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Jefferson, Thomas (–)

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Jerusalem about Jesus Acts I replaced for God to please me. In foreign affairs also, the two men quarreled, with Hamilton regularly undercutting Jefferson by privately assuring the British minister to the United States that the administration would not stand firm on the requests Jefferson made. With the renewal of war in Europe in , Jefferson's final months in office became especially challenging. A widespread desire to maintain American neutrality proved difficult to enforce.

A nascent Republican Party Jefferson and Madison had formed combined opposition to Hamiltonian finance with sympathy for the French Revolution and fond memories of French support during the American war for independence. The emerging Federalist Party pointed with horror to French revolutionary excesses and regarded a strong central government at home as the only bulwark against similar turmoil in the United States.

Jefferson found himself caught in the middle and frustrated as the leading Republican at cabinet meetings, where he was regularly outvoted, received what he regarded as insufficient support from Washington, and was obliged to lend his name to actions he had opposed in executive sessions. On July 31, , Jefferson advised the president of his intent to retire from office, and after agreeing to one extension resigned his office on the last day of the year. Jefferson returned to Monticello in the middle of January He intended to remain a private citizen permanently and devote himself to his farm, the development of his nailery, and the remodeling of Monticello to take advantage of architectural ideas he had absorbed in Europe.

Thomas Jefferson, oil painting

He also made an important contribution to early American paleontology by writing a scientific paper about a set of fossilized bones he had been sent from western Virginia. Jefferson named the animal megalonyx Greek for giant claw and hypothesized that it was an enormous species of lion still living in the West. Eventually it proved to be an extinct giant ground sloth. The most common species of this genus was named Megalonyx jeffersonii in his honor. Jefferson's paper announcing this discovery was read at a meeting of the American Philosophical Society on March 10, , a week to the day after he was installed as president of the society, the nation's leading scientific body at the time.

He was reelected annually until he resigned on November 23, Although retired, Jefferson remained in touch with his political friends.

Catalogs and Calendars of the Papers Thomas Jefferson at the Library of Congress

He shared their dismay at the Federalists' military response to the Whiskey Rebellion and ratification of Jay's Treaty with Great Britain. Jefferson approved the creation and growth of an organized opposition party and reluctantly allowed himself to be a candidate in the presidential election of His narrow second-place finish to John Adams, 71 to 68 in the Electoral College, made him the nation's second vice president, serving from March 4, , to March 4, To his friends Jefferson expressed relief at his defeat and initial pleasure with his new office, which he regarded as "honorable and easy.

Jefferson took this role seriously, studying British parliamentary precedents and eventually publishing a procedural manual that has been a foundational document for both houses of Congress ever since. Outside of the chambers of Congress, however, Jefferson found himself leading what he regarded as a lonely and desperate rearguard action against the "unbridled madness, and the terrorism" of his Federalist opponents at the peak of their power. Shocked by such seemingly intolerant excesses as the Alien and Sedition Acts, late in Jefferson drafted resolutions for the Kentucky legislature that asserted the right of individual states to nullify unconstitutional federal assertions of power within their own borders.

Kentucky was the only state to adopt them toned down to remove the word nullify , although Virginia adopted milder resolutions that Madison had composed the same year. Jefferson's authorship of the Kentucky Resolutions was unknown at the time, but the document became important after his death during the nullification controversy of the s and later as a justification for opponents of federal enforcement of civil rights in the s.

In his rematch with John Adams in the presidential election of , Jefferson was more active behind the scenes than he had been in He kept in close touch with his leading supporters and provided a financial subsidy to the vitriolic pamphleteer James T. Callender, whose subsequent arrest and conviction for criticizing the president helped make the case that the government party was suppressing dissent.

Aided by battles within the Federalist Party, Jefferson's Republican ticket won a 73 to 65 majority over Adams in the Electoral College. Aaron Burr, the Republican candidate for vice president, tied with Jefferson instead of having one fewer vote, as intended.

Under the original constitutional rule then in effect, the House of Representatives elected the president, with Jefferson, Burr, and Adams all eligible. After months of uncertainty and enough Federalist support for Burr that the issue remained in doubt until the thirty-sixth ballot, the House finally elected Jefferson president on February 17, In their last weeks of ascendancy, Adams and the Federalist majority in Congress filled as many vacant offices as possible, including confirmation of John Marshall as chief justice of the Supreme Court, and they established a new tier of federal courts and appointed what Jefferson called midnight judges.

Jefferson later cited these appointments as the primary cause of an estrangement with Adams that lasted for a decade.


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By skulking out of Washington early on March 4, , Adams avoided attending Jefferson's inauguration later that day. In his eloquent inaugural address Jefferson proclaimed that a second American revolution was at hand, one in which party strife could end because "we are all republicans: we are all federalists. The third president quickly proved adept at symbolic demonstrations of a more democratic approach to governance. He walked to his inauguration, stopped holding formal presidential levees, dressed simply, precipitated a minor diplomatic crisis by refusing to follow established orders of precedence at state dinners, went on solitary horseback rides most afternoons, and sent his annual messages to Congress in writing rather than delivering them in person.

In more substantive ways as well, the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another had immediate and important consequences.


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Jefferson moved quickly to streamline the government. His administration greatly reduced the size of the army and navy, and Congress eliminated the new federal judgeships.


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The number of civil employees based in Washington actually declined slightly during Jefferson's presidency. Congress repealed most federal internal taxes and funded the government largely from customs duties and land sales. Even with this reduction in revenue, for much of Jefferson's administration he was able to reduce the federal debt.

He called for a constitutional amendment to permit the expenditure of federal revenue on education after the debt was fully extinguished, but Congress neither sent the proposed amendment to the states for ratification nor paid off all the debt. Preferring to avoid the contentious struggles in which he had participated as a member of Washington's administration, Jefferson appointed department heads who worked well with him and with each other.

His key advisers were Madison as secretary of state and Albert Gallatin as secretary of the treasury. Jefferson monitored the work of his cabinet officers closely, required that they submit their communications for his review, made himself available to them daily, and met with them regularly.

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Following through on his pledge to avoid overt partisanship, Jefferson did not replace most of the Federalist officeholders when he took office provided they avoided overt displays of party feeling. Behind the scenes he also took pains to manage and maintain his majority in Congress. He hosted thrice-weekly dinners during sessions of Congress and invited legislators in rotation. Jefferson got his way with such success that he did not exercise his veto a single time, unlike every other two-term president before and since. For parts of his term, Jefferson's sons-in-law, John Wayles Eppes and Thomas Mann Randolph , were members of the House of Representatives and lived with him in what later became known as the White House.

Relations with European powers molded Jefferson's presidency in both positive and negative ways. Even before learning that the North African principality of Tripoli had declared war on the United States in May , Jefferson ordered a naval squadron to the Mediterranean to defend the nation's ships and sailors. Despite initial setbacks, including the capture of a United States frigate and its entire crew, Jefferson persevered and eventually obtained a treaty that protected American trade and released the captive citizens without the annual tribute other nations customarily paid.

Jefferson's most significant diplomatic triumph was the Louisiana Purchase. Faced with an immediate crisis when the Spanish intendant at New Orleans closed that port to American commerce in October and the looming threat posed by anticipated retrocession to France of a wide swath of western territory on the United States border, Jefferson authorized negotiations to purchase New Orleans.

Jefferson seized the opportunity to double the size of the United States, overcoming scruples that caused him to draft but then decide against proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize the acquisition. Even before learning of the cession of Louisiana, Jefferson had begun planning an expedition to the Pacific Coast.

The need to obtain reliable geographic information and give the United States more than a paper claim to its vast new possession lent urgency to the effort.

ISBN 13: 9780195143683

Jefferson's earlier attempts to promote a scientific trip along these lines had failed, but using the powers of the presidency he obtained a secret congressional appropriation, drafted instructions , and recruited his secretary, Meriwether Lewis , to lead the expedition, the command of which he soon shared with William Clark. The Corps of Discovery commonly called the Lewis and Clark Expedition made a pioneering transcontinental trip that lasted from May to September and brought back a wealth of geographic, ethnological, zoological, and botanical data.

Jefferson easily won election to a second term in , losing only two states and two electors from a third to the Federalist candidate, Charles Pinckney. A recently ratified constitutional amendment made this the first election in which candidates for president and vice president ran separately. With Burr's political career thus ended and he under indictment for murder for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, in Burr embarked on a private military expedition in the West that was most likely intended for Mexico.

Jefferson received information that persuaded him that the actual goal was creating a breakaway nation carved out of United States property on the frontier.