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Mr. Burr. This led to a protracted and most exciting contest. At length, after thirty-five ineffectual ballots, one of the representatives of the state of Maryland made public the contents of a letter to himself, written by Mr. Burr, in which he declined all pretensions to the presidency, and authorised him, in his name, to disclaim any competition with Mr. JEFFERSON. On this specific declaration, two federal members who represented states which had before voted blank, withdrew; this permitted the republican members from those states to become a majority, and instead of putting a blank into the box to vote positively for Mr. JEFFERSON. On the thirty-sixth ballot, therefore, he was elected president, and Mr. Burr vice-president.
On the 4th of March, 1801, Mr. JEFFERSON entered on his first presidential term. In his inaugural address, delivered on that day in the presence of both houses of congress, he stated, with great eloquence of language and with admirable clearness and precision, the political principles by which he intended to be governed in the administration of public affairs. 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 administration 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 the 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 public opinion; freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of the person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trials 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. To the attainment of them,” he concludes, “have been
devoted the wisdom of our sages, and the blood of our heroes; they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil 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 to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."
The administration of Mr. JEFFERSON embraces a long and interesting period in the history of our country, distinguished by important measures, whose consequences have been felt in later periods, and which have led to results affecting, in no inconsiderable degree, the honor and prosperity of the nation. They are subjects demanding the research and deliberation of the historian; we can here briefly allude only to their more prominent and general features. The system of foreign policy which he adopted, tended to increase our prosperity, and secure our rights. The aggressions of the Tripolitans were gallantly and promptly chastised, and the attempts made by the agents of the Spanish government, to deprive us of the right of navigating the Mississippi, were immediately noticed and repelled. Mr. JEFFERSON, while secretary of state, directed his attention particularly to secure to the inhabitants of the western country every advantage for their trade; but it had, notwithstanding, been constantly invaded. His renewed efforts resulted, after considerable negotiation, in the purchase of the vast territory known as Louisiana. This fortunate acquisition secured an independent outlet for the western states, and placed under the republican institutions of America a region whose fertility, climate, and extent have already afforded a large and increasing revenue, as well as a field for the wide diffusion of the blessings of freedom and equal laws. During the same interval, the internal policy of the United States underwent several important changes. Measures were adopted for the speedy discharge of the public debt; the judiciary system was restored to the original plan, founded by those who formed the constitution; a salutary reduction was introduced into the habitual expenditures of the government; offices tending to increase executive influence were voluntarily suppressed; and the president presented the noble spectacle of a chief magistrate relinquishing power and patronage, where he could do so, by existing laws, and where he could not, seeking the aid of the legislature for honorable
purpose. So much was the administration of Mr. JEFFERSON approved, that, when his term of service expired, he was again elected, and by a majority which had increased from eight votes to one hundred and
forty-eight. In his inaugural address, delivered on the 4th of March, 1805, he asserted his determination to act up to those principles, on which he believed it his duty to administer the affairs of the commonwealth, and which had been already sanctioned by the unequivocal approbation of his country. "I do not fear," he said, “that any motives of interest may lead me astray; I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me knowingly from the path of justice; but the weakness of human nature, and the limits of my own understanding, will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests. I shall need, therefore, all the indulgence I have heretofore experienced; the want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years. I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with his providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power.” He had scarcely entered on his office when an event occurred, threatening seriously the domestic tranquillity of the country, and even the constitution and the union itself. This was the conspiracy of Colonel Burr, who, ardent and ambitious, formerly disappointed in reaching the first office of the government, when it seemed within his grasp, and since superseded in the second by the election of Mr. Clinton, now aimed, by desperate enterprise, either to establish a new republic in the Spanish provinces of the west, or to divide that of his own country. His scheme was discovered, and he was himself eventually apprehended and tried for treason. The evidence was not sufficient to establish his presence at the illegal assemblages which were proved, or the use of any force against the authority of the United States, in consequence of which he was acquitted.
The foreign relations of the United States, however, at this period assumed an importance exceeding all domestic affairs. Nearly the whole of their revenue depended on commerce; this, in the war between France and Great Britain, had sustained from both powers the most severe and unprincipled aggressions, and to these there were added, especially in the proceedings of the latter nation, circumstances so aggravated as to leave the American nation no honorable course, but that of prompt retaliation. Under ordinary circumstances, the natural and just resort would have been to war; but the government, interests, and situation of America required the trial and failure of every other alternative before that was adopted. An embargo presented itself as a measure, if not decisive, at least preparatory; and on the 22d of December, 1807, an act of congress establishing one was passed, on the recommendation of Mr. JEFFERSON. At first this measure appeared to promise a successful result. In January, 1809, after it had existed a year, overtures were made by the British government, which indicated a disposition on their part to recede from the ground they had taken; and these were preceded by the repeal of some of their most objectionable measures. In this situation were the foreign relations of the United States, when Mr. JEFFERSON's second term of office expired, and when he retired from the elevated position in which his countrymen had placed him. To trace this subject further, therefore, belongs to general history, and to the political biography of his successor, who had been early his pupil, and afterwards his friend and political supporter.
On the 3d of March, 1809, Mr. JEFFERSON closed his political career; he had reached the age of sixty-five; he had been engaged, almost without interruption, for forty years, in the most arduous public duties; he had passed through the various stations to which his country had called him with unsullied honor and distinguished reputation; and he now, therefore, determined to leave the scene, while yet unoppressed by the infirmities of age, and to pass the evening of his life in the calmness of domestic and philosophical retirement. From this time until his death, with the exception of excursions which business required, he resided altogether at Monticello. He indeed appeared occasionally before his countrymen, by publications of his private correspondence, which proved the same purity of intention, the same earnest zeal in the promotion of liberal opinions, and the same intelligence, forethought, and firmness, which distinguished the actions of his earlier life. He was called forward, from time to time, by repeated requests to connect himself with rising institutions, constantly forming to promote science, taste, and literature; for it was a subject of natural and honorable pride, to unite with these a name always distinguished for attention to whatever improved or adorned human life. Above all, he was sought out in his retirement by strangers from every foreign nation who had heard of and admired him; and by the natives of every corner of his own country, who looked upon him as their guide, philosopher, and friend. His home was the abode of hospitality and the seat of dignified retirement; he forgot the busy times of his political existence, in the calm and congenial pleasures of science; his mind, clear and penetrating, wandered with fresh activity and delight through all the regions of thought ; his heart dwelt with the deepest interest on every thing that tended to the improvement and happiness of mankind; at once practical, benevolent, and wise, he was forever studying the welfare of his fellow-creatures, and endeavoring to advance every plan which tended to produce or increase it. Among these labors, the most prominent perhaps was his effort for the improvement of education in Virginia, and the establishment of a noble university, which was commenced by his own private donations and those he could obtain from his friends. This became the object of his greatest zeal, during the remainder of his life. He presented to the legislature a report embracing the principles on which it was proposed the institution should be formed. The situation selected for the university was at Charlottesville, a town at the foot of the mountain, where he resided. The plan was such as to combine elegance and utility, with the power of enlarging it to any extent, which its future prosperity might require. The instruction was to embrace the various branches of learning which a citizen may require, in his intercourse between man and man, in the improvement of his morals and faculties, and in the knowledge and exercise of his social rights. The various arrangements for the conduct of the institution were framed with a view to a liberal system of discipline, and a strict accountability on the part of all connected with the institution. The legislature approved of Mr. JEFFERSON's plans; he was himself elected the rector; and from that period he devoted himself to carry into effect what he had thus designed. All his hopes and thoughts were turned towards its success. He rode every morning when the weather would permit, to inspect its progress; he prepared with his own hands the drawings for the workmen; he stood over them as they proceeded, with a sort of parental anxiety and care; and when the inclemency of the season or the infirmity of age prevented his visits, a telescope was placed on a terrace near his house, by means of which he could inspect the progress of the work. After its completion, he might often be seen pacing slowly along the porticoes or cloisters which extended in front of the dormitories of the students, occasionally conversing with them, and viewing the establishment with a natural and honorable pride. In the library, a catalogue written by himself is carefully preserved. He has collected the names, best editions, and value of all works of whatever language, in literature and science, which he thought necessary to form a complete library; and, in examining it, one is really less struck with the research and various knowledge required for its compilation, than the additional proof of that anxious care, which seemed to leave unsought no means of fostering and improving the institution he had formed.