On March 4, 1801 the new Chief Justice John Marshall, a Virginia Federalist who revered George Washington and detested the Republican Thomas Jefferson, administered the oath of office to the latter as the third President of the United States. In his inaugural address Jefferson began by humbly describing the weakness of his powers to accomplish the greatness of his charge. He urged Americans to keep in mind the sacred principle that the will of the majority is to prevail while the right of the minority to equal rights must be protected by law to prevent oppression. Having banished religious intolerance which has caused humanity so much suffering, they must not now countenance despotic political intolerance that is also capable of bloody persecutions. He said, “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists.” He acknowledged that some honest men fear that a republican government would not be strong enough to keep free and firm the government they consider the world’s best hope; but he expressed his belief that they are the “strongest government on earth.”
In this address Jefferson noted that they are “enlightened by a benign religion” in various forms, and they have a wise and frugal government to “restrain men from injuring one another.” Their essential principles include “equal and exact justice to all men,… peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations” with no entangling alliances, “the right of election by the people, … absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority,… a well-disciplined militia,… supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense,… honest payment of our debts,” freedom of religion and the press, and “trial by juries impartially selected.” He concluded with the following prayer:
And may that Infinite Power
which rules the destinies of the universe
lead our councils to what is best,
and give them a favorable issue
for your peace and prosperity.1
On March 6 Jefferson wrote to John Dickinson his hope for consolidating their revolution.
A just and solid republican government maintained here,
will be a standing monument & example
for the aim & imitation of the people of other countries;
and I join with you in the hope and belief that they will see,
from our example,
that a free government is of all others the most energetic;
that the inquiry which has been excited among the mass
of mankind by our revolution & its consequences
will ameliorate the condition of man
over a great portion of the globe.2
Thomas Jefferson believed that the entire art of government consisted of being honest. He was concerned that reason without feelings could be miserable because it lacked “benevolence, justice, sympathy, and friendship.” He praised Indians for their loyalty to friends and found that such sentiments led to the love of humanity. For Jefferson human rights are “gifts of God,” and he believed that God punishing injustice was the basis of morality. He held that believing in the law of God is the safest foundation for liberty. He came to accept immigration because he wanted America to be a refuge for victims of oppression.
The only cabinet officials remaining from the Adams administration were the Secretary of the Treasury Samuel Dexter of Massachusetts and Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert of Maryland. Jefferson immediately nominated James Madison to replace Marshall as Secretary of State, and he was quickly confirmed by the Senate; but he did not arrive in Washington for a few weeks. Marshall continued in that office for a while and neglected to send out 42 commissions of justices of the peace for the District of Columbia whom Adams had appointed in his last days. Jefferson resented that Adams appointed so many judges and officials after losing the election and never once appointed a Republican to be a judge. Jefferson instructed Madison not to deliver the commissions. They cut expenses by closing all the American foreign legations except they kept on the Federalist Rufus King in London and Robert R. Livingston in Paris. He appointed Charles Pinckney as minister to Spain.
Albert Gallatin was nominated as Secretary of the Treasury, but his difficult confirmation was postponed to the next season. However, he began his duties after moving his family from southwestern Pennsylvania. Jefferson chose Levi Lincoln, who had recently been elected to the House of Representatives from Worcester, Massachusetts, to be Attorney General, and he also acted temporarily as Secretary of State. The President selected Henry Dearborn from Maine in Massachusetts to run the War Department, and Stoddert agreed to stay on as Navy Secretary. Several people rejected the nomination for the Navy until Samuel Smith of Maryland agreed to replace the weary Stoddert temporarily. Then he was replaced on July 15 by his brother Robert Smith, a lawyer from Baltimore.
Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush on March 24 that out of 700 clerks and assistants chosen by presidential appointees and 3,000 in the Post Office Department he was only removing about 20 federal officials out of the 316 civilian employees subject to presidential appointment and removal. Yet Theodore Dwight and other Federalists in Connecticut complained when he replaced the Collector from New Haven. Republican George Clinton was elected Governor of New York. He and young DeWitt Clinton and Ambrose Spencer of the Council replaced many state officers. Jefferson liked the Clintons even less than Vice President Aaron Burr. Jefferson spent the months of April, August, and September at his Monticello home in Virginia.
Gallatin arrived in Washington on May 13. He was ready with a plan to reduce the national debt, though they also wanted to reduce taxes. He complained that under Hamilton about $10 million had been unnecessarily added to the $80 million debt through corruption and incompetence. Gallatin was the most qualified Republican and had created the House Ways and Means Committee to supervise public expenditures. As a former leader in the House he was a natural liaison with House Republicans. Government revenue for the year was expected to be $9,950,000, and he wanted to apply $7,300,000 to pay interest and principal on the debt. He hoped to reduce the army budget to $930,000 and the Navy to $670,000. The Federalists had spent $6,000,000 on them in 1799 preparing to fight France. The Army was needed for frontier forts but was reduced to 3,000 men, and the reduced expense for both Army and Navy was raised to $1,900,000. Jefferson believed that the vital interest of maintaining commerce with America and its harbors would encourage every nation to be at peace with them. The Republicans ended most of the internal taxes such as the hated excise, carriage, and direct property taxes the Federalists had passed in 1798. Now about 90% of all revenues came from duties on imports.
Jefferson’s cabinet assembled in October in Washington. On December 7 the House of Representatives elected the Republican Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina Speaker over the Federalist candidate James Bayard of Delaware by a vote of 53-26. The next day President Jefferson sent the first of his annual messages in writing to the Congress. He noted that the American population was doubling every 22 years and hoped that would enable them to settle their extensive country. He promised they would dispense with internal taxes. He hoped they could pay off the national debt in sixteen years if they could avoid wars. Abolishing the internal taxes reduced the patronage of the federal government, and a sinking fund was established to pay down the national debt that was then about $80 million.
The Republicans also tried to repeal the mint, but the Senate would not go along. On December 18 the Virginians submitted a fugitive-slave bill that would force employers to advertise hiring of a strange Negro and require free Africans to carry their certificates of freedom; but the House rejected it 46-43 one month later. Naturalization was changed back to a residency requirement of five years, and an apportionment act added House members by fixing the ratio for seats to one per 33,000 citizens.
In late 1801 the French led by General Victor E. Leclerc occupied Cap Français in St. Domingue, and in February 1802 he seized twenty American ships in that port. Jefferson through his friend Pierre S. Du Pont de Nemours warned the French that taking over Louisiana would have consequences and would cause the Americans to become allied with Britain.
The Canadian trader Alexander Mackenzie became the first European to cross North America north of Mexico in 1792-93, and the publication in 1801 about his expedition stimulated Jefferson’s interest in the west. The President’s private secretary, Meriwether Lewis, had been a captain in the army, and he had volunteered to lead an expedition in 1793 for Jefferson that never occurred. Lewis recommended his army friend William Clark, younger brother of the famous George Rogers Clark, who had turned down Jefferson’s request to lead an expedition.
Jefferson let Rufus King continue as the minister to England, and he continued the negotiation started by John Marshall to settle the private debts of Americans to British creditors. They agreed to the United States paying £600,000, and the convention was signed in January 1802.
In his first case Chief Justice Marshall and the Supreme Court decided in Talbot v. Seeman that Captain Silas Talbot had a right to capture the Amelia because, even though Congress had not declared war, the United States was at war against France which armed and controlled the ship. Thus Talbot had just cause to believe that the Amelia was French though it was actually owned by the neutral citizens of Hamburg. Because the capture was legal the owner had a right to compensation for meritorious service.
In United States v. Schooner Peggy the Chief Justice argued that because the Constitution made treaties the “supreme law of the land,” they bound the courts as much as an act of Congress. The Court ordered this vessel returned to France.
President Adams had appointed William Marbury to be a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia; but he had not received his commission because Jefferson believed the appointments Adams made at the very end of his term were nullities. In December 1801 Marbury asked the Supreme Court to order Secretary of State Madison to give him his commission, and the Court ordered Madison to show just cause why he should not.
Republicans objected to the two judiciary acts passed by the Federalists in 1789 and 1801 because they usurped jurisdiction from the states. The latter act had added eighteen circuit judges, and Federalists were appointed in the final days of the Adams administration. Virginia Republicans believed in the maxim, “The government shall not be the final judge of its own powers.” On January 8, 1802 Senator Breckinridge of Kentucky proposed repealing the Judiciary Act of 1801, but on January 27 Vice President Burr broke a tie in the Senate and recommitted the bill to a committee. The repeal bill passed the Senate 16-15 on February 3 and was debated in the House the next day. William Branch Giles of Virginia argued the new courts were not needed and that they would damage state courts. The Federalist James Bayard argued that the Constitution made the judges independent of the legislature, and he accused Jefferson of making Charles Pinckney minister to Spain and giving positions to others in gratitude for their turning against Burr in the 1801 election. John Randolph of Virginia also believed that interfering with the judiciary was unconstitutional. Yet Republicans passed the repeal on March 3 and stopped the Supreme Court from meeting for fourteen months so that they would not rule the repeal unconstitutional.
The Army was limited to three regiments with 3,350 men, and on March 16, 1802 Jefferson approved a bill that established a corps of engineers at West Point in New York in a military academy. On April 24 Congress fixed the western border of Georgia, and on the 30th they passed the act enabling Ohio to enter the Union as the 17th state. Gallatin managed to get included a contract that Ohio would provide public land for schools and roads. People in Ohio wrote a constitution which prohibited slavery and allowed Negroes to vote, and on February 19, 1803 Jefferson signed the bill that approved the borders and constitution of Ohio; but in 1804 Ohio passed the first “black laws” that restricted the movement of Negroes. Organization of the southwestern territory that would later become the states of Alabama and Mississippi enabled Jefferson to implement his humane policy toward the Indians there.
Hoping to win over New England Federalists, Jefferson appointed Gideon Granger of Connecticut as Postmaster-General. However, he irritated them by writing a letter to Thomas Paine, offering to give him free passage to America on the Navy ship Maryland. In a letter to a friend in May 1802 Jefferson predicted that after the Federalists were won over, the Republicans would eventually split into whig and tory as in England. After he refused to appoint James Thompson Callender to run the Richmond post office, this rabid Republican editor turned against Jefferson and began exposing his secrets such as his having children by a slave named Sally and for having written a secret love-letter to the wife of Major Walker. The story of Sally Hemings first appeared in September in the Richmond Recorder and soon was spread by Federalist newspapers.
Jefferson sent his annual message to Congress on December 15 without mentioning the threats of war. Yet a French army at New Orleans would change America’s foreign relations. Du Pont believed the French would cede New Orleans and West Florida for $6 million. Revenues estimated to be $9,500,000 for 1802 turned out to be the largest so far at $12,280,000. Not counting interest on the debt, spending in 1802 was $8,100,000. Republicans did well in the 1802 elections giving them majorities of 25 to 9 in the Senate and 103 to 39 in the House. In 1802 six counties in North Carolina reported slave conspiracies, and Tom Cooper led an uprising in Elizabeth County in May; fifteen slaves may have been executed. In Virginia slaves were punished for alleged insurrections in nine counties.
The four Barbary powers of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli were engaged in demanding ransoms for piracy or protection money. In the past ten years the United States had made treaties with all four and had paid them more than $2 million. In 1800 the Dey Bobba Mustafa of Algiers had ordered Captain Bainbridge to put his frigate under Algerine colors and take an embassy to the Grand Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. In July the Tripoli captured the New York brig Catherine and its cargo worth $50,000, but the Pasha Yusuf Karamanli released the ship, crew, and cargo in October with the warning that if he did not get a treaty within six months, he would be at war against the United States. That month Bainbridge lowered the Algerian flag and put up the stars and stripes on the George Washington while sailing to Istanbul.
After he made a treaty with Sweden, Tripoli’s Yusuf Karamanli on January 3, 1801 warned Americans again of war. On the 18th the George Washington returned to Algiers, and the Dey had new demands. Five days after taking office, on March 9 President Jefferson consulted his cabinet about sending a naval squadron to the Mediterranean. The George Washington returned to Philadelphia on April 19, and Captain Bainbridge reported to the President in Washington. William Eaton and others urged stronger action. Yusuf of Tripoli had received $83,000, but his demand for $225,000 plus $25,000 a year was refused on May 14, 1801. He declared war by having the consular flag cut down.
The acting Navy Secretary Samuel Smith sent Commodore Richard Dale and four ships, and they sailed from Virginia on June 2. On their way to Malta they destroyed a Tripolitan corsair. Their mission was to blockade Tripoli and intercept pirate ships. President Jefferson sent a letter of friendship and $10,000 cash to be delivered if Yusuf rescinded his declaration of war. When Pasha Yusuf was defiant, Dale reminded him that their 1797 treaty called for mediation by Algiers; but Tripoli resented this clause. After Dale blockaded Tripoli, the Pasha submitted. On the high seas the Enterprise commanded by Lt. Sterrett on August 1 defeated the Tripoli. Dale’s men lacked fresh food, and 152 sailors became seriously ill. Dale left Tripoli on September 3, and his ships blockaded Morocco’s Meshuda.
On February 2, 1802 Congress acknowledged that Tripoli had declared war against the United States and passed a law to protect commerce and American sailors, empowering the President to use the US Navy and to commission privateers. Pasha Yusuf Karamanli sought allies by sending an emissary to Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco. Sultan Mawlay Sulayman of Morocco asked for passports to bring the Meshuda to Tangiers, but Commodore Richard Valentine Morris, who commanded the second Mediterranean squadron, refused to let the consul James Simpson issue them. So on June 25 Morocco declared war on the United States. Eight days before that, corsairs seized the Franklin, giving Tripoli its first American prisoners. In 1802 Tripoli got $158,000 from Sweden plus $40,000 each from Holland and Denmark. United States Navy expenditures in 1802 were reduced by more than half in one year to $915,000.
Early in 1803 Navy Secretary Robert Smith asked Congress for $108,000 for four small warships and eight gunboats, and they appropriated $146,000 for those and up to fifteen gunboats. On January 15 the Enterprise captured the Tunisian ship Paulina. The American consul William Eaton in Tunis had Morris bring three ships to Tunis on February 22. Six days later Congress authorized $96,000 to build or acquire four ships. Morris reached Algiers on March 19 and Gibraltar on the 23rd. William Eaton and James Cathcart left the squadron. Cathcart had been captured in 1885 and spent eleven years as a slave in Algiers and became the secretary to the Dey before being freed in the 1796 treaty. He became Eaton’s assistant in December 1798 and in 1802 was appointed consul to Tunis and Tripoli. Secretary of State Madison wrote to Cathcart on April 9 to inform him that President Jefferson wanted him to take action. Madison authorized him to give Karamanli up to $20,000 cash and $10,000 a year. Payments to Bey Hamuda Pasha of Tunis were not to exceed $10,000 a year.
John Rodgers commanded the USS John Adams and captured the Meshuda on May 18. Morris moved the squadron to Tripoli, and on June 1 American sailors and marines made their first amphibious landing on a hostile shore. They fought more than a thousand Tripolitans and had fourteen men wounded. On June 7 Morris went ashore and talked with a minister who demanded $200,000 and $20,000 a year, and Morris was almost captured before leaving. He left Tripoli on June 10 to join his wife at Malta. The Adams and the Enterprize maintained the blockade at Tripoli. Morris was relieved of command on June 21 and later was court-martialed for not blockading Tripoli for many months. The next day Rodgers on the Adams defeated Tripolitan gunboats, and he was given command of the squadron. Captain Edward Preble’s orders became operational on July 14, and he reached Gibraltar on the Constitution on September 14.
The 38-gun Philadelphia arrived at Tripoli on October 7, 1803 but was left unprotected, ran aground, and was captured with its 307 men on October 31. On February 16, 1804 Lt. Stephen Decatur on the Intrepid led a surprise attack that managed to destroy the Philadelphia in the Tripoli harbor while killing 33 Tripolitans and not losing one man. On March 19 President Jefferson learned only that the Philadelphia had been captured, and the next day he asked Congress to increase American forces in the Mediterranean. On the 26th the Senate increased import duties 2.5% to raise $900,000 to send another squadron against the Barbary pirates. Richard O’Brien landed at Tunis on April 24 and negotiated with Bey Hamuda Pasha, agreeing on the 29th to pay $5,000 in reparations and an annuity of $8,000 in addition to earlier stipulations.
Commodore Edward Preble was given command of a squadron and had the Constitution with its 44 guns refit. He commanded more than a thousand men in a force with about 150 guns that attacked Tripoli on August 3. They returned to the harbor four days later and maintained a blockade during the summer that stopped piracy from Morocco to Tripoli for the first time in years, though attacks on August 24 and 28 did little. Preble attacked Tripoli again on September 3 and 4. Commodore Samuel Barron arrived with four frigates and took command on the 10th, and three days later he secretly approved Eaton’s plan to support Ahmad Karamanli. Barron suffered from liver disease and nearly died.
Emperor Sulayman of Morocco arrived at Tangiers on October 4 with 2,500 cavalry, giving them more than 10,000 cavalry there. The next day Preble’s squadron sailed into the harbor. Preble and Consul General Tobias Lear negotiated a treaty with Morocco on October 11.
William Eaton had served as consul at Tunis from 1797 until the war against Tripoli broke out in 1801. He disagreed with Jefferson’s peace policy but returned as the naval agent to the Mediterranean in March 1804. On September 5 he arrived at Malta, and on November 14 Barron ordered the Argus to take Eaton to Alexandria. He reached Cairo on December 8 to support Ahmad Karamanli whom he considered the rightful ruler of Tripoli.
On January 8, 1805 Jefferson and his cabinet resolved not to pay a dollar for peace, though they would ransom prisoners. After Jefferson, Madison, and Smith approved Eaton’s plan to restore Ahmad, they collected about 500 men and began the march of 520 miles on March 6, reaching Bomba on April 17. They found no American ships there but continued on toward Derne which was defended by a garrison of 800 men. Eaton sent the governor a flag of truce which was rebuffed. Yusuf Karamanli proposed peace terms on April 21, but Tobias Lear and Barron rejected them. One week later the cruisers Nautilus, Argus, and Hornet joined Eaton in an attack that drove out the governor and the garrison from Derne. Eaton was wounded in the wrist, but the ships’ guns protected his men from being massacred by the Tripolitans led by Hassan Agha on May 13. They were still almost 700 miles from Tripoli, and Ahmad did get the popular support he had anticipated.
Samuel Barron resigned his command on May 22 and was replaced by John Rodgers. On the 26th three frigates sailed into Tripoli harbor. Tobias Lear was the American consul-general at Algiers, and on June 3 he negotiated a peace that ransomed the crew of 307 men from the Philadelphia for the exchange of 81 Tripolitan prisoners and $60,000. Ahmad Karamanli was abandoned. On July 30 the United States sent eighteen Navy ships with 2,500 men to Tunis Bay. Jefferson did not learn of the Tripoli treaty until September 6, and the United States Senate did not ratify it until April 12, 1806.
Imperial Spain was a problem for American expansion because of their extensive colonies south and west of the United States which they expected to trade only with the mother country. Spain to Americans represented tyranny, religious bigotry, and political corruption—all enemies of Jefferson whose motto was “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience unto God.” Yet the Spaniards had to deal with Napoleon and the French, and Jefferson considered the Spaniards more favorable to American interests. New Orleans was the key port. Jefferson noted that the produce of three-eighths of the United States passed through there to market.
Napoleon Bonaparte agreed to omit the second article of the Morfontaine Treaty the Senate had excluded in its ratification if both nations renounced their claims mentioned in that article. Jefferson sent the revised treaty to the Senate which confirmed it on December 19, 1801. The French secretly bought the Floridas and Louisiana from Spain, but Foreign Minister Talleyrand denied it, making Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison angry. On April 18, 1802 Jefferson wrote to Robert Livingston in Paris expressing his concern about the danger of the French occupying Louisiana; but this could be prevented if they would cede New Orleans and the Floridas to the United States. He considered this the greatest threat to the United States since the Revolutionary War. During the summer Livingston wrote to Madison that the old French maps showed the Perdido River as the boundary between Florida and Louisiana. In early October 1802 Jefferson told Livingston that the French occupation of Louisiana was not worth breaking the peace. A week later the Spanish intendant Juan Morales closed the port of New Orleans to American commerce. In late November the President unofficially asked the Spanish minister Carlos Martinez de Yrujo if Spain would “take it badly” if the United States sent a small expedition to explore the Missouri River.
Congress met in secret sessions, and on January 11, 1803 General Samuel Smith of Maryland proposed appropriating $2 million for expenses related to foreign nations. The next day a committee led by Joseph Nicholson recommended purchasing West Florida and New Orleans. On January 18 Jefferson secretly asked Congress to appropriate $2,500 for an expedition to explore the Missouri River and to the Pacific Ocean while making friends with the Indians. This was to include $696 to buy presents for the Indians. The previous week the President had requested $9,375,000 to purchase New Orleans. His diplomacy was to “palliate and endure.” The President appointed James Monroe to go to France to see about obtaining the territory east of the Mississippi including New Orleans for up to $10 million, and after being confirmed by the Senate he sailed from New York on March 9. The legislatures of New York, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania resolved to risk everything to maintain the dignity and rights of the United States. Jefferson considered the use of the Mississippi River indispensable. Madison wanted the 1795 treaty with Spain respected, and Talleyrand had promised that France would do that.
Early in 1803 Governor William Claiborne of the Mississippi Territory had informed Jefferson that they had about 500 regular troops and about 2,000 militia of which only 600 would be needed to take New Orleans from the Spanish. Napoleon apparently did not want the Louisiana territory returned to Spain and surprised the Americans by suggesting the sale of the vast territory west of the Mississippi River. On April 11 France’s Foreign Minister Talleyrand asked if the United States would like to buy the entire province of Louisiana, and on May 2 the American minister Robert R. Livingston and Napoleon’s Finance Minister François de Barbé-Marbois signed an agreement for its sale to the United States for $15 million. The United States would pay France $11,250,000 in 6% stock redeemable after fifteen years and would assume the claims of American citizens against France in the amount of $3,750,000, about half of what had been previously expected. The convention on the American claims took a few more days, and all the agreements were back-dated to April 30. The treaty gave French and Spanish ships special privileges in the port of New Orleans for twelve years.
On June 3 Jefferson sent a letter to Meriwether Lewis asking him to explore the Missouri River and across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. News of the French treaty on Louisiana reached the President in Washington on July 3, and the National Intelligencer published it the next day amid the celebrations of Independence Day. Five days later the same paper editorialized, “We have secured our rights by pacific means: truth and reason have been more powerful than the sword.”3 The treaty was to be ratified within six months, and Congress was called to meet on October 17. Although the Jefferson administration had only authorized offering up to about $10 million, they were glad to accept the deal for so much territory. Most of West Florida was included to the Perdido River. The boundaries of the Louisiana cession stretched from the Gulf of Mexico up to the headwaters of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers containing 828,000 square miles, doubling the size of the United States.
Jefferson wrote in August 1803 to John Breckinridge in confidence about his concern that adding territory to the United States may not be constitutional, and he prepared the following amendment: “Louisiana, as ceded by France to the United States, is made a part of the United States.” However, on September 12 Attorney General Lincoln urged Jefferson to defend the constitutionality of the purchase. Tom Paine wrote a letter to Jefferson on the 23rd in which he argued that the cession did not require any alteration in the Constitution because extending the territory of the United States was always contemplated. Federalists were concerned that western territory would add Republican states, and they opposed the acquisition.
The Spanish minister Casa Yrujo sent an objection to Madison that the United States would be receiving stolen property, but on October 4 the cabinet decided they would take New Orleans by force if the Spaniards refused to let the Americans have it peacefully. On October 20 all the Republican senators and one Federalist voted for the treaty that was approved 24-7. Two days later Senator Breckinridge introduced a bill authorizing the President to occupy with armed forces the territory ceded by France, and it passed 26-6. The Congress nearly unanimously approved accepting the Louisiana territory into the Union under the treaty-making power granted by the Constitution. This decision marked a change in the Republican policy from interpreting the Constitution by a “strict construction.” On October 31 Jefferson signed the enabling act and sent documents and instructions by post riders to officials in the Mississippi Territory and New Orleans.
James Monroe became minister to Britain and stayed in London until October 8 when he left a secretary in charge and departed for Paris and Madrid. Livingston in Paris told Monroe that Barbé-Marbois proposed that the United States could purchase the two Floridas from France for 60 million francs; but the Comte d’Hauterive told Monroe that Spain had to cede the territory, and the United States would have to pay them. Monroe left for Madrid on December 8. While he was en route, Talleyrand clarified that France’s position was that Spain owned the Floridas, and he urged Napoleon to take a hard line. By Christmas the President learned that the Spaniards had transferred Louisiana to the French on November 30. On December 14 Spain allied with France by declaring war against England, and on January 4, 1805 they signed a secret treaty in which France promised to guarantee Spain’s territory in Europe and the return of their colonies in the current war. Jefferson learned in the middle of January that General James Wilkinson and 450 American soldiers by December 20 had taken over New Orleans from the French.
In March 1804 the Governance Act recognized that federal agents had been governing Louisiana since December. In May the people of Louisiana remonstrated against the political system adopted by Congress for them, and Edward Livingston wrote a petition for representative government, noting that the governor, his council, and the supreme court had all been appointed by President Jefferson and complaining that they were deprived of the right of election. On the 30th Jefferson ordered a Mobile revenue district with Fort Stoddert as its port. At first Congress did not give the Territory of New Orleans the rights to vote and jury trials, but the initial legislation that went into effect on October 1, 1804 was intended to last for only one year. Claiborne was inducted as Governor the next day. Claiborne did not form a council until December 4. He appointed judges who knew only American law, and he was the court of last resort without even an attorney to advise him.
The people of Louisiana remonstrated by presenting two petitions to the Congress. On March 2, 1805 the Congress authorized the people of Louisiana to elect 25 representatives to a General Assembly and gave the people of New Orleans all the rights of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. When the population would reach 60,000 free inhabitants, they could apply for admission into the Union; but this could not be established until the 1810 census was taken. On March 11, 1805 Jefferson appointed General James Wilkinson Governor of the Louisiana Territory, but the Senate did not consent to it until January 27, 1806. Neither Claiborne nor Wilkinson knew any French or Spanish, and both became very unpopular. Claiborne reported to Madison that many people believed that the territory west of the Mississippi would be ceded back to Spain. In 1806 the Code Noir divided the people of Louisiana legally into whites and non-whites who had no rights.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led an expedition called the Corps of Discovery that began from St. Louis on May 14, 1804. Lewis acquired hundreds of brooches, rings, earrings, beads, mirrors, and knives to give to the Otos, Omahas, Missouris, Sioux, Pawnees, Poncas, Arikaras, and other tribes they met along the way. Jefferson instructed them to be friendly and conciliatory, and they received hospitality that included food, presents, and “temporary wives.” The expedition with 33 men traveled up the Missouri River 1,609 miles and camped near Mandan villages in October in what is now North Dakota. Lewis and Clark instilled discipline by using courts martial and up to 100 lashes on the back. They built a fort and spent the winter there. In April 1805 they sent their keelboat back with some men and a report.
On April 7 the Corps of 33 men set out in six canoes and two pirogues up the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. They were guided by the Shoshone woman Sacagawea and her husband Toussaint Charbonnneau. They reached the Nez Percé Indians on the Clearwater River on September 22 by what became the Idaho border. From there they built canoes and went down the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers, reaching the Pacific Ocean on November 7. They began their return journey in March 1806 and spent a month with the Nez Percé waiting for snow to melt. They crossed the Rockies again and explored the Marias and Yellowstone rivers. Blackfoot Indians tried to steal their horses and had two men killed. They left Sacagawea and her family with the Mandans and arrived in St. Louis on September 23. They found 178 new plants and 122 species and subspecies of animals and kept records of them. Despite the many dangers they faced and venereal disease suffered, only one of their men died, probably from appendicitis. Lewis shared the fruits of the expedition with Jefferson at the White House on January 10, 1807, and he planted some of the seeds and specimens at Monticello. In 1807 Jefferson appointed Clark a brigadier general in the Louisiana Territory and the agent for Indian affairs.
In the summer of 1805 Governor James Wilkinson sent Lt. Zebulon Pike with nineteen soldiers to find the source of the Mississippi River. They left from St. Louis and by October 16 had gone 233 miles beyond the Falls of Saint Anthony where they built a winter station. Pike held a council with the Sioux at those falls and persuaded them to grant 100,000 acres in that area, but he was unable to get the Sioux and the Chippewas to make peace. Some of his men went farther north on sleds in December and reached the British trading post by Sandy Lake on January 8, 1806. He informed the British and Indians that they were in the territory of the United States. Pike began the return journey on February 18 and arrived at St. Louis on April 30.
On June 24, 1806 Governor Wilkinson ordered Captain Zebulon Pike to find the source of the Red River. His expedition with twenty soldiers left the St. Louis area on July 15 following the Missouri and Osage rivers and took fifty Osage hostages back to their people a month later. Pike went west along the Republican River and reached a Pawnee village on September 29. From there he turned south and came to the Arkansas River on October 14. The Governor’s son, Lt. James Biddle Wilkinson, led a group down the Arkansas to the Mississippi and back up to St. Louis while Pike led the others upstream to the source of the Arkansas River. On November 15 Pike named a high mountain “Grand Peak,” but it soon came to be known as Pike’s Peak. Pike tried to get to the headwaters of the Red River but could not find it and went up the Platte River. Some fatigued men were left behind, and Pike’s group reached the Rio Grande on January 30, 1807. Spaniards captured Pike and his men near Santa Fe on February 26. They were taken to the capital at Chihuahua and were released at San Antonio before returning to Louisiana at Natchitoches on July 1.
Jefferson chose the scientists Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis and Captain Richard Sparks to lead an expedition in the Spanish territory looking for the source of the Red River. They left Fort Adams near Natchez on April 19, 1806 and were joined by 21 more soldiers along the way. They went 615 miles up the Red River by July 28 when they encountered Spanish troops. To provoke a confrontation, Governor Wilkinson of the Louisiana Territory had secretly notified Spain which sent two contingents of soldiers. Freeman negotiated with the Spanish commander and followed Jefferson’s order to avoid violence, agreeing to turn back the next day. The naturalist Custis made pioneering discoveries.
The Judiciary Act of 1802 had suspended the Supreme Court from meeting for fourteen months. Chief Justice Marshall believed that this Republican repeal of the Federalist Judiciary Act of 1801 was unconstitutional and wanted to refuse to sit as a circuit judge; but because the Ellsworth Judiciary Act of 1789 had the Supreme Court justices acquiesce in serving as circuit judges, the Court believed it had been established. The Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional because it gave the Supreme Court original jurisdiction instead of appellate. Thus Marshall presided over the circuit court in Richmond in the fall of 1802. In Stuart v. Laird he held that the plea based on this provision in the Ellsworth Act was insufficient. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and Marshall, having made the lower court decision, did not participate. This case was decided on March 2, 1803 with Justice Paterson writing for the unanimous Court that Congress did have the right to establish and abolish lower courts. The Act made circuit riding by Supreme Court justices optional, and they gradually diminished and stopped doing that.
Chief Justice Marshall’s famous decision on Marbury v. Madison was delivered on February 24, 1803. He decided that withholding Marbury’s commission was not warranted by law and violated his legal right. The President could not recall an appointment if the officer is not removable. Marbury had a right to claim protection of the laws. However, because Marbury brought his suit by the 1789 Judiciary Act which was ruled unconstitutional, the Court was not authorized to issue a writ of mandamus. Therefore the Supreme Court dismissed his case, and Marbury never applied for the mandamus in a lower court. In this historic case Marshall argued that the essence of civil liberty is the right of every individual to be protected by the laws when one has been injured. One of the first duties of a government of laws, not of men, is to provide such protection. An act that violates the Constitution cannot be the law of the land, and the Supreme Court can invalidate such acts because the Constitution is superior to any act of legislation. This famous decision shocked the Republicans that the Federalists with their control over the federal judiciary could cancel an act of Congress they considered unconstitutional. In his opinion Marshall concluded “That a law repugnant to the constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.”3
On March 3 the House voted to impeach federal judge John Pickering of New Hampshire for drunkenness and insanity. The Senate found him guilty by a vote of 19-7 and voted 20-6 to remove him from office on March 12, 1804. In the 1802 elections the Republicans had gained large majorities over the Federalists with a 25-9 advantage in the Senate and 102-39 in the House.
In the spring the Aurora and its editor William Duane began to criticize the Republicans Gallatin and Madison but not President Jefferson. Then they began attacking Pennsylvania’s Governor McKean and Attorney General Alexander J. Dallas. McKean and Dallas in January had helped the legislature remove Judge Addison, and they went after three judges on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In October 1803 Treasury Secretary Gallatin urged Jefferson to reduce the annual expenditure on the Navy from $900,000 to $600,000, and the President agreed. Bonds and notes issued to finance the Louisiana Purchase cost $900,000 in 1803, and revenues that year fell by $2 million to $10,600,000. Jefferson sent his third annual message to Congress on October 17. In regard to the Louisiana Purchase he noted,
The enlightened government of France saw,
with just discernment, the importance of both nations
of such liberal arrangements as might best and permanently
promote the peace, friendship, and interests of both.5
The Senate would need to ratify the agreement, and he urged the Congress to act as follows:
With the wisdom of Congress it will rest
to take those ulterior measures
which may be necessary for the immediate occupation
and temporary government of the country;
for its incorporation into our Union;
for rendering the change of government
a blessing to our newly-adopted brethren;
for securing to them the rights of conscience and of property:
for confirming to the Indian inhabitants
their occupancy and self-government,
establishing friendly and commercial relations with them,
and for ascertaining the geography of the country acquired.6
The President also noted that they had acquired from the friendly Kaskaskias territory from the mouth of the Illinois at the Mississippi up the Ohio in exchange for patronage and protection with annual aids in money, agricultural implements, and other chosen articles. In the past year the nation had paid off $3,100,000 from the debt while maintaining nearly $6 million in the treasury.
On March 26, 1804 Congress passed an Act Further to Protect the Commerce and Seamen of the United States against the Barbary Powers, adding 2.5% ad valorem duties on imports in American ships and 12.5% more on imported goods in foreign vessels. This increased revenues in 1804 to $11,600,000.
Congress passed the Mobile Act on February 24, 1804 establishing a customs district east of New Orleans. They created the Territory of Orleans with New Orleans as the capital. The line that later became the northern boundary of the state of Louisiana marked the division with the rest to the north called the District of Louisiana with its capital at St. Louis. The New Orleans district was much smaller than Louisiana, but 50,000 people lived there. William Claiborne became the first governor of Orleans, and General James Wilkinson was appointed governor of Louisiana. Congress prohibited importing slaves into Orleans because of fear of rebels from St. Domingue, and in the next two years Orleans allowed about 200 slaves to purchase their freedom. Spain considered West Florida their territory, and Jefferson sent Monroe to Madrid to confirm American claims. Spain’s minister Carlos Martinez Yrujo complained that all of West Florida still belonged to Spain, but on May 30 Jefferson backed up the Mobile Act by proclaiming that the shores of the bay and river of Mobile are within the boundaries of the United States.
In December 1803 a pamphlet was published by the pseudonym Aristides examining the charges against Burr and severely criticizing the Clintons and Livingstons, and much later it was revealed that it was written by Burr’s intimate friend, William Peter Van Ness. In January 1804 a conspiracy began involving the Federalists Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, Uriah Tracy and Roger Griswold of Connecticut, William Plumer of New Hampshire, and others to dissolve the Union and protect the Federalists in the northeast. However, they could not persuade Alexander Hamilton and Rufus King of New York to join them nor John Quincy Adams and other leaders in Massachusetts. On February 16 Hamilton attended the Federalist caucus and persuaded them to support George Clinton for Vice President instead of Aaron Burr whom he considered dangerous. On the 25th the Republican caucus nominated Clinton as their candidate for Vice President. Pickering wrote to Rufus King on March 4 proposing the secession of New England and perhaps New York.
Although New York had many Republicans, they wanted that state involved with Hamilton as their leader. However, Griswold hoped to make Burr their leader. Burr decided to run for governor of New York in April, and on the 25th Governor Clinton won re-election with 35,000 votes to 28,000 for Burr. That month Jefferson appointed William Johnson of South Carolina to the Supreme Court. On June 18 Ness took a message to Hamilton complaining about Hamilton’s despicable opinions about Burr. Two days later Hamilton wrote a reply in which he used language often associated with a challenge that could lead to a duel. He opposed disunion, and Burr challenged him to a duel. Hamilton did not intend to kill Burr, and he found some consolation in predicting that if Burr killed him, it would be political suicide. On July 11 they met at Weehocken, the place where Hamilton’s son Philip had been killed in a duel three years before which drove his sister mad with grief. Though witness accounts differ, Hamilton probably shot first without trying to hit Burr, and then Burr shot a bullet through Hamilton’s liver and into his spinal column that caused his death 31 hours later.
Burr escaped to South Carolina and then went to Philadelphia and Washington. He stayed away from New York and New Jersey until all charges were dropped. Burr tried to negotiate with Anthony Merry, the British minister to the United States, in a conspiracy to separate the Louisiana Territory from the United States as a confederation led by Burr and sponsored by Britain. Burr also plotted this with James Wilkinson, commanding general of the US Army.
Congress did not send the 12th Amendment to the Constitution to the state legislatures until December 12, 1803, and three quarters of the states finally ratified the amendment on June 15, 1804, separating the electoral college voting for President and Vice President. In the 1804 elections the Republicans ran on their accomplishments that included abolishing internal taxes, removing superfluous federal judges and thousands of unnecessary officers, reducing the Army and the Navy, and reducing administrative expenditures and the national debt by several million dollars while preserving the peace and adding the extensive territory in the Louisiana Purchase.
In the 1804 election the Republicans increased their domination of the Senate to 27 to 7 and of the House by eleven seats to make it 114 to 28. Jefferson and George Clinton each received 162 electoral votes for President and Vice President to 14 for C. C. Pinckney and Rufus King. The Federalists won only Connecticut and Delaware plus two of Maryland’s nine votes. Six state legislatures chose their electors; six states had them elected by popular vote; four states voted by electoral districts; and Massachusetts had 17 elected by Congressional district and two statewide. Even though he had two sons-in-law running for Congress, Jefferson held to his policy of not interfering in local elections. He sent his annual message to Congress on November 8. The revenue for the year was $11,500,000, and $3,600,000 was used to pay down the national debt. Since 1801 they had paid $12 million off the national debt. Jefferson also noted that the United States had acquired from the Delaware Indians the territory between the Wabash and Ohio rivers, consolidating the land north of the Ohio from Lake Erie to the Mississippi. In 1804 New Jersey became the last state north of the Mason-Dixon line to pass an anti-slavery law.
William Branch Giles of Virginia had worked well with Jefferson as majority leader in the House; but when he was incapacitated in 1802, he was replaced by young John Randolph of Virginia. He charged the Postmaster General Gideon Granger who had lobbied for the New England Yazoo claims and dispensed patronage in mail contracts, bribing Congressmen to support compensating them. This issue was suspended on February 4, 1804 when he led the effort that eventually impeached the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in March. Granger and another Republican from New England proposed a compromise for their clients in the fall of 1804, and on January 29, 1805 a resolution authorizing commissioners to settle the Yazoo claims was presented in the House and was enacted.
The fanatical Federalist Chase had ranted his political views during trials of Republicans charged under the Sedition Act. On May 2, 1803 he had lectured a federal grand jury in Baltimore on the 1801 Judiciary Repeal Act in which he also criticized equal rights, universal suffrage, and attacks on property. He argued that the Republican Constitution led to the worst form of government he called “mobocracy.” Jefferson complained about this tirade, and it eventually led to Chase’s impeachment. Luther Martin defended Chase by arguing that as a nation of laws, the independence of other judiciary should not be challenged unless judges had broken a law. Vice President Burr presided over the trial and reminded them they had to vote whether Chase was guilty of actual crimes and misdemeanors, and in February 1805 the Senate did not have the two-thirds vote needed to convict him of any of the eight charges. This trial set the precedent that judges could not be removed for political reasons but had to be guilty of a crime. Jefferson to mollify Burr, who was leaving the vice presidency, had offered him patronage in the Louisiana Territory. Burr, his stepson, and brother-in-law were given the governorship and two other important offices in the territory.
Return Jonathan Meigs had been a colonel in the Revolutionary War, and in 1801 he became the agent to the Cherokee Nation in Tennessee. In 1804 he negotiated the Wafford Settlement in northeast Georgia for $5,000 and annuities of $1,000, and the next year he helped Secretary of War Dearborn purchase land north of the Tennessee River in Tennessee and Kentucky for annuities of $15,600 and $3,000. However, another treaty completed in December 1806 with Chickamaugas upset conservative Cherokees who complained that their National Council had not consented. In June 1807 Chief Doublehead was executed or murdered for treason.
Gideon Blackburn was a Presbyterian minister from Maryville, Tennessee, and he raised money to start a school for Cherokee children in the Overhills country of Tennessee in 1804. They began with 21 children, and in July 1805 the students showed Governor Sevier and others what they had learned, impressing the former Indian-hater that they had become civilized. In the fall of 1808 Blackburn persuaded the Cherokees to reform their laws by replacing revenge and executions with a system of trials by evidence. Blackburn became superintendent of two mission schools, and a deputation of Cherokees asked President Jefferson to let Cherokees become citizens of the United States. Jefferson suggested that if the Cherokee minority could not agree on the Nation’s division, they could move west of the Mississippi. In 1808 about 1,130 Chickamaugas did move to what is now Arkansas.
In the summer of 1805 many chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations gathered at Buffalo Creek in New York with Reverend Cram of the Boston Missionary Society. The Seneca Chief Red Jacket gave an eloquent oration explaining that they relate to the Great Spirit in their own way and complaining how the land has been taken over by the white people. He said they are thankful for the favors they receive and love each other to be united and never quarrel about religion. The white people wanted more land, and they brought strong liquor that has slain thousands. He said they took their country but are not satisfied and want to force their religion on them. The Six Nations do not want to destroy their brothers’ religion, but they want to keep their own. They will wait and see what effect the preaching of the white men has on their neighbors. If they find that it makes them good and honest and less inclined to cheat Indians, then they will consider what the missionaries are offering.
In his “Second Inaugural Address” on March 4, 1805 President Jefferson summarized the accomplishments of his first term. He cultivated friendship with all nations, did justice, gave lawful favors, and valued mutual interests on equal terms. In some cases a just nation used arms “to bridle others.” By eliminating unnecessary offices and expenses they ended internal taxes. Yet the remaining taxes on the purchase of foreign goods by those who can afford luxuries helped provide enough revenues to pay expenses and apply the surplus to reducing the public debt. He hoped that during peacetime they would be able to invest in “rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects.” Though injustice may cause war, its expenses could be met without borrowing from future generations. Useful works may be suspended during a war and resumed during peace.
Jefferson suggested that the Louisiana Purchase would enable their own brothers and their children to settle the land west of the Mississippi River rather than have strangers moving in there. The government had not interfered with religion or churches, and the rights of the native inhabitants had been respected. As limits made hunting difficult, they encouraged them to learn agriculture and industry and provided them with tools. Jefferson noted that some had resisted changes because of prejudice, ignorance, and stubborn adherence to past traditions. The press had been lively, but falsehood and defamation could be punished by states. The free expression of truth could correct false reasonings and opinions.
After his second inauguration Jefferson announced that, like Washington, he would retire at the end of his second term. The Republicans now had a 27-7 advantage in the United States Senate. In April the Federalists in Massachusetts re-elected their Governor Caleb Strong and retained their majority in the legislature. Pennsylvania’s Governor McKean united with Federalists to win re-election. James Madison and Albert Gallatin continued as the leading members of the cabinet in the State and Treasury departments. Navy secretary Robert Smith was appointed Attorney General, but he ended up running the Navy Department through the second term. Jefferson nominated John Breckinridge of Kentucky to be Attorney General in August, but he was not confirmed until January 1806.
In 1805 in Thompson v. Wilmot a Kentucky court ruled that a contract which declared that a purchased slave must be freed within seven years was upheld, and the freed slave was awarded $691.25 in damages. In 1809 a higher court affirmed the decision, establishing a standard for the future emancipation of slaves.
Peace was restored in Tripoli, and trade flourished, increasing the annual revenue to $14,000,000. William Henry Harrison governed the Indiana Territory and on July 1805 made a treaty with the Wyandots, Ottawas, and other tribes. Indian lands were paid for, but they were obtained for about one cent per acre. Chickasaws and Cherokees sold land between the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers to Tennessee, opening the road from Knoxville to Nashville. Creeks sold to Georgia the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers. These treaties provided horse-roads to the Mobile River. Jefferson hoped to use a third of revenues for the improvements of industries.
Charles Pinckney was the minister in Madrid, and James Monroe had arrived as a special envoy on January 2, 1805. They worked together on the disagreements with Spain over the Floridas and Texas. French and Spanish agents kept telling Madison that Spain had not ceded West Florida to France. Spaniards were plundering American commerce, and the garrisons in West Florida and Texas were reinforced. During the 1804-05 winter while Monroe was in Spain, an American flotilla with eighty cannons and 700 crew left New York carrying contraband of war. The French Minister Louis Marie Turreau complained to Madison, who promised him that a bill would be passed. On March 3 the US Senate passed a law that prohibited armed commerce but allowed unarmed trade.
Prime Minister William Pitt and the British Parliament enacted legislation to open West Indies’ ports to enemy ships to trade for British merchandise and to import the enemy’s produce in British ships to England. On July 23 William Scott judged the case of the American merchant ship Essex, overturning the protection of broken voyages of ships with American customs papers and opening the way for British ships to seize American vessels. Talleyrand communicated that Napoleon was going to oppose Monroe’s negotiation in Spain. After his diplomatic efforts failed, Monroe left Spain in August. Madison learned of the British seizing of American ships in late September. On October 18 Monroe urged President Jefferson to threaten war against France, Spain, and England. On October 21 Admiral Horatio Nelson won a great victory for the British off Cape Trafalgar against the French and Spanish fleets, giving the English supremacy in the ocean. News of this reached Washington about December 20. Napoleon’s army had defeated the Russian and Austrian coalition at Austerlitz on December 3. War in Europe helped neutral American exports which reached $53 million in 1805. This year Mercy Warren published her three-volume History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.
James Stephen published War in Disguise: or, the Frauds of the Neutral Flags in October, and Monroe sent a copy to America on November 1. Stephen argued that the Rule of 1756 was settled law and that French and Spanish ships carrying French or Spanish property in the name of neutrality was fraudulent. He also contended that American trade was also fraudulent and could ruin Britain. Therefore he recommended enforcing the Rule of 1756 by cutting off neutral trade altogether.
On December 3 Jefferson criticized Spain in his annual message to Congress, and three days later he sent a private message to Congress in which he asked for a secret appropriation of $5 million to purchase Florida. Also on that day Spanish Minister Yrujo sent a reply to Secretary of State Madison. The President’s cabinet decided not to respond to his letter. When Marquis Yrujo arrived in Washington on January 15, 1806, Madison signed a letter informing him that the President had requested his recall. However, Yrujo refused to leave. John Randolph hated Madison and did not want him to succeed Jefferson, and he accused the administration of corruption in its attempts to buy Florida. Madison criticized the British for trying to prevent neutrals from trading with non-British colonies, and he gave copies of his pamphlet Examination of the British Doctrine to members of Congress. After Randolph took a vacation for a week, Congress denied the President’s request for funds and passed a resolution to increase the army.
During 1805 Spanish cruisers captured much American property, and Spanish armed forces made incursions into Florida and Texas. The revolutionary Francesco de Miranda came to New York in early 1806 to ask for support against Spain, and then he went to Washington and met with Madison. Yrujo persuaded the French chargé Turreau to complain about Miranda to Madison. Two British frigates blockaded New York for the whole year. About 2,500 British sailors deserted to work on American ships, and the British navy impressed about a thousand of them back. The Americans complained that the British captured 500 American ships, and by the end of the year Americans no longer doubted that Britain was at war against them.
After returning to America in 1805, Joel Barlow spent most of his time in Washington living in a house recommended to him by Jefferson. On February 24, 1806 President Jefferson sent Barlow a letter with a draft for a bill to establish a National Academy. Barlow gave his ideas on higher education in his “Prospectus of a National Institution To Be Established in the United States.” He agreed with George Washington and Jefferson that the United States needed a national university, and he recommended a college and a scientific society to conduct research with a printing press to publish their findings. He also suggested moving the patent office from the State Department to the National Institute so that it would expose impostors and establish what eventually became the Bureau of Standards. He wanted teaching and research in mineralogy, botany, chemistry, medicine, mechanics, hydraulics, and mathematics as well as in literature, morals, government, and law.
In July 1806 President Jefferson offered to give Barlow access to all his papers and those of Madison if he would write a Republican history of his administration. In 1808 Barlow published the revised version of his epic poem, The Vision of Columbus, as The Columbiad with changes to the “importance of republican institutions” to the “rising generation.” He expanded his account of the American Revolution from two books to three, and he urged Americans to establish human equality by abolishing slavery. He reduced the emphasis on the Biblical account of creation and updated scientific theories. Barlow became the American minister to France in 1811 and died while with Napoleon’s army as they retreated from Russia in December 1812.
On January 16, 1806 the House of Representatives appropriated $2,000,000 to purchase Spanish territory east of the Mississippi, and the Senate passed it on February 7. On the 18th in a letter to Judge Cooper the President expressed his concern that Europe realize he was not “entirely in Quaker principles.” On February 28 Congress passed a one-year law declaring that any American ship going to St. Domingue should be forfeited with its cargo. This was passed to please Napoleon but also because those in southern states feared rebellious Africans in Haiti who had overthrown slavery. Madison on March 13 sent a letter to John Armstrong in Paris giving him secret permission to offer France $5,000,000 for Florida and Texas to the Colorado River.
Madison had long favored restriction of British trade, and on January 29, 1806 Andrew Gregg of Pennsylvania sponsored a bill to ban all imports from England and its colonies. Southerners opposed this because their agricultural products were bought in large quantities by the British. In 1802, 1803, and 1804 tobacco exports had averaged $6,140,000, and $3,290,000 was from the British; England’s share of the annual cotton exports worth $6,970,000 was $5,630,000. Jacob Crowninshield of Massachusetts argued that because the British held $16 million of the US public debt, $8 million of the Louisiana stock, and $4 million in US Bank stock, they would not risk these being confiscated in a war. This led others to suggest confiscating these without a war.
Treasury Secretary Gallatin considered these proposals dangerous, and his brother-in-law Joseph Nicholson noted that Gregg’s bill would cost the US Government $5 million a year in revenue. Senator Samuel Smith and his brother Robert Smith, the Navy Secretary, wanted to build up the Navy. Their proposal was defeated, but the Congress did resolve to send a special minister despite Jefferson’s disagreement. After Pitt’s death on January 23 his policies were changed by the new foreign minister, Charles James Fox, a friend of Americans. On February 10 Nicholson presented his compromise resolutions, and on March 25 the House agreed to set November 15 to begin implementing the Non-importation Bill based on those resolutions even though it was opposed by Randolph, who had broken with the Jefferson administration in his speech on March 5. They appropriated less money for the Navy but did fund fifty more gunboats the President requested, and they insisted on sending William Pinkney of Maryland as a special emissary to London. Jefferson signed the Non-importation Bill on April 18, and the next day he nominated Monroe and Pinckney as commissioners to Britain.
On April 14 Randolph proposed repealing the hated salt tax that had raised $500,000 a year, but the Senate rejected that. Randolph then got the House to remove the Mediterranean Fund that brought in nearly one million dollars, and the most contentious session of Congress ended on April 21.
Massachusetts elected a legislature with a Republican majority in April, and the Federalist Governor Strong was only re-elected by a few hundred votes. On April 25 during the British blockade of New York harbor the vessel Leander, while attempting to shoot over the bow of the American merchant ship Richard, killed the captain’s brother John Pierce. Captain Whitby was indicted for murder by a grand jury in New York, and on May 3 President Jefferson closed American ports to the three frigates involved in the blockade. On May 16 the British Foreign Minister Fox told Monroe that Britain was blockading European ports because of Napoleon but that American ships not carrying contraband could trade, negating the Essex decision and reinstating the neutral carrying policy. Jefferson learned in late May that Spanish forces had crossed the Sabine River into the Orleans Territory.
In Philadelphia the journeymen boot-makers and shoe-makers organized a union to improve their working conditions and to restore a 25% reduction in their wages. They refused to work and tried to prevent others from working until their demands were met. The craftsmen were put on trial between January and May in 1806 and were found guilty of a criminal conspiracy. Striking was considered illegal because it could bring a rise in the price of goods and destroy commerce.
During the summer William Steuben Smith, the surveyor of the Port of New York, and Samuel Ogden, owner of the Leander, were put on trial for violating the neutrality laws by supporting the attempted revolution led by Francesco de Miranda against imperial Spain in Colombia; but when members of his administration were subpoenaed, Jefferson told them to disobey the summons. Jefferson removed Smith from his position, and he was acquitted.
On November 4 the British ambassador Anthony Merry was replaced by the better liked David Montague Erskine. On the 15th the American Non-importation Act went into effect. On November 21 Napoleon issued his Berlin Decree blockading England for violating international law. This would effect neutral rights and American commerce, and on December 1 the American envoys Monroe and Pinkney reacted by signing a treaty with the British Foreign Secretary Charles Grey that ignored the conditions requested by Jefferson and Madison. On November 27 Jefferson issued a proclamation prohibiting private expeditions into Spanish territory.
Revenues in 1806 reached $14,500,000, and the Treasury had a surplus of $4,000,000. The national debt had been reduced to less than $57,500,000 which included $11,250,000 in Louisiana stock. In his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1806 Jefferson reported how he acted to curtail military actions by private individuals into Spanish territory and ordered the seizing of ships and arms. The public force acted strictly on the defensive to protect citizens from aggression and to suppress criminal attempts by private individuals to begin unauthorized hostilities. The size of American military forces would depend on the negotiations with Spain. Although he recognized the value of private enterprise, Jefferson suggested that a public institution could aid the sciences and improve the country. The Congress began by cooperating with the President’s request to suspend the Non-importation Act that had been passed in April. The House declined to expand the Army and refused to fortify New York. In December the President appointed Henry Brockholst Livingston of New York to the Supreme Court.
William Henry Harrison governed the Indiana Territory from January 1801 to December 1812. He came to realize that the treaties were unfair to the Indians. Regardless of whether an Indian killed a white man or a white man murdered an Indian, they were tried by American law, and in the history of the Indiana Territory no American jury ever convicted a white man of murdering an Indian. Jefferson hoped that the Indians would cultivate the soil and raise animals; but he still acted on behalf of the Americans’ greed for more land. Governor Harrison made treaties with the Miamis, Eel Rivers, Weas, Piankeshaws, and Delawares in 1804 and 1805, and these were resented by the better Indians in the territory. In 1805 Harrison promoted the forming of the Indiana legislature which allowed settlers to bring slaves into the territory for a limited number of days; then they could be emancipated or bound in service for years. In 1808 those opposing slavery won the election and overturned the law.
Tecumseh was born in March 1768 in Old Piqua in Ohio to the Shawnee war chief Puckeshinwa and probably a Creek mother. After his father died, he was adopted by Chief Blackfish who in 1778 led an invasion of Kentucky in revenge for the murder of Cornstalk, captured Daniel Boone and 26 others, and took them back to his town Old Chillicothe. In 1780 an American army led by George Rogers Clark drove the Shawnees out of Old Chillicothe and Old Piqua and burned the towns. Tecumseh joined a band of Shawnees to fight the invading settlers’ flatboats on the Ohio River. When he was 15 years old, he objected to the Indians’ burning a settler at the stake. In 1790 Tecumseh joined the Miami war chief Little Turtle when they defeated General Josiah Harmar and his 1,400 soldiers at a place that later became Fort Wayne. He also fought with him on November 4, 1791 near the Wabash River when Little Turtle and Blue Jacket defeated General Arthur St. Clair and killed more than 600 soldiers.
Then Tecumseh led raids against frontiersmen in Ohio and Kentucky, and he helped the Cherokees fight settlers in Tennessee. He traveled to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, but in 1793 he returned to Ohio to defend with an Indian confederacy against the army led by General Anthony Wayne. On August 20, 1794 Tecumseh fought bravely when Wayne defeated the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Tecumseh did not attend the council and broke with Blue Jacket over the Treaty of Greenville. In 1796 Tecumseh married the half-breed Manete who bore him one son before they broke up. He fell in love with the white Rebecca Galloway who improved his English and introduced him to the Bible, Shakespeare, and history such as Alexander the Great. She would have married him if he had agreed to live as a white man, but after a month contemplating it he decided to stay with his people.
Tecumseh did not drink alcohol and preached against it. His younger brother Lalawethika drank heavily and loafed until the spring of 1805 when during a religious revival by Shaker preachers he believed he went to the spirit world and communicated with the Creator who advised him to change his bad ways and teach people the right path. He vowed never to drink any more, and he changed his name to Tenskwatawa which means “Open Door.” He urged his followers to give up the material things and vices they had learned from the whites and renounce selfishness, envy, and the lust for possessions. That summer Tenskwatawa and his followers established a community near Greenville, Ohio.
In the spring of 1806 Tenskwatawa traveled to the Delawares who had accused several people of witchcraft and then burned them at the stake. Moravian missionaries blamed the Shawnee prophet and reported it to William Henry Harrison who asked Tenskwatawa to prove he was sent by God by performing a cosmic miracle. After Tenskwatawa predicted an eclipse of the sun on June 16, his following grew. Many tribes were losing faith in their traditional chiefs who were selling their land to the Americans, and some traveled to Greenville. Both brothers advocated the unification of the Indian tribes. Those in their community did not drink alcohol, and they tilled the soil. Tenskwatawa aroused his followers to attack Indians they believed were bewitched or influenced by the white men. They killed several hundred Indians before Tecumseh personally was able to stop the purge.
In September 1807 Tecumseh, Blue Jacket, and Roundhead of the Wyandots met with Ohio's Governor Thomas Kirker. Tecumseh spoke for three hours and impressed many Indians and whites. Canada’s Governor James Henry Craig tried to persuade the Indians to support the British if there was a war against the United States. The Shawnee leaders felt threatened by Harrison, and in April 1808 they moved from Greenville to Potawatomi and Kickapoo lands in northwestern Indiana where they founded Prophetstown in May by the junction of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers. Many Indians followed them there. Tecumseh went to Canada in June, and the British Captain Mathew Elliott promised to help supply his new village. Tenskwatawa visited Governor Harrison at Vincennes in August, and his followers were not tempted by liquor. The Prophet taught that only the whites knew how to use liquor and that it was not made for the Indians. He tried to get the whites to stop selling it to the Indians.
Aaron Burr was not tried for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel on July 11, 1804; but it ended his political career as Jefferson chose George Clinton to replace him as Vice President. Burr met with the British ambassador Anthony Merry, who wrote to the Foreign Secretary Harrowby on August 6,
I have just received an offer from Mr. Burr,
the actual Vice President of the United States,
to lend his assistance to his Majesty’s Government
in any Manner in which they may think fit to employ him,
particularly in an endeavouring to effect
a Separation of the Western Part of the United States.7
Merry went on to note that Col. Charles Williamson would be going to England to lobby for the Burr scheme, and he did so there for the next three years. Burr later told people that the British might contribute guns and money to his expedition for regained power in the southwest.
After Burr’s term as Vice President ended on March 4, 1805, he traveled to South Carolina to visit his daughter Theodosia and her husband Joseph Allston. That month President Jefferson appointed Burr’s brother-in-law Joseph Browne as Ssecretary of the new Louisiana Territory. Burr also visited East Florida and developed a scheme to help people in New Orleans and Louisiana become independent of the United States. His main partner in this venture was General James Wilkinson, Governor of the Louisiana Territory, who later testified that Burr joined the Mexican Association that comprised three hundred men in Louisiana who wanted to liberate part of Mexico from Spain. Wilkinson had been receiving an annual pension of $2,000 from Spain for twenty years. In 1804 he requested arrears on his pension, and the Spanish government gave him 12,000 pesos.
Burr visited New Orleans in June and July. The new legislature assembled on November 4 and soon came into conflict with Governor Claiborne and his council. Burr met with Merry again in November, asked him for two or three ships, and received $1,500. Burr met with Merry once more in the spring of 1806, and Merry was recalled to England on June 1. President Jefferson’s first warning of Burr’s conspiracy came in an anonymous letter on December 1, 1805 accusing him of being a British pensioner who was connected with the ambassador Merry. Two weeks later Joseph Daveiss, the US attorney for Kentucky, informed the President that Wilkinson was a pensioner of Spain.
In May 1806 a majority of the Orleans Council resigned while the legislature delegated Daniel Clark to go to Congress. His friend Lt. William Murray and Lt. Josiah Taylor came from Fort Adams to New Orleans, and they learned of plans to seize money from New Orleans banks and impress ships. The Louisiana legislature adjourned on June 7.
Jonathan Dayton was a senator from New Jersey 1799-1805, and he owned land with Wilkinson. Madison had received the Spanish revolutionary Francisco de Miranda and had snubbed the ambassador Yrujo, who gave Dayton a total of about $3,000 from the Spanish treasury. On July 24, 1806 Dayton sent a letter to Burr encouraging him to seek “wealth and glory” in Louisiana and Mexico. Dayton’s nephew Peter Ogden sent a copy of the letter to Wilkinson and suggested that Jefferson was going to remove him. On July 29 Burr sent a long letter in cipher to Wilkinson in which he described his plan to go down the Mississippi from the Falls on November 15 with 500 or a 1,000 men and to Natchez in December. Samuel Swartwout brought this letter to Wilkinson on October 8. On August 28 Governor Claiborne had sent a warning to Secretary of War Dearborn that the French would not support the American government in a conflict. On September 15 Jefferson received a letter from Col. George Morgan who reported that Burr had visited his farm and tried to recruit his sons for a military campaign.
Col. Simon de Herrera brought 1,500 more Spanish soldiers across the Sabine and established a garrison at Bayou Pierre. In response Wilkinson came to Natchitoches on September 22, and the next day he sent a message demanding that the Spaniards evacuate the Orleans Territory. The Spaniards withdrew from Bayou Pierre on the 27th. After Swartwout brought the letter from Burr to Wilkinson on October 8, Wilkinson sent a deciphered version to President Jefferson on October 21; but he edited out key elements. Wilkinson had 500 US troops under his command, and on November 5 he and Herrera agreed on the compromise Neutral Ground Treaty that created a neutral zone occupied by neither forces inside what the United States claimed was Orleans Territory. Wilkinson arrived at Natchez on the 11th and the next day sent a promised letter to Jefferson with a verbal message about Burr’s plans. Wilkinson arrived at New Orleans on November 25 and took control.
Meanwhile one of Burr’s main contacts in Louisiana was the lawyer Harman Blennerhassett who contributed funds and offered Blennerhassett Island for gathering weapons and training volunteers. Blennerhassett was influenced by the charms of Theodosia and wrote a series of essays arguing why Ohio should secede from the United States that were printed under the name “Querist” in the Ohio Gazette starting on September 4, 1806. At that time Burr was visiting Senator John Smith in Cincinnati, and on the 10th he crossed the Ohio River to Lexington, Kentucky. From there he went to Nashville, Tennessee, where he met with his friend Andrew Jackson who gave him a dinner on September 27 and toasted “Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute.” On October 4 a proclamation by Major-General Jackson appeared in a Nashville newspaper ordering commanders to prepare their brigades for when the government will need them. This was unauthorized and was believed to be in support of Burr’s plans. On the 20th Mrs. Blennerhassett wrote to Burr warning it would be dangerous for him to return to Ohio. In New Orleans from October 1 to November 25 the plans of Burr were widely discussed.
On October 20 President Jefferson was alerted to the danger by a communication he received from Gideon Granger recounting how Burr had offered General William Eaton second in command under Wilkinson in an expedition to separate western states from the Union. On October 22 the President and his cabinet met for the first time in more than two months to discuss the Burr conspiracy and began to take steps to suppress it. John Graham, the Secretary of the Orleans Territory, was commissioned to replace Wilkinson as governor of the Louisiana Territory, and he was ordered to go to Ohio and Kentucky and inquire into Burr’s movements. Graham later declined the appointment.
On October 25 Burr sent Col. Julien de Pestre to his friends in Philadelphia and New York including Dayton and Samuel Swartwout, who were conspiring with Yrujo. On November 3 Andrew Jackson received $3,500 in Kentucky banknotes from Burr to build five large boats and buy supplies. On the 5th Joseph Daveiss, the US District Attorney for Kentucky, made a complaint in court that Burr was violating the laws of the United States by planning an invasion of Mexico. On November 10 Yrujo wrote to the Spanish government that about 500 men were gathering on the upper Ohio to go down the river. On the 12th a grand jury was summoned, and an investigation began. Burr was defended by the young lawyer Henry Clay, and Daveiss submitted a list of witnesses. Because the main witness was in Indiana, Daveiss asked for a postponement. The jury was dismissed, and the acquitted Burr returned to Cincinnati to meet again with Senator John Smith. Jefferson criticized Daveiss for arresting Burr prematurely.
On November 25 Jefferson received dispatches from Wilkinson, and the cabinet met again. On that day Daveiss renewed his motion against Burr at Frankfort, but on December 5 a grand jury of 22 people declared that they found nothing improper. Orders were sent to Governor Wilkinson to suppress any hostile act in the territory of the United States or Spain. On November 27 President Jefferson issued a proclamation warning citizens against participating in any unlawful “enterprise against the dominions of Spain,” and he ordered military officers and judges to punish violators. In his annual message to Congress on December 2 he praised Governor Edward Tiffin of Ohio who had ordered Burr’s boats seized at Marietta. Some more boats were captured on December 9, and the next day about 35 conspirators fled down the river while Burr and John Adair, the former senator of Kentucky, went to Nashville. On the 14th Andrew Jackson asked Burr to disavow any rebellion against the United States, and he did so. Yet Jackson went on building boats for Burr. The President’s Proclamation reached Nashville on December 19, but nothing was done. Burr managed to escape and passed Fort Massac.
On December 12 Governor Wilkinson arrested Burr’s courier Samuel Swartwout and took him downriver to New Orleans. He also ordered the arrests of Peter Ogden and Erick Bollman, denying access to lawyers and writs of habeas corpus. Wilkinson put in jail their lawyer, a judge, the editor of the Orleans Gazette, former senator Adair of Kentucky, and about sixty citizens, but an exception was made for Ogden. Jefferson apparently approved of these violations of the Constitution. On December 18 Wilkinson sent Jefferson a copy of Burr’s decoded letter. Burr saw a published copy and decided to flee. On January 11, 1807 Burr with 55 men, plus women, children, and servants, reached Bayou Pierre and surrendered to the militia. Within a week they were arrested in Mississippi Territory and taken before a grand jury. Burr was still free, and Wilkinson offered a reward of $5,000 to bring Burr into his jurisdiction.
On January 16, 1807 John Randolph demanded that Jefferson take some action and introduced a resolution demanding all information related to the conspiracy. Two days later the Wilkinson-deciphered letter from Burr arrived in Washington. Attorney General John Breckinridge had died in December, and on January 20 Jefferson appointed Caesar A. Rodney to succeed him. Two days later the President presented his understanding of the situation based on Wilkinson’s reports and included Wilkinson’s version of Burr’s letter written July 29. Jefferson commended Wilkinson’s actions. The Senate voted to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for three months, but the House rejected the bill 113-19. Burr disappeared into the woods on February 1. Chief Justice Marshall granted the writ of habeas corpus on February 13, and eight days later he dismissed the cases against Swartwout and Bollman. Judge Nicholson released Senator Adair and Ogden. Congress adjourned in March, and Jefferson suffered a migraine headache for three weeks during which he only met people for one hour a day.
Aaron Burr was finally captured on March 6, 1807 by soldiers from Fort Stoddard, and they took him to Richmond where he arrived on March 26. The next day he was brought before Chief Justice Marshall because Blennerhassett Island was in his jurisdiction. He had previously released Bollman and Swartwout because evidence had not been shown that they had levied war against the United States. In that case Marshall had argued that men had to be actually assembled for that treasonable purpose. Burr was defended by Edmund Randolph and John Wickham from Virginia, Benjamin Botts, and Luther Martin from Baltimore. The prosecution was supervised by Attorney General Rodney, but Jefferson also gave orders directly to district attorney George Hay who was assisted by the eloquent William Wirt and Virginia’s Lt. Governor Alexander McRae. John Randolph confessed that he had a “prepossession” regarding Burr, but Marshall accepted him as foreman of the grand jury. Based on the affidavits of the generals Wilkinson and Eaton, Marshall declined to charge Burr with treason and let him out on the misdemeanor charge for $10,000 bail based on five securities. A few days later Marshall dined at Wickham’s with Burr, and the Republican press complained.
Burr’s trial began on May 22, and the government brought many witnesses to show that he should be tried for treason. Burr’s lawyers asked that a subpoena duces tecum be served on President Jefferson to produce documents. The President argued that the Constitution required only the executive branch to be constantly functioning, and he did so even at Monticello. Marshall decided that Jefferson could do his work at Richmond also, and he put the burden of proof on the President. General Wilkinson arrived on June 15, and Jefferson wrote him a supportive letter despite his enemies. Jury foreman John Randolph did not like Wilkinson’s testimony and wanted him indicted. Wilkinson was let off because the alleged act of treason occurred in Ohio.
In addition to Burr and Blennerhassett, the others accused of treason were Jonathan Dayton, former senator John Smith of Ohio, Comfort Tyler, Israel Smith of New York, and Davis Floyd of Indiana. On June 24 the grand jury indicted Burr and Blennerhassett for both treason and a misdemeanor, and the next day presentments against the other five were reported for treason. On June 26 Burr pleaded not guilty, and the trial was set for August 3. The jury was not impaneled until the 17th. Two days later Burr’s defense team moved to arrest the evidence, and this was discussed for the next ten days. On August 31 Marshall made his decision to limit the evidence to the assemblage on Blennerhassett’s Island. The prosecution called 140 witnesses, but only eleven were allowed to testify. The next day after 25 minutes discussion the jury decided that the case against Burr was “not proved guilty under this indictment by any evidence submitted to us,” and Marshall accepted this as “not guilty,” American law not making the same distinction as Scottish law. The charges against the other conspirators were eventually withdrawn. Marshall was denounced bitterly in letters to him by William Thompson and by Thomas Ritchie in the Richmond Enquirer. Theodore Roosevelt in his The Winning of the West concluded his chapter on Burr’s Conspiracy as follows:
Burr was acquitted on a technicality.
Wilkinson, the double traitor, the bribe-taker,
the corrupt servant of a foreign government,
remained at the head of the American Army.8
Blennerhassett complained that Burr had received at least $40,000 at Lexington and never paid “all his agents and associates” more than $15,000. After Burr’s acquittal civil suits were filed against him in the next few weeks for a total of $36,000. Blennerhassett met with Burr and was shocked to learn that he was continuing to speculate in new projects for action. Burr’s trial for a misdemeanor began on September 9; but once again Justice Marshall allowed little evidence, and after six days the jurors found him not guilty. The prosecutor Hay demanded another trial of Burr, Blennerhassett, and Major Israel Smith for treason in Chillicothe, Ohio. The Chief Justice listened to many witnesses without a jury for five weeks. The case against Smith was dismissed on October 20, and Marshall lowered the charges against Burr and Blennerhassett to a misdemeanor and released them on $3,000 bail each; but the government never prosecuted. In 1808 Burr went to Europe for four years, and then he returned to America to live in obscurity, using his mother’s name “Edwards” and other aliases to avoid his creditors. He died in 1836.
On January 7, 1807 British Foreign Secretary Earl Grey ordered the end of American coasting privileges that had allowed them to sail from one European port to another to find the best prices. The effect of this would double the cost of neutral ships and risk of neutral commerce. Jefferson had recommended abolishing the slave trade, and on February 26 the Congress cooperated to ban that commerce starting on January 1, 1808. The fine for knowingly buying an illegally imported black was $800, and equipping a slaver could result in a fine of $20,000. In the previous thirty years only South Carolina had allowed the importation of slaves and only for six years, and during the last four years (1804-07) they imported 39,310 slaves. As the number of available slaves decreased, they became more valuable, increasing the incentive for smuggling slaves. The new laws were rarely enforced, but the slave trade was driven underground. In the next half century about 250,000 slaves would be illegally imported into the United States. On March 25, 1807 the British Parliament abolished the slave trade.
That year John Gloucester, who was from Tennessee, established the first African Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. John later bought his son Stephen’s freedom for $400, and Stephen eventually became one of the organizers of the underground railroad in Philadelphia. In 1808 a group of Africans left the First Baptist Church in New York City because they refused to accept segregated seating. Thomas Paul was a minister from Boston, and he helped them establish the first African-American Baptist Church in New York that became known as the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
The President also wanted a constitutional amendment so that they could fund public education and internal transportation. The House was supporting states rights and rejected Jefferson’s requests for fortifying seaports, the army, and the militias. The Republicans eliminated the salt tax, the last of the domestic taxes. The southern and northern states agreed to appropriate $50,000 for a coast survey. In late February the President appointed Meriwether Lewis to replace Wilkinson as governor of the Louisiana Territory, and the Senate quickly confirmed him.
On March 3, the last day of the congressional session, President Jefferson learned of the treaty signed in England; but the formal document did not arrive until March 15. He did not like the treaty and refused to call a special session of the Senate. Article V would have pledged the United States to refrain from discriminating against British commerce for ten years, but British impressments of American sailors had been left to an informal agreement and probably would have continued. Jefferson would not make a treaty until the impressments stopped, but he called for the continuation of friendly relations with the British. On March 21 he wrote to Monroe in England, urging him to find informal agreement with the British until they become more yielding, and he asked the likely presidential candidate to be governor of the New Orleans Territory. On March 26 King George III dismissed Prime Minister Grenville and Foreign Secretary Grey from their offices.
On June 22 the British ship Leopard hailed the American frigate Chesapeake near Norfolk and demanded they surrender British deserters. Commodore James Barron refused to let the British crew on board, and the Leopard fired broadsides, killing three men and wounding Barron and fifteen others. Barron capitulated, and the British removed four crewman from the Chesapeake. Three were Americans who had deserted from the Melampus, and the other was a British deserter from the Halifax. Americans reacted quickly to this outrage, and on June 24 citizens in Norfolk and Portsmouth adopted several unanimous resolutions.
President Jefferson learned of the incident on June 25 and declined to retaliate; but on July 2 his proclamation ordered all British warships to leave American waters, and if they did not, he prohibited trade with them or provisioning. He also recalled American ships from the Mediterranean and sent instructions to Monroe in London to demand that the British government renounce the actions of the Leopard and to require the British to disavow searching a public armed vessel. On July 3 a British squadron had blockaded Norfolk. Jefferson called the Congress to meet in an early session on October 26. On July 5 the cabinet agreed to call on state governors to prepare their quotas of 100,000 militia. The next day Jefferson wrote to Vice President Clinton that only the Congress had the power to declare war and that he did not want to do anything that would commit them to doing that rather than adopting non-intercourse. The four crewmen were taken to Halifax for a court martial, and the three Americans were found guilty of desertion. The other was British, though Madison claimed he was American, and he was hanged.
Jefferson often said that peace was his passion, and he wanted to apply peaceful pressure. News arrived that the British government was restricting neutral trade with Europe, and the Royal Navy had invaded neutral Denmark, seizing its navy. David Humphreys had been the American minister in Spain, and he returned from London and reported to the President that the English people were eager for another war against the Americans. Jefferson agreed with Madison that a radical response was required; but Gallatin advised moderation, though he considered war inevitable. In August the President announced that all British ships would be treated as enemies.
On September 4, 1807 Robert Fulton demonstrated his North River Steamboat (later called the Clermont) by taking passengers from New York City to Albany. A crowd of skeptical people gathered at the start to mock “Fulton’s Folly” by shouting, “She’ll never run!” After the boat started the journey, they shouted, “She’ll never stop!” Fulton delivered the passengers to Albany before noon the next day. He also proposed using torpedoes to defend harbors, and Jefferson gave this serious consideration.
Emperor Napoleon announced that American ships would no longer be exempt from his ultimatum that they must be for or against France. Napoleon also sent an army to invade neutral Portugal. The British demanded that the Americans reject Napoleon’s decree if they wanted to trade with England and its colonies. Feeling undercut because the Congress sent over Pinkney, Monroe left England on October 29. The British Foreign Secretary George Canning finally sent a message regarding the Chesapeake that arrived in late November, admitting that the United States was entitled to reparations; but he argued that Americans had also committed hostile acts by enlisting deserters. Because he would not discuss impressments, the American instructions were not to talk to him. On December 8 Jefferson sent Canning’s message and related documents to Congress without making any recommendations.
On November 11 the British government’s Order in Council announced that any ship trading with France would be subject to confiscation unless they went to a British port and got a license. This gave Jefferson justification for an embargo. On December 11 Congress passed a bill to build more gunboats, and they appropriated $1 million for fortifications. On October 17 King George had proclaimed that all naval officers were to impress sailors from neutral merchant ships, and on December 17 the proclamation was published in the National Intelligencer. On the same day Napoleon issued his Milan Decree that subjected any neutral ship that had visited a British port or had anything to do with the British to be treated as a British ship which could be captured by French warships.
The long-suspended Non-Importation Act of 1806 was scheduled to go back into operation on December 14. Jefferson wanted neither war nor submission, and he hoped that an embargo would cause the least pain while protecting the nation. On the 16th the Jefferson administration decided not to trade abroad at all, though Gallatin warned against using coercion to enforce the embargo. On the 18th Jefferson gave Congress documents showing that American ships, sailors, and merchandise were threatened by both England and France, and the Senate passed the Embargo Bill, followed by the House three days later.
The President signed the Embargo Act on December 22. American ships were not allowed to go to foreign ports without permission of the President, but foreign ships were still allowed to bring goods into American ports. Coasting vessels could still trade in the United States, but they had to post a bond that was double the value of the ship and its cargo. By keeping American ships at home Jefferson hoped that he would prevent their capture becoming a cause of war. Gallatin opposed this policy and believed enforcing it would cause problems. He warned that governmental prohibitions could do more mischief than expected. Madison liked the policy and wrote anonymous editorials in the National Intelligencer arguing that it would make war impossible and impose only minor hardships on Americans while disrupting European trade. Tens of thousands of slaves in the West Indies suffered from lack of food, but the Europeans were not that much affected.
On January 8, 1808 Congress passed a second embargo act that made punishments for disobeying more serious; merchants and captains could be driven out of business for one violation. Jefferson signed this Enforcement Act on the 9th. George Rose arrived as a special envoy for Britain in mid-January. The British would make reparations if Jefferson would stop prohibiting Royal Navy ships in American waters. Madison negotiated, but on February 7 Rose insisted that the United States disavow harboring and retaining British deserters. Madison asked the English to relinquish the pressing of American citizens from public and private ships. Rose continued to insist that the US repeal the proclamation of July 2 before he would discuss reparations, and negotiation collapsed on March 18. On January 21 Virginia legislators had met and voted 140 for Madison and only 50 for Monroe for the presidency because Monroe was associated with John Randolph. On February 25 the President requested an increase in the standing army from about 2,500 men to 6,000 to be supplemented by 24,000 volunteers. He had underestimated the extent to which merchants and their ships would go to engage in war-time profiteering.
Congress passed the third embargo on March 12, prohibiting the export of any goods by land or sea with a fine of $10,000 and forfeiture of the goods, and penalties for the first two acts were increased. This blocked trade with Canada and Spanish territory. Protesting spread, and many merchants ignored the law by smuggling goods without papers. Upper New England and New York continued to trade actively with Canada. The old Federalist Timothy Pickering met with Rose, tried to form a pro-British party, and urged Canning to be tough on the United States. Pickering criticized the embargo and urged legislatures in the commercial states to nullify it. In the March elections the Federalists in Massachusetts regained control of both houses of the legislature and nearly defeated the Republican Governor James Sullivan. Jefferson reacted on March 22 by giving Congress massive diplomatic documents.
After consulting with Gallatin on March 30, Jefferson recommended that Congress empower collectors to seize cargoes without a warrant or a trial in violation of the 4th and 5th amendments of the Constitution. On April 4 Gallatin made a detailed report on roads and canals that the President sent to the Senate two days later. Jefferson also asked Congress to authorize him to use the army and navy to enforce the embargo law, and on April 12 Congress established a regular army of eight divisions “for a limited time.” On these they spent $2 million plus $1 million on land fortifications, $850,000 for gunboats, and $250,000 to arm the militia. On the 18th Jefferson proclaimed the region of Lake Champlain in a state of insurrection, and he ordered all state and local officials to suppress the rebellion. The governors of Vermont and New York reluctantly called out their militias to stop the smuggling. Local residents protested. On the 25th the President signed the Enforcement Act that was aimed at coastal trading and increased the required bond to three times the value of the ship and its cargo. Penalties were stiff, and armed forces could be used. On April 30 he sent instructions to Pinkney in London that he could offer to withdraw the embargo if England withdrew its Orders in Council. On May 6 Jefferson prohibited the moving of flour unless a governor of the importing state had issued a certificate of need.
These severe laws were challenged in courts, and on May 28 the Republican Supreme Court Justice William Johnson in the Circuit Court ruled that the President had exceeded his authority. Jefferson stopped trusting the courts and imposed martial law. The issuing of certificates corrupted some governors such as Sullivan in Massachusetts who issued certificates of need for 49,800 barrels of flour, 99,400 bushels of corn, 560 tierces of rice, and 2,000 bushels of rye just for Alexandria and Georgetown in Virginia. After five men recaptured a confiscated raft of lumber on Lake Champlain, they were charged with treason; but in October the Republican Justice Brockholst Livingston acquitted them and denounced the indictment. Jefferson used even more armed force in July, and Gallatin complained that his orders were devastating economic enterprise. On July 29 Gallatin said that Congress must either give the President arbitrary power to enforce the embargo, or they must give it up. In August the President called out theArmy and the Navy to the northern frontier. Battles broke out, and some people were killed. Jefferson accused entire towns of treason in November. Madison suffered a breakdown with epileptic seizures. Fishermen in Nova Scotia were also suffering.
Republicans in Congress met in a formal caucus. An attempt by Monroe and Vice President Clinton to make common cause against Madison failed as Madison won 83 to 6. They decided to renominate Clinton for Vice President in order to retain New York Republicans behind Madison. Federalists held the first national nominating convention in New York secretly, and they kept the same ticket as in 1804 with C. C. Pinckney and Rufus King as their candidates. In the presidential election Madison got 122 electoral votes to 47 for Pinckney, and Vice President Clinton was re-elected. Federalists continued to control the legislatures of Connecticut and Delaware, and they regained New York, most of New England, and the lower house in Maryland. Federalists won 70% of the Congressional seats in the states north and east of Pennsylvania, but none in the southern states and Pennsylvania.
James Nelson Barker wrote the sentimental comedy Tears and Smiles that was produced in 1807. The next year his play The Embargo; or, What News? was performed in Philadelphia, but its text has been lost. Merchants who believed it was biased toward the Jefferson administration instigated a riot. Also in 1808 Barker’s operatic melodrama The Indian Princess played out the adventures of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas in the first Virginia colony with an emphasis on her romance and marriage to tobacco planter John Rolfe.
In his eighth and last annual message to Congress on November 8 Jefferson discussed the embargo and regretted that it had not yet been suspended. He noted that in the previous year they had built 103 gunboats. He recognized the constitutional right of Congress to declare war and left that choice to them. The crisis was forcing them to develop internal manufacturing and improvements. He was also gratified to report that by avoiding war the national debt was being paid off. He proposed using the increasing revenues to improve roads, canals, rivers, and education. After Madison was elected President, Jefferson decided to let him originate the policy for the measures he would have to enforce. In early December the Congress voted never to submit to edicts of France or Britain, making France as much an adversary as England, and they promised military preparations.
American exports, which had reached $108,343,000 in 1807, fell to only $22,430,000 in 1808 while imports declined from $138,000,000 to $56,990,000. Government revenue for 1808 was still more than $17 million, but in 1809 it would fall to less than $8 million. Americans in the east were suffering economic difficulty. The embargo provoked resistance, and some Federalists threatened to divide the Union. On December 28 the township of Bath in Maine passed a resolution calling for committees of correspondence to protect the rights of states from infringement by any officer of the United States. This became a model for similar resolutions in January 1809 by Gloucester, Plymouth, Newburyport, Hampshire County, and others. The Federalist Massachusetts legislature confirmed them. Governor Sullivan had died in December and was replaced by Jefferson’s former Attorney General Levi Lincoln. Moderate Federalists called a convention of commercial states at Hartford to declare the embargo measures unconstitutional. Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut also convened the legislature, and on February 4 he wrote to Secretary of War Dearborn that he would not enforce the embargo. On the 23rd the Connecticut legislature interposed itself against the federal government.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Giles asked Treasury Secretary Gallatin to suggest ways to improve the effectiveness of the embargo while diminishing its bad effect on Americans. The ambivalent Gallatin proposed stricter enforcement but then tried to dissuade Congress from that legislation. Gallatin hoped to limit customhouses rather than capture ships. In the latest embargo act passed on January 6, 1809 coasting vessels had to secure bonds for six times the value of the ship and cargo, and legal defenses for violators were dismissed. On January 9 the Congress passed laws authorizing the use of the army and navy, and they called for the new Congress to meet in May. Town meetings were held in New England and New York to complain, and the legislatures of Massachusetts and Connecticut adopted resolutions suggesting dismembering the Union.
Ezekiel Bacon of Massachusetts consulted with John Quincy Adams, who had left the Senate and joined the Republicans, and Bacon tried to persuade Republicans in January to repeal the embargo. On January 24 Wilson Cary Nicholas moved to repeal it by June 1, but on February 1 the House rejected the June date. The Republican leader William Giles proposed a compromise to repeal the embargo for all countries except England and France, and all foreign ships could be interdicted in American waters. Congress passed this on February 28. The House had voted on February 4 to end the embargo entirely on March 4, the last day of Jefferson’s presidency. Both houses did not agree until February 27, and on March 1 Jefferson signed the Non-Intercourse Act that ended all the embargoes and closed American ports to the British and French after May 20, 1809. The embargo had cost Americans $50,000,000 in exports, and Jefferson estimated that a war could have been waged for a third of that. He had sent William Short to Russia six months before to begin diplomatic relations with Czar Alexander I. However, he did not request he be appointed minister until the last days of his presidency, and on February 27 the Senators rejected it unanimously. On March 4 Jefferson attended the inauguration of his successor Madison, and a week later he went home to Monticello, never leaving the Blue Ridge Mountains in the last seventeen years of his life.
1. “First Inaugural Address” in Writings by Thomas Jefferson, p. 493-496.
2. “The Revolution of 1800 To John Dickinson” in Writings by Thomas Jefferson, p. 1084-1085.
3. National Intelligencer, July 8, 1803.
4. “Opinion in Marbury v. Madison” in Writings by John Marshall, p. 252.
5. “Third Annual Message” in Writings by Thomas Jefferson, p. 511.
7. Quoted in Aaron Burr: The Conspiracy and Years of Exile 1805-1836 by Milton Lomask, p. 34.
8. The Winning of the West, Volume 4, by Theodore Roosevelt, p. 343.