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For a time, therefore, Mr. Jefferson retired from public life, and de voted himself to the cultivation of his estate, and to those literary and scientific pursuits of which he was so fond; and at Monticello, in the bosom of his family, and undisturbed by the calls of office, he experienced, for a few years, the domestic happiness and quiet, he was so well fitted to enjoy. He was about this time, too, chosen President of the American Philosophical Society, as successor to Rittenhouse, and, for the long period that he filled the chair, was active in promoting, in every way in his power, the prosperity of the institution. Mr. Jefferson, however, was not long permitted to remain a private citizen. In September, 1796, General Washington, the only person who could unite the affections of the whole people, in his Farewell Address to the people of the United States, declined being any longer considered a candidate for the office of Chief Magistrate. The two great parties, into which the nation was divided, therefore, immediately brought forward their candidates. Mr. Adams was nominated by the one, and Mr. Jefferson by the other; and at the election which took place in the fall of that year, Mr. Adams was chosen President, and Mr. Jefferson Vice-President, for the four years next ensuing. As the principal duty of the Vice-President, unless in case of the death of the President, is merely to preside in the Senate, much of these four years, except during the sessions of Congress, was spent by Mr. Jefferson in the tranquillity of Monticello.
In 1801, Mr. Jefferson, who had again been nominated as a candidate, in opposition to Mr. Adams, received a majority of the votes of the peo ple. But as the number of votes given for Mr. Jefferson and for Mr. Burr, who had been nominated by the democratic party for Vice-President, were equal, and the constitution did not require that the votes should specify the office to which each one was respectively elected, neither having such a majority as was necessary to a choice, the election devolved upon the House of Representatives. When the election came on, the opponents of Mr. Jefferson threw their votes for Mr. Burr, and it was not until after thirty-five unsuccessful ballots, that Mr. Jefferson was elected President, and Mr. Burr became, of course, Vice-President.
On the fourth of March, 1801, Mr. Jefferson took the oath of office, and delivered his inaugural address in presence of both houses of Congress. After declaring his diffidence and distrust of his own powers, in the conduct of the affairs of so vast a nation, he thus expresses the hope that all parties would unite in the support of the governmeat and the union. “Let us then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind; let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection, without which liberty, and even life itself, are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little, if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some, and less by others; and should divide opinions as to measures of safety ; but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans; we are all federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government cannot be strong; that this government is not strong enough. But would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm, on the theoretic and visionary fear, that this government, the world's best hope, may, by possibility, want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one, where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others ? Or have we found angels, in the form of kings, to govern him? Let history answer this question.”
He then proceeds to give, in the following summary manner, a brief statement of the principles which were to be the rule of his administration. “About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend every thing dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our government, and, consequently, those which ought to shape its administration.
I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political ;-peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none;—the support of the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies ;-the preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home, and safety abroad ;-a jealous care of the rights of election by the people, a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution, where peaceable remedies are unprovided absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism ;-a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace, and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them ;-the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; -economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened ;the honest payment of our debts, and sacred preservation of the public faith ;-encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; -the diffusion of information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason ;-freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person, under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trials by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment; they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust ;—and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."
The democratic party having now gained the ascendency in the national councils, the policy of the country underwent considerable changes. Of the merits of the different measures sanctioned and pursued by the respective administrations, it is not necessary here to speak; the distinctions which then prevailed, and led to so much bitterness and hostility, are passed away, and the measures of government are now to be adjudged wise or unwise, beneficial or injurious, without reference to the party, from which they emanated. The policy of Mr. Jefferson's administration, however, at that time, was so far approved, that in 1805, at the expiration of the term for which he had been chosen, he was reelected to the chief magistracy by a large majority, notwithstanding all the exertions of the federal party. There can be no doubt that many of the acts of Mr. Jefferson were beneficial, and probably would be allowed to be so now, by those who, in the excitement of party, believed them to be destructive of the best interests of the country.' of this character is the purchase of Louisiana, and the annexation of all that fertile country to the United States, thereby giving us not only a vast extent of valuable territory, but what was also of the greatest importance, the undisputed navigation of the Mississippi, the great outlet of the west. Of others, as of the embargo of 1807, the expediency, to say the least, may be doubtful. Since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, perhaps no act of the government, at any period, has ever been more warmly supported by its friends, or more violently and unsparingly attacked by the opposition. The deep and continued aggressions of the two great belligerent powers of Europe, England and France, upon the neutral commerce of the country, after negotiation and remonstrance had been tried in vain, called for more efficient measures for protection on the part of the government.
These aggressions, by the injuries offered to our trade, especially with the British colonies, by the impressment of seamen and the numerous depredations on our coasts, had become so annoying, that, in December of 1805, Mr. Jefferson thus calls the attention of Congress to the subject. “Our coasts have been infested, and our harbors watched, by private armed vessels, some of them without commissions, some with illegal com. missions, others with those of legal form, but committing piratical acts beyond the authority of their commissions. They have captured in the very entrance of our harbors, as well as on the high seas, not only the vessels of our friends coming to trade with us, but our own also. T'hey have carried them off under pretence of legal adjudication, but, not daring to approach a court of justice, they have plundered and sunk them by the way, or in obscure places, where no evidence could arise against them, maltreated the crews, and abandoned them in boats in the open sea, or on desert shores, without food or covering. The same system of hovering on our coasts and harbors, under color of seeking enemies, has been also carried on by public armed ships, to the great annoyance and oppression of our commerce. New principles, too, have been interpolated into the law of nations, founded neither in justice nor the usage or acknowledgment of nations. According to these, a belligerent takes to itself a commerce with its own enemy, which it denies to a neutral, on the ground of its aiding that enemy in the war. But reason revolts at such an inconsistency; and the neutral having equal rights with the belligerent to decide the question, the interests of our constituents, and the duty of maintaining the authority of reason, the only umpire between just nations, impose on us the obligation of providing an effectual and deterinined opposition to a doctrine so injurious to the rights of peaceable nations. In consequence of these suggestions of the Executive, the first measures taken by Congress were the preparations for the defence of our coast in case of a war, and the non-importation act, passed in the early part of 1806. Commissioners were also appointed at the several foreign courts, to make some adjustment of the existing difficulties, and prevent a repetition of such injuries.
While these negotiations were pending, a most flagrant outrage, committed by the British frigate Leopard upon the frigate Chesapeake, in our very waters, and almost in sight of our coast, produced the proclamation of the President of July second, 1807, requiring all British armed vessels, then within the waters of the United States, to depart, and forbidding them to enter. Scarcely, however, was this injury disavowed and offers of reparation made, when the British Orders in Council, of November of the same year, appeared. By these the British government prohibited all commerce between the United States and the ports of his enemies in Europe, unless the articles had been first landed in England, and the duties paid for their re-exportation. Under these circumstances, more decided measures were called for on the part of our government. Submission was not for a moment thought of; and the only alternative was between open war, or such measures as should take us completely out of the power of our enemies and the operation of these orders.
In the opinion of Mr. Jefferson, the country was not then in a situation to hazard a war; and, therefore, the only means left to prevent the entire destruction of our commerce, was a prohibition of all intercourse, which it was supposed would have the desired effect, not only by keeping our own shipping in port, out of the way of the enemy, but by depriving them of the benefit of our commerce, thereby inducing them to come to some terms. Consequently, an embargo was laid on all our vessels, prohibiting their departure from any port of the United States, by an act of Congress, passed December twenty-second, 1807. The consideration, whether this measure was expedient, or the best one which could be adopted, belongs to the political historian.
The early part of Mr. Jefferson's second administration, was disturbed by an event, which threatened the tranquillity and peace of the union ; this was the conspiracy of Aaron Burr." Defeated in the late election to the Vice-Presidency, and led on by an unprincipled ambition, this
extraordinary man formed the plan of a military expedition into the Spanish territories, on our southwestern frontier, for the purpose of forming there a new republic. This, however, as has been generally supposed, was a mere pretext; and although it has never been accurately known what his real plans were, there is no doubt that they were of a far more dangerous character. The opinion generally received, is, that his object was to bring about a separation of the states west of the Alleghanies from the general government, and form them into an independent state. The plan, however, whatever it might have been, was never matured, for no sooner were the government apprized that bodies of men were organizing, and arming themselves for the avowed purpose of an attack upon a neighboring government, then at peace with us, without the authority of Congress, than measures were taken to disperse those who had assembled, to seize their arms and stores, and to arrest the ringleaders. Immediately upon the discovery of the plan, Colonel Burr fled, but was soon overtaken, and brought back to Richmond, Virginia. Here he was examined before Chief Justice Marshall, upon a charge of high misdemeanor, in preparing, within the limits of the United States, an expedition against the Spanish provinces, and also on a charge of treason, and bound over for trial on the former, there not being sufficent evidence to justify a commitment on the latter, and upon the trial for the misde meanor, in August, 1807, he was also acquitted for a like want of evidence.
In 1809, at the expiration of the second term for which Mr. Jefferson had been elected, he determined to retire forever from political life. For a period of nearly forøy years, he had been continually before the public, and all that time had been employed in offices of the greatest trust and responsibility. Having thus devoted the best part of his life to the service of his country, he now felt desirous of that rest which his declining years required, and upon the organization of the new government, in March, 1809, he bid forever farewell to public life, and retired to Monticello, there to enjoy all
- That which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends." From this time, Mr. Jefferson never took any part in politics; but to one like him, even old age had its duties, and in the cultivation of his estate, in study, and in the exercise of a boundless hospitality, he found full employment for his time. But the object which most interested him during his later years, was the establishment of a system of general education in Virginia, and especially the superintendance of the new university of Virginia, which was founded in 1818, through his instrumentality. Of this institution, which was located at Charlottesville, a town at the foot of the mountain on which the estate of Monticello was situated, Mr. Jefferson was chosen rector at the time of its foundation, and continued in that office during the remainder of his life, devoting himself unremittingly to the interests and advancement of this child of
his old age.
There was one circumstance, however, which contributed in some