000 acres, cultivated, as was usual in Virginia, by slave labor. His mother was a Miss Randolph, and well connected; to her the future President owed his aristocratic blood and refined tastes, and with good looks a fine, manly presence. By her, Thomas, who was the third of nine children, was in his childhood's days gently nurtured, though himself fond of outdoor life and invigorating physical exercise. His father died when his son was but fourteen, and to him he bequeathed the Roanoke River estate, afterwards rebuilt and christened "Monticello." His studies at the time were pursued under a fairly good classical scholar; and on passing to college he there made diligent use of his time in the study of history, literature, the sciences, and mathematics.
When he left college Jefferson took up the study of law under the direction of George Wythe, afterwards Chancellor, then a rising professional man of high attainments, to whom the youth seems to have been greatly indebted as mentor and warm, abiding friend. He was also fortunate in the acquaintance he was able to make among many of the best people of Virginia, including some historic names, such as Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph, and Francis Fauquier, the lieutenant-governor of the province, a gentleman with strong French proclivities, and a devoted student of the destructive writings of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot, that had much to do in bringing on the French Revolution. By his father's death, he acquired a modest income, besides his little estate, and the former he added to by his legal practice when, in 1767, he obtained his diploma as a lawyer. In 1769, he became a member of the House of Burgesses along with Washington and other prominent Virginians, and with the exception of brief intervals he served with distinction until the outbreak of the Revolution. In 1772, he married a young widow in good circumstances, and this enabled him to add alike to his income and to his patrimony. About the time of the meeting of the Colonial Convention, called in 1775, to choose delegates for the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, at which Patrick Henry was present, the youthful Jefferson, now known as an able political writer, wrote his "Summary View of the Rights of British America"—a trenchant protest against English taxation of the Colonies, which had considerable influence in creating public feeling favorable to American Independence.
The effect of this notable utterance was, later on, vastly increased by the draft he prepared of the Declaration of Independence, the latter immortal document being somewhat of a transcript of views set forth by Jefferson in his former paper, as well as of ideas expressed by the English philosopher, John Locke, in his "Theory of Government," and by Rousseau, in his "Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men;" though the circumstances of the Colonies at this time were of course different; while to England and the European nations the Declaration was a startling revelation of the attitude now assumed by the great leaders of the movement for separation as well as for freedom and independence. In the passing of this great national charter John Adams, as all know, was of much service to Jefferson in the debate over it in committee, as well as in the subsequent ratification of it by the House. Franklin was also of assistance in its revision in draft form; and most happy was the result, not only in the ultimate passing of the great historic document, but in its affirmation of the intelligent stand taken by the Colonies against England and her monarch, and in its pointed definition of the theory of democratic government on which the new fabric of popular rule in the New World was founded and raised.
In the autumn of 1776, Jefferson resigned his seat in Congress, or rather declined re-election to the Third Continental Congress, and retired for a time to his Virginia home. He also, at this period, declined appointment to France on the mission on which Franklin had set out; nevertheless, we presently find him a member of the legislature of his own State, taking part in passing measures in which he was particularly interested. Many of these measures are indicative of the breadth of mind and large, tolerant views for which Jefferson was noted, viz.: the repeal in Virginia of the laws of entail; the abolition of primogeniture and the substitution of equal partition of inheritance; the affirmation of the rights of conscience and the relief of the people from taxation for the support of a religion not their own; and the introduction of a general system of education, so that the people, as the author of these beneficent acts himself expressed it, "would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government." Other measures included the abolition of capital punishment, save for murder and treason, and an embargo placed on the importation of slaves, though Jefferson failed in his larger design of freeing all slaves, as he desired, hoping that this would be done throughout the entire country, while also beneficently extending to them white aid and protection.
In 1779, Jefferson succeeded Patrick Henry in the governorship of Virginia. This was the period when the English were prosecuting their campaigns in the South, checked by General Nathaniel Greene—when South Carolina was being overrun by Cornwallis, and Virginia itself was invaded by expeditions from New York under Philips and Arnold. As Jefferson had no military abilities, indeed, was a recluse rather than a man of action, the administration of his native Province, while able and efficient, was lacking in the notable incident which the then crisis of affairs would naturally call forth. Even his own Virginia homestead was at this time raided by the English cavalry officer, Colonel Tarleton, and much of his property was either desolated or stolen. This occasioned bitter resentment against the English in Jefferson's mind; while the serious illness and early death of his loved wife, which occurred just then, led him to surrender office and return for a time to the seclusion of his home.
Meanwhile, thrice was the offer made to the fast-budding statesman to proceed to France as ambassador; and only on the post being pressed upon him for the fourth time did he accept its duties and responsibilities and set out, accompanied by a daughter whom he wished to have educated abroad, for Paris in the summer of 1784.
In the post now vacated by Franklin, Jefferson remained for five years, until the meeting of the French Estates-General and the outbreak of the Revolution against absolute monarchy and the theory of the State in France upon which it rested. With French society, Jefferson, even more than his predecessor, was greatly enamored, and was on intimate terms with the savants of the era, including those who by their writings had precipitated the French Revolution, with all its excesses and horrors. The latter, it is true, filled Jefferson with dismay on his return to America, though dear to him were the principles which the apostles of revolution advocated and the wellbeing of the people, in spite of the anarchy that ensued. What diplomatic business was called for during his holding the post of minister, Jefferson efficiently conducted, and with the courtesy as well as sagacity which marked all his relations as a publicist and man of the world. Unlike John Adams, who with Franklin had been his predecessor as American envoy to France, he was on good terms with the French minister, Count Vergennes; while he shut his eyes, which Adams could not do, to the lack of disinterestedness in French friendliness toward the Colonies and remembered only the practical and timely service the nation had rendered to his country. Jefferson added to his services at this era by his efforts to suppress piracy in the Mediterranean, on the part of corsairs belonging to the Barbary States, which he further checked, later on, by the bombardment of Tripoli and the punishment administered to Algiers during the Tripolitan war (1801-05), for her piratical attacks on neutral commerce.
After traveling considerably through Europe and informing himself as to the character and condition of the people in the several countries visited, Jefferson returned to America just at the time when Washington was elected to the Presidency. In his absence, the Federal Convention had met at Philadelphia, the Constitution of the United States had been adopted and ratified, and the government had been organized with its executive departments, then limited to five, viz.: The State Department, the Treasury, the War Department, the Department of Justice, and the Post-office. The Judiciary had also been organized and the Supreme Court founded. With these organizations of the machinery of government came presently the founding of parties, especially the rise of the Republican or Democratic party, as it was subsequently called, in opposition to the Federalist party, then led by Hamilton, Jay, and Morris. At this juncture, on the return of Jefferson from the French mission, and after a visit to his home in Virginia, Washington offered him the post of Secretary of State, which he accepted, and entered upon the duties of that office in New York in March, 1791. His chief colleague in the Cabinet, soon now to become his political opponent, was Alexander Hamilton, who had charge of the finances, as head of the Treasury department. Between these two men, as chiefs of the principal departments of government, President Washington had an anxious time of it in keeping the peace, for each was insistently arrayed against the other, not only in their respective attitudes toward England and in the policy of the administration in the then threatening war with France, but also as to the powers the National Government should be entrusted with in relation to the legislatures of the separate states. What Jefferson specially feared, with his firmly held views as to the independence of public opinion, and especially his hatred of monarchy and all its ways, was that the conservative and aristocratic influences of the environment of New York, hardly as yet escaped from the era of royal and Tory dominion and submission to the English Crown, might fashion the newly federated nation upon English models and give it a complexion far removed, socially as well as politically, from Republican simplicity, coupled with a disposition to aggress upon and dictate to the individual states of the Union, to their nullification and practical effacement.
For this apparent tendency, Jefferson specially blamed Hamilton, since his tastes as well as his sympathies were known to be aristocratic, as indeed were Washington's, in his fondness for courtly dignity and the trappings and ceremonies of high office. But his antagonism to Hamilton was specially called forth by the latter's creation of a National Bank, with its tendency to aggrandize power and coerce or control votes at the expense of the separate States. He further was opposed to the great financier and aristocrat for his leanings toward England and against France, in the war that had then broken out between these nations, and for his sharp criticism of the draft of the message to Congress on the relations of France and England, which Jefferson had penned, and which was afterwards to influence Washington in issuing the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793. In this attitude toward Hamilton and the administration, of which both men were members, Jefferson was neither selfish nor scheming, but, on the contrary, was discreet and patriotic, as well as just and high-minded. "What he desired supremely," as has been well stated by a writer, "was the triumph of democratic principles, since he saw in this triumph the welfare of the country—the interests of the many against the ascendancy of the few—the real reign of the people, instead of the reign of an aristocracy of money or birth." In this opposition to his chief and able colleague, and feeling strongly on the matters which constantly brought him into collision with the centralizing designs of the President and the preponderating influence in the Cabinet hostile to his views, Jefferson resigned his post in December, 1793, and retired for a time to his estate at Monticello.
Jefferson always relished the period of his brief retirements to his Virginia home, where he could enjoy his library, entertain his friends, and overlook his estates. There, too, he took a lively interest in popular and higher education, varied by outlooks on the National situation, not always pleasing to him, as in the case of Jay's treaty with England (1794-95), which shortly afterwards proved fatal to that statesman's candidature for the Presidential office. Meanwhile, the contentions and rivalries of the political parties grew apace; and in 1797, just before the retirement of Washington at the close of his second administration, the struggle between Democrats and Federalists became focussed on the prize of the Presidency—the "Father of his Country" having declined to stand for a third term. The candidates, we need hardly say, were John Adams, who had been Vice President in Washington's administration, and Thomas Jefferson, the former being the standard-bearer of the Federalists, and the latter the candidate of the anti-Federal Republicans. The contest ended by Adams securing the Presidency by three votes (71 to 68) over Jefferson, who thus, according to the usage of the time, became Vice-President.
The Adams' Administration, though checkered by divided counsels and by the machinations of party, was on the whole beneficial to the country. It had, however, to face new complications with France, then under the Directory. These complications arose, in part, from soreness over the passing of the Jay treaty with England, and in part because America could not be bled for money through its envoys, at the bidding of unscrupulous members of the Directory. The situation was for a time so grave as to incite to war preparations in the United States, and to threatened naval demonstrations against France. Nor were matters improved by the enforcement of the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), directed against those deemed dangerous to the peace and safety of the country, or who, like the more violent members of the Press, published libels on the Government. The storm which these obnoxious Acts evoked led to their speedy repeal, though not before Jefferson and Madison had denounced them as fetters on the freedom of public speech and infringements of the rights of the people. They were moreover resented as not being in harmony with the Constitution, as a compact to which the individual States of the Union were parties, and which Jefferson especially deemed to be in jeopardy from Federalist legislation.
The result of these agitations of the period, and of breaches, which had now come about, between the Adams and Hamilton wings of the Federalist party, showed itself in the Presidential campaign of 1800. Washington, by this time, had passed from earthly scenes, and the coming nineteenth century was to bring such changes and developments in the young nation as few then foresaw or even dreamed of. At this era, when the Adams Administration was about to close, Jefferson, in spite of his known liberal, democratic views, was one of the most popular of political leaders, save with the Federalists, now dwindling in numbers and influence. He it was who was put forward on the Republican side for the Presidency, while Adams, still favored by the Federalists and himself desiring a second term of office, became the Federalist candidate. Associated with the latter in the contest was Charles C. Pinckney, of South Carolina, who was named for the Vice-Presidency; while the Republican candidate for the minor post was Aaron Burr, an able but unscrupulous politician of New York. When the electoral votes were counted, Jefferson and Burr, it was found, had each received seventy-three votes; while Adams secured sixty-five and Pinckney sixty-four votes. The tie between Jefferson and Burr caused the election to be thrown into the House of Representatives, where the Federalists were still strong, and who, in their dislike of Jefferson, reckoned on finally giving the Presidency to Burr. To this, Hamilton, however, magnanimously objected, and in the end Jefferson secured the Presidential prize, while to Burr fell the Vice-Presidency.
For the next eight years, until the coming of Madison's Administration, Jefferson was at the helm of national affairs, assisted by an able Cabinet, the chief members of which were James Madison, Secretary of State, and the Swiss financier, Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury. Aaron Burr, as we have recorded, was Vice-President, though the relations of Jefferson with him were far from cordial, owing to his political intrigues, which led the President ultimately to eschew him and distrust his character. Jefferson's attitude toward the man was later on shown to be well justified, as the result of Burr's hateful quarrel with Alexander Hamilton, and his mortally wounding that eminent statesman in a duel, which doomed him to political and social ostracism. It was still further intensified by Burr's treasonable attempt to seduce the West out of the Union and to found with it and Mexico a rival Republic, with the looked-for aid of Britain. These unscrupulous acts occurred in Jefferson's second term; and, failing in his conspiracy, Burr deservedly brought upon himself national obloquy, as well as prosecution for treason, though nothing came of the latter.
Some two years after Jefferson's assumption of office, Ohio was admitted as a State into the Union. The next year (1803) saw, however, an enormous extension of the national domain, thanks to the President's far-seeing, if at the time unconstitutional, policy. This was the purchase from France, at the cost of $15,000,000, of Louisiana, a vast territory lying between the Mississippi, the Rocky Mountains, and the Rio Grande, which had been originally settled by the French, and by their government ceded in 1763 to Spain as a set-off for Florida, while the French King at the same time ceded his other possessions on this continent to England. In 1800, Napoleon had forced Spain to re-cede Louisiana to France, as the price of the First Consul's uncertain goodwill and other intangible or elusive favors. At this period, France desired to occupy the country, or at least to form a great seaport at New Orleans, the entrepot of the Mississippi, that might be of use to her against English warships in the region of the West Indies. When news of the transfer of Louisiana to France reached this side of the water, Jefferson was greatly exercised over it, and had notions of off-setting it by some joint action with Great Britain. His inducement to this unwonted course, considering his hatred of England and love for France, was his knowledge of the fact that French occupation of Louisiana meant the closing of the Mississippi to American commerce.
The purchase of Louisiana, which at one stroke more than doubled the existing area of the nation, was at first hotly opposed, especially by the Federalists. It was deemed by them an unwarrantable stretch of the Constitution on Jefferson's part, both in negotiating for it as a then foreign possession without authority from Congress, and in pledging the country's resources in its acquisition. The President was, however, sustained in his act, not only by the Senate, which ratified the purchase, but by the hearty approval and acclaim of the people. Happily at this time the nation was ready for the acquisition and in good shape financially to pay for it, since the country was prospering, and its finances, thanks to the President's policy of economy and retrenchment, were adequate to assume the burden involved in the purchase. The national debt at this period was being materially reduced, and with its reduction came, of course, the saving on the interest charge; while the national income and credit were encouragingly rising. Though the economical condition of the United States was thus favorable at this era, the state of trade, hampered by the policy of commercial restriction against foreign commerce, then prevailing, was not as satisfactory as the shippers of the East and the commercial classes desired. The reason of this was the unsettled relations of the United States with foreign countries, and especially with England, whose policy had been and still was to thwart the New World republic and harass its commerce and trade. To this England was incited by the bitter memories of the Revolutionary war and her opposition to rivalry as mistress of the seas. Hence followed, on the part of the United States, the non-Importation Act, the Embargo Act of 1807-08, and other retaliatory measures of Jefferson's administration, coupled with reprisals at sea and other expedients to offset British empressment of American sailors and the right of search, so ruthlessly and annoyingly put in force against the newborn nation and her maritime people. The English people themselves, or a large proportion of them at least, were as strongly opposed to these aggressions of their government as were Americans, and while their voice effected little in the way of amelioration, it brought the two peoples once more distinctly nearer to the resort to war. Meanwhile, the Embargo Act had become so irritating to our own people that the Jefferson administration was compelled to repeal it, though saving its face, for the time being, by the enforcement of the non-intercourse law, which imposed stringent restrictions upon British and French ships entering American harbors.
Such are the principal features of the Jefferson administration and the more important questions with which it had to deal. Among other matters which we have not noted were the organization of the United States Courts; the removal of the seat of government from Philadelphia to Washington; the party complexion of Jefferson's appointments to the civil service, in spite of his expressed design to be non-partisan in the selection to office; and the naming of men for the foreign embassies, such as James Monroe as plenipotentiary to France, assisted at the French Court by Robert R. Livingstone, and at the Spanish Court by Charles C. Pinckney. Other matters to which Jefferson gave interested attention include the dispatch of the explorers, Lewis and Clarke, to report on the features of the Far Western country, then in reality a wilderness, and to reclaim the vast unknown region for civilization. The details of this notable expedition up the Missouri to its source, then on through the Indian country across the Rockies to the Pacific, need not detain us, since the story is familiar to all. With the Louisiana purchase, it opened up great tracts of the continent, later on to become habitable and settled areas, and make a great and important addition to the public domain. In the appointment of the expedition and the interest taken in it, Jefferson showed his intelligent appreciation of what was to become of high value to the country, and ere long result in a land of beautiful homes to future generations of its hardy people.
At the close of his second term in the Presidential chair (1809) Jefferson retired once more, and finally, to "Monticello," after over forty years of almost continuous public service. His career in this high office was entirely worthy of the man, being that of an honorable and public-spirited, as well as an able and patriotic, statesman. If not so astute and sagacious as some who have held the presidency, especially in failing to see where his political principles, if carried out to their logical conclusions, would lead, his conscientiousness and liberality of mind prevented him from falling gravely into error or making any very fatal mistakes. Though far from orthodox,—indeed, a freethinker he may be termed, in matters of religious belief, his personal life was most exemplary, and his relations with his fellowmen were ever just, honorable, and upright. He had no gifts as a speaker, but was endowed highly as a writer and thinker; and, generally, was a man of broad intelligence, unusual culture for his time, and possessed a most alert and enlightened mind. His interest in education and the liberal arts was great, and with his consideration for the deserving poor and those in class servitude, was indulged in at no inconsiderable cost to his pocket. His hospitality was almost a reproach to him, as his impoverished estates and diminished fortunes in the latter part of his life attest. His faith in democracy as a form of government was unbounded, as was his loyalty to that beneficent political creed summed up in the motto—"Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." "As a president," writes the lecturer, Dr. John Lord, "he is not to be compared with Washington for dignity, for wisdom, for consistency, or executive ability. Yet, on the whole, he has left a great name for giving shape to the institutions of his country, and for intense patriotism."
"Jefferson's manners," records the same entertaining writer, "were simple, his dress was plain, he was accessible to everybody, he was boundless in his hospitalities, he cared little for money, his opinions were liberal and progressive, he avoided quarrels, he had but few prejudices, he was kind and generous to the poor and unfortunate, he exalted agricultural life, he hated artificial splendor, and all shams and lies. In his morals he was irreproachable, unlike Hamilton and Burr; he never made himself ridiculous, like John Adams, by egotism, vanity, and jealousy; he was the most domestic of men, worshipped by his family and admired by his guests; always ready to communicate knowledge, strong in his convictions, perpetually writing his sincere sentiments and beliefs in letters to his friends,—as upright and honest a man as ever filled a public station, and finally retiring to private life with the respect of the whole nation, over which he continued to exercise influence after he had parted with power. And when he found himself poor and embarrassed in consequence of his unwise hospitality, he sold his library, the best in the country, to pay his debts, as well as the most valuable part of his estate, yet keeping up his cheerfulness and serenity of temper, and rejoicing in the general prosperity,—which was produced by the ever-expanding energies and resources of a great country, rather than by the political theories which he advocated with so much ability."
In Jefferson's own mind, just what was the essence of his political gospel we ascertain from a succinct yet comprehensive passage in his able First Inaugural Address. In that address President Jefferson sets forth instructively what he terms the essential principles of government, and those upon which, as he conceives, his own administration was founded and by which it was guided. The governing principles it affirms are:— "Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people; a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution, where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority—economy in the public expenditure, that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment of our debts, and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaiden; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person, under the protection of the Habeas Corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed of our political faith; the text of civic instruction; the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."
Jefferson had completed his sixty-sixth year when he relinquished the presidency to his friend and pupil, James Madison, and retired to his loved Virginia home. There he lived on for seventeen years, enjoying the esteem and respect of the nation, and taking active interest in his favorite schemes on behalf of education in his native state and his helpful work in founding the college which was afterwards expanded into the University of Virginia. His interest in national affairs, up to the last, remained keen and fervid, as the vast collection of his published correspondence show, as well as his many visiting contemporaries attest. In the winter of 1825-6, his health began to fail, and in the following spring he made his will and prepared for posterity the original draft of his great historic achievement as a writer and patriot—the Declaration of Independence. As the year (1826) wore on, he expressed a wish to live until the fiftieth anniversary of the nation's independence, a wish that, as in the case of his distinguished contemporary, John Adams, was granted by the favor of Heaven, and he died on the 4th of July, mourned by the whole country. In numberless quarters, funeral honors were paid to his memory, the more memorable orations being that of Daniel Webster, delivered in Boston. To his tomb still come annually many reverent worshippers; while, among the historic shrines of the nation, his home at Monticello attracts ever-increasing hosts of loving and admiring pilgrims.
THOMAS JEFFERSON'S FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS—1801.
Friends and fellow-citizens:—Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled, to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should I despair, did not the presence of many whom I here see, remind me that in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution, I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties. To you then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support, which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.
During the contest of opinions through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely, and to speak and to write as they think. But this being now decided by the voice of the nation, enounced according to the rules of the constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle that, though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.
Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind; let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty, and even life itself, are but dreary things. Let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecution.
During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonized spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some, and should divide opinion as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans; we are all federalists. If there be any among us who wish to dissolve this union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
I know, indeed, that some honest men have feared that a republican government cannot be strong; that this government is not strong enough. But would not the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it is the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law; would meet invasions of public order as his own personal concern.
Sometimes, it is said, that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. Let us, then, pursue with courage and confidence our own federal and republican principle, our attachment to union and representative government.
Kindly separated by nature, and a wide ocean, from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe, too high-minded to endure the degradation of the others; possessing a chosen country with room enough for all to the hundredth and thousandth generation; entertaining a dull sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisition of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them, enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and the love of man, acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and in his greater happiness hereafter. With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens: a wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of this government, and consequently those which ought to shape its administration. I will compress them in the narrowest limits they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations: Equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies; the preservation of the general government, in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people, a mild and safe corrective of abuses, which are lopped by the sword of revolution, where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which there is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace, and for the first moments of war till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in public expense that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected.
These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation: the wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.