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SUCCEEDS JOHN ADAMS AS PRESIDENT.
URING the last session of the sixth Congress, caucuses were held
by both parties for the nomination of candidates for President and Vice President. Hamilton was soured by disappointment caused by the failure of his schemes against France in attacking the Spanish possessions in South America, and refused to support Adams for the Presidency. He first attempted to draw Washington into his net, but this proving impossible he endeavored to elect General C. C. Pinckney, who was nominated to the second place on the federal ticket, Adams being accorded the first. The result was a division in the party that could but be disastrous. If Hamilton could secure the state of New York to the federalist party his plan was assured, for the south could be expected to furnish enough votes to elect Mr. Pinckney President, leaving for Mr. Adams the second place. The state election in New York was held in April, but a month elapsed before the result was known. It proved an overwhelming defeat to Hamilton, and also put a damper on the expectations of Mr. Adams.
The candidates of the republican party were Thomas Jefferson for President, and Aaron Burr for Vice President. A change had taken place in the two parties. During the excitement consequent on probable war with France the republican party had dwindled to insignificant proportions. The signing of a treaty of peace reinforced its ranks until it became stronger than ever before. The result of the election in New York inspired hope of ultimate success to the party. Burr, the candidate for Vice President, was an unscrupulous schemer who would stop at nothing for the accomplishment of his ends. The defeat of the federal party in New York was partly to be attributed to his efforts in causing the names of Brockholst Livingston and George Clinton to be placed on the republican ticket, thus securing the votes and influence of these powerful families and their adherents to the party, though they were personally inimical to himself. When the result of
the voie was known to be against the federalists, Burr sought by intrigue to secure a majority of the electoral college, which would elect himseif to the first place on the ticket, and compel Jefferson to accept the sccond place, or decline to serve.
The election of 1800 was closely contested, and not until the ballots were cast did people breathe freely. Then ensued a few weeks of comparative quiet. On the nith of February, 1801, the two houses of Congress met for the purpose of opening the electoral certificates. It was found that Thomas Jefferson had seventy-three; Aaron Burr seventy-three; John Adams sixty-five; Charles C. Pinckney sixty-four; John Jay one vote This threw the election into the House of Representatives, which withdrew to its hall, and organized. It was resolved that no motion for adjournment be in order until the result could be announced. On the first ballot, eight states voted for Jefferson, six for Burr, and two were equally divided. Seven ballots were taken with like result, when the House took a recess. Ballot. ing was continued from day to day until the 17th, when the thirty-sixth ballot decided the contest, ten states voting for Thomas Jefferson, and four for Aaron Burr. Delaware and South Carolina voted blanks, as did Maryland, which state had previously voted for Burr. The vote was thus made unanimous—Jefferson for President, and Burr for Vice President. That Mr. Burr was much chagrined at the result of his schemes is evident from his future course. It is believed his disappointment in the election was the cause of his treasonable attempts of a few years later.
On the 4th of March, 1801, Thomas Jefferson entered the Senate chamber to take the path of office as President of the United States. Aaron Burr had already entered upon the duties of Vice President, and taken his seat as presiding officer of the Senate. With the entrance of Mr. Jefferson Mr. Burr gave up the chair and took a seat at the right. The chief justice occupied the seat on the left. Mr. Jefferson delivered his inaugural address,-a very moderate and carefully worded paper, which surprised many, both of his friends and enemies. He was disposed to con. ciliate as far as possible, at the same time that he relinquished not one iota of the republican principles for which he had so long labored. After the delivery of the address the oath of office was administered by the chief justice. A noticeable and deliberate slight was thrown upon the incoming President in the absence of ex-President Adams and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Mr. Adams had ungraciously taken his departure from the city in the early morning; the cause of absence of the speaker is unknown. After the close of the exercises connected with the inauguration, many persons of both parties called upon the President and Vice President.
March 5th, the President sent to the Senate the names of persons he had selected to serve as members of his cabinet. They were: James Mad
ison, of Virginia, secretary of state; Henry Dearborn, of Massachusetts, secretary of war; and Levi Lincoln, of Massachusetts, attorney-general, all of whom were confirmed by the Senate on the same day. May 14th he sent in the names of Albert Gallatin, of Pennsylvania, for the office of secretary of the treasury. Samuel Smith, of Maryland, served as secretary of the navy from the ist to the 15th of April, when his brother, Robert Smith, succeeded him in that office. Gideon Granger, of Connecticut, was confirmed as postmaster-general, the 26th of January, 1802. Rufus King was accredited minister to England, and Robert R. Livingston to France.
Many strictures have been made regarding the action of President Jefferson in writing a letter to Thomas Paine, then in France, allowing him to return to the United States in a government vessel. Paine's pronounced atheistical views had particularly embittered the New England clergy, and from their pulpits and by means of pamphlets they attacked both the man and his principles. Jefferson was not omitted in their denunciations. They overlooked the great services of Paine to the country in opposing British aggressions, and in signing the declaration of independence, and looked only at his infidelity. There was just ground for the course pursued by the President. Paine was a citizen of the United States, alone in a foreign country. By birth a subject of Great Britain, what was more likely than that he would be impressed into the British service by any armed vessel prosecuting the search, then claimed by that nation? Justice to the man who had so nobly stood by the colonies in the struggle for freedom demanded that he be accorded the full protection afforded by the flag he had been in no small measure instrumental in unfurling to the sisterhood of nations.
Among the most weighty problems to be solved by President Jefferson was that of the removal of officers connected with the federalist party. The principle enunciated at a later day by William L. Marcy, that “to the victors belong the spoils,” had not been established. Men fitted to fill the offices they held were generally retained, and not removed to give place to the supporters of the incoming President. But there was good reason for the removal of some of the later appointees under the preceding administration, President Adams had made appointments as late as nine o'clock of the night on which his term as President would expire, with the un. doubted intention of defrauding Mr. Jefferson of his choice in the matter. It was at once decided that these appointments should not be recognized; and Congress passed a law abolishing the offices. It seemed perfectly proper that the President should select his own advisers, and this was conceded by the opposition. Several persons in office must be dismissed for cause, and further, a balance should be made between federal and republican officers. Heretofore none but members of the party in power had held office, except in one or two cases, in the higher grades. Even these
changes called forth much vituperation and abuse from the federalists, while the members of his own party were greatly incensed that all federalists were not removed. Jefferson aimed at establishing principles, and his course seems the best that could have been followed under the circumstances.
Another important measure in the early part of his administration was directed to the punishment of the Barbary powers for their piratical acts committed upon American vessels and the holding of captives in slavery until ransomed by the payment of large sums of money. He dispatched Commodore Dale, with four of the six naval vessels retained in commission, to check and punish these aggressions. One of the war vessels of Tripoli engaged the smaller of these vessels, a sloop under command of Lieutenant Sterrett, and was captured without the loss of a man. Having no authority to bring the captured vessel into port, she was allowed to go, being completely disabled from further service. This was the beginning of retributive measures that, followed up by Decatur, Bainbridge, Barron, Truxton, and others, brought the corsairs to terms. The result could have been attained years before had decisive action been taken, thus preventing much suffering endured by captives, and the expenditure of large sums of money for their ransom. Previous to this time tribute money had been paid annually tó these powers to insure their non-interference with American vessels.
State ceremony was effectually done away with at the beginning of the new administration. A new order of things was instituted. The President's levees were a thing of the past; instead of the ceremony of marching to the capitol to deliver his annual message, a messenger was dispatched to Con. gress; the reply was received in the same unostentatious manner, instead of observing the formality of Congress marching to the President's house for its delivery ; the diplomatic establishment in Europe was reduced to three ministers; the army was reorganized and the navy reduced; all superfluous offices were abolished. Some ladies and gentlemen in Washington, who desired a continuance of the levees, formed a plan to that end. They gath . ered at the Presidential mansion in full dress, at the usual time for the reception. Mr. Jefferson happened to be riding on their arrival, and on his return, being informed of what had occurred, entered the reception room in his riding dress, top boots, spurs, riding whip, and garments soiled with mud. He expressed much pleasure at meeting so many of his friends, cordially shook hands and conversed with them, and allowed none to go without pressing them to remain longer. Those present acknowledged themselves outwitted, and never repeated the experiment.
Congress met, as usual, on the 7th of December. Mr. Macon was chosen speaker, and Mr. Buckley clerk of the House. The President did not, as had been the custom, open Congress with a formal speech, but instead transmitted to the Vice President, as president of that body, his annual message, accompanying it with a communication explanatory of his
reason for so doing. It is worthy of insertion in this connection. It reads: “SIR,—The circumstances under which we find ourselves at this place rendering inconvenient the mode heretofore practiced of making, by personal address, the first communications between the legislative and executive branches, I have adopted that by message, as used on all subsequent occasions through the session. In doing this I have had principal regard to the convenience of the legislature, to the economy of their time, to their relief from the embarrassment of immediate answers on subjects not yet fully before them, and to the benefits thence resulting to the public affairs. Trusting that a procedure, founded on these motives, will meet their approbation, I beg leave, through you, sir, to communicate the enclosed copy, with the documents accompanying it, to the honorable body the Senate, and pray you to accept for yourself and them, the homage of my high regard and consideration."
In his message the President recommended several important measures, most of which received due consideration and attention. The judiciary act passed during the preceding session was repealed, by one majority in the Senate, and by a vote of fifty-nine to thirty-two in the House.
The census of 1800 showed the aggregate population of the United States to be five million three hundred and five thousand nine hundred and twenty-five. Accordingly a new apportionment bill was passed, fixing the ratio of congressional representation at one member for each thirty thousand population. This gave the House one hundred and forty-one members. An act was passed establishing the army on a peace footing, consisting of one regiment of artillery and two regiments of infantry. The naval establishment was limited to six vessels. Internal taxes on stills, domestic distilled spirits, refined sugars, licenses to retailers, sales at auction, carriages for the conveyance of persons, stamped vellum, parchment, paper, etc., were abolished. The naturalization laws were reconstructed, placing them on the old footing -five years residence and three years previous oath of intention to become a permanent resident before papers were issued; provision was made for the redemption of the whole of the United States debt; and laws provided to regulate trade and preserve peace with the Indian tribes on the frontier. Other important acts were passed which it is impracticable to mention here.
The right of the United States to unimpeded navigation of the Mississippi river to New Orleans, was refused by Spain in the autumn of 1802. Great indignation was expressed by the people of the western settlements over this action; in fact the entire country was aroused. Soon thereafter the government received intimation that Spain was about transferring her right of possession in Louisiana to France. A change of this nature was manifestly to the disadvantage of the United States. As long as Spain remained in possession no danger was to be feared, but should France secure