I. Federalist and Republican Mudslingers
- In the election of 1800, the Federalists had a host of enemies stemming from the Alien and Sedition Acts.
- The Federalists had been most damaged by John Adams’ not declaring war against France.
- They had raised a bunch of taxes and built a good navy, and then
had not gotten any reason to justify such spending,
making them seem
fraudulent as they had also swelled the public debt.
- John Adams became known as “the Father of the American Navy.”
- Federalists also launched attacks on Jefferson, saying that he had
robbed a widow and her children of a trust fund,
children with his slaves (which turned out to be true), called him an
atheist (he was a Deist), and
used other inflammatory remarks.
II. The Jeffersonian “Revolution of 1800”
- Thomas Jefferson won the election of 1800 by a majority of 73
electoral votes to 65, and even though Adams got more
Jefferson got New York. But, even though Jefferson triumphed, in a
technicality he and Aaron Burr tied
- The vote, according to the Constitution, would now go to the Federalist-dominated House of Representatives.
- Hateful of Jefferson, many wanted to vote for Burr, and the vote
was deadlocked for months until Alexander Hamilton
and John Adams
persuaded a few House members to change their votes, knowing that if
the House voted for Burr, the public
outcry would doom the Federalist
- Finally, a few changed their minds, and Jefferson was elected to the presidency.
- The “Revolution of 1800” was that (1) there was a
peaceful transfer of power; Federalists stepped down
from office after
Jefferson won and did so peacefully, though not necessarily happily and
(2) the Republicans were more
of the “people’s party”
compared to the Federalists.
III. Responsibility Breeds Moderation
- On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated president in the new capital of Washington D.C.
- In his address, he declared that all Americans were Federalists,
all were Republicans, implying that Americans were
a mixture. He also
pledged “honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances
- Jefferson was simple and frugal, and did not seat in regard to rank
during his dinners He also was unconventional,
wearing sloppy attire,
and he started the precedent of sending messages to Congress to be read
by a clerk.
- There were two Thomas Jeffersons: the scholarly private citizen who
philosophized in his study, and the harassed public
discovered that bookish theories worked out differently in practical
- Jefferson also dismissed few Federalist officials and those who wanted the seats complained.
- Jefferson had to rely on his casual charm because his party was so disunited still.
IV. Jeffersonian Restraint
- Jefferson pardoned those who were serving time under the Sedition
Act, and in 1802, he enacted a new naturalization
law that returned the
years needed for an immigrant to become a citizen from 14 to 5.
- He also kicked away the excise tax, but otherwise left the Hamiltonian system intact.
- The new secretary of the treasury, Albert Gallatin, reduced the national debt substantially while balancing the budget.
- By shrewdly absorbing the major Federalist programs, Jefferson
showed that a change of regime need not be disastrous
for the exiting
V. The “Dead Clutch” of the Judiciary
- The Judiciary Act, passed by the Federalists in their last days of
Congressional domination in 1801, packed newly created
Federalist-backing men, so as to prolong their legacy.
- Chief Justice John Marshall, a cousin of Jefferson, had served at
Valley Forge during the war, and he had been impressed
drawbacks of no central authority, and thus, he became a lifelong
Federalist, committed to strengthening the
power of the federal
- Marbury v. Madison (1803): William Marbury had been one of the
“midnight judges” appointed by John Adams
in his last hours
as president. He had been named justice of peace for D.C., but when
Secretary of State James Madison
decided to shelve the position,
Marbury sued for its delivery. Marshall dismissed the case, but he said
that the Judiciary
Act of 1789 was unconstitutional, thus suggesting
that the Supreme Court could determine the constitutionality of laws
- In 1804, Jefferson tried to impeach the tart-tongued Supreme Court
justice, Samuel Chase, but when the vote got to
the Senate, not enough
votes were mustered, and to this day, no attempt to alter the Supreme
Court has ever been tried
VI. Jefferson, a Reluctant Warrior
- Jefferson had a natural fear of a large, strong, standing military
since such a military could be turned on the people.
So, he reduced the
militia to 2500 men, and navies were reduced a bit to peacetime footing.
- However, the pirates of the North African Barbary States were still
looting U.S. ships, and in 1801, the pasha of Tripoli
declared war when he cut down the flagstaff of the American consulate.
- Non-interventionalist Jefferson had a problem of whether to fight
or not, and he reluctantly sent the infant navy to
the shores of
Tripoli, where fighting continued for four years until Jefferson
succeeded in extorting a treaty of peace
from Tripoli in 1805 for
- Stephen Decatur’s exploits in the war with the ship Intrepid made him a hero.
- The small, mobile gunboats used in the Tripolitan War fascinated
Jefferson, and he spent money to build about 200 of
them (these boats
might be zippy and fast, but they did little against large
battleships). The years eventually showed
building small ships to be a
VII. The Louisiana Godsend
- In 1800, Napoleon secretly induced the king of Spain to cede the Louisiana territory to France.
- Then, in 1802, the Spaniards at New Orleans withdrew the right of
deposit guaranteed by the Pinckney Treaty of 1795.
privileges were vital to the frontier farmers who floated their goods
down the Mississippi River to its
mouth to await oceangoing vessels.
- These farmers talked of marching to New Orleans to violently get
back what they deserved, an action that would have
plunged the U.S.
into war with Spain and France.
- In 1803, Jefferson sent James Monroe to join regular minister
Robert R. Livingston to buy New Orleans and as much land
to the east of
the river for a total of $10 million, tops.
- Instead, Napoleon offered to sell New Orleans and the land west of
it, Louisiana, for a bargain of $15 million, thereby
dream of a French North American empire.
- This abandonment was due to the rebellion in Haiti, led by
Toussaint L’Ouverture, which had been unsuccessful,
killed many French troops due to yellow fever. The decision to sell
Louisiana was also because Napoleon needed
cash to renew his war with
- The Louisiana Purchase was finalized on April 30, 1803.
- Jefferson had a dilemma, since the Constitution said nothing about
purchasing foreign land, but on the other hand,
this deal was simply
too good to pass up!
- After considering an amendment, Jefferson finally decided to go
through with the deal anyway, even though nothing in
talked about land purchases. Jefferson had been a strict interpreter of
the Constitution, but he was
now using a loose interpretation.
- Federalists, normally loose interpreters, took a strict
interpretation and opposed the purchase. Federalist didn’t
the new lands because they correctly foresaw new lands meant new
settlers and new states, which meant more farmers
and more Republicans.
- Thus, both parties made a full 180° turnaround from their
previous philosophical beliefs about the Constitution simply
the practical matters at hand.
- The Senate quickly approved the purchase with Jefferson’s
urging, and the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size
of the United
States. This was the biggest bargain in history averaging 3 cents per
VIII. Louisiana in the Long View
- The purchase created a precedent of acquisition of foreign territory through purchase.
- In the spring of 1804, Jefferson sent William Clark and Meriwether
Lewis to explore this new territory. Along with
a Shoshoni woman named
Sacajawea, the two spent 21/2 years exploring the land, marveling at
the expanses of buffalo,
elk, deer, antelope, and the landscape and
went all the way to Oregon and the Pacific before returning.
- Other explorers, like Zebulon Pike trekked to the headwaters of the
Mississippi River in 1805-06 and ventured to the
southern portion of
Louisiana, Spanish land in the southwest, and sighted Pike’s Peak.
IX. The Aaron Burr Conspiracies
- The Federalists now sank lower than ever, and tried to scheme with
Aaron Burr to make New England and New York secede
from the union; in
the process Aaron Burr killed Hamilton in a duel.
- In 1806, Burr was arrested for treason, but the necessary two witnesses were nowhere to be found.
- The Louisiana Purchase was also nurturing a deep sense of loyalty
among the West to the federal government, and a new
nationalism surged through it.
X. A Precarious Neutrality
- In 1804, Jefferson won with a margin of 162 electoral votes to 14
for his opponent, but this happiness was nonexistent
because in 1803,
Napoleon had deliberately provoked Britain into renewing its war with
- As a result, American trade sank as England and France, unable to
hurt each other (England owned the sea thanks to
the Battle of
Trafalgar while France owned the land thanks to the Battle of
Austerlitz), resorted to indirect blows.
- In 1806, London issued the Orders in Council, which closed ports
under French continental control to foreign shipping,
American, unless they stopped at a British port first.
- Likewise, Napoleon ordered the seizure of all ships, including American, which entered British ports.
- Impressment (illegal seizure of men and forcing them to serve on
ships) of American seamen also infuriated the U.S.;
Americans were impressed from 1808-11.
- In 1807, a royal frigate the Leopard confronted the U.S. frigate,
the Chesapeake, about 10 miles off the coast of Virginia,
British captain ordered the seizure of four alleged deserters. When the
American commander refused, the U.S.
ship received three devastating
broadsides that killed 3 Americans and wounded 18. In an incident in
which England was
clearly wrong, Jefferson still clung to peace.
XI. The Hated Embargo
- In order to try to stop the British and French seizure of American
ships, Jefferson resorted to an embargo. His belief
was that the only
way to stay out of the war was to shut down shipping.
- Jefferson thought Britain and France relied on American goods (it
was really the opposite, Americans relied on Europe’s
- Also, the U.S. still had a weak navy and a weaker army.
- The Embargo Act of late 1807 forbade the export of all goods from
the United States to any foreign nation, regardless
of whether they
were transported in American or foreign ships.
- The net result was deserted docks, rotting ships in the harbors,
and Jefferson's embargo hurt the same New England
merchants that it was
trying to protect.
- The commerce of New England was harmed more than that of France and Britain.
- Farmers of the South and West were alarmed by the mounting piles of unexportable cotton, grain, and tobacco.
- Illegal trade mushroomed in 1808, where people resorted to smuggling again.
- Finally, coming to their senses and feeling the public’s
anger, Congress repealed the act on March 1, 1809, three
Jefferson’s retirement and replaced it with the Non-Intercourse
Act, which reopened trade with all
the nations of the world, except
France and England.
- However, this act had the same effect as the Embargo because America’s #1 and #2 trade partners were Britain and
- Thus, economic coercion continued from 1809 to 1812, when war struck.
- The embargo failed for two main reasons: (1) Jefferson
underestimated the bulldog British and their dependence on American
and (2) he didn’t continue the embargo long enough or
tightly enough to achieve success.
- Even Jefferson himself admitted that the embargo was three times
more costly than war, and he could have built a strong
navy with a
fraction of the money lost.
- During the time of the embargo, the Federalist Party regained some of its lost power.
- However, during this embargo, resourceful Americans also opened and
reopened factories, and thus, the embargo helped
industrialism—another irony since it was Jefferson who was
committed to an agrarian, while it was his
archrival Alexander Hamilton
who was committed to industry.
- Also, the embargo did affect Britain, and had it been continued, it might have succeeded.
- In fact, two days before Congress declared war in June 1812, London
ordered the Orders in Council to be suspended.
Had America known this
fact, war would have likely not been declared.
XII. Madison’s Gamble
- After Jefferson, James Madison took the oath of presidency on March 4, 1809, short, bald, and not a great speaker.
- In 1810, Congress adopted a bargaining measure called Macon’s
Bill No. 2, which while permitting American trade
with all the world,
also promised American restoration of trade to France and/or England if
either dropped their commercial
- Napoleon had his opportunity: in August of 1810, he announced that
French commercial restrictions had been lifted,
and Madison, desperate
for recognition of the law, declared France available for American
- Of course, Napoleon lied, and never really lifted restrictions, but
meanwhile, America had been duped into entering
against Great Britain.
XIII. Tecumseh and the Prophet
- In 1811, new young politicians swept away the older
“submission men,” and they appointed Henry Clay of
then 34 years old, to Speaker of the House.
- The western politicians also cried out against the Indian threat on
the frontier. These young, aggressive Congressmen
were known as
- Indians had watched with increasing apprehension as more and more
whites settled in Kentucky, a traditionally sacred
settlement and extensive hunting was not allowed except in times of
- Thus, two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and the Prophet, decided that
the time to act was now, and gathered followers,
urging them to give up
textile clothing for traditional buckskin garments, arguing eloquently
for the Indian’s
to not acknowledge the White man’s
“ownership” of land, and urging that no Indian should cede
of land to whites unless all Indians agreed.
- On November 7, 1811, American general William Henry Harrison
advanced upon Tecumseh’s headquarters at Tippecanoe,
Prophet, and burned the camp to the ground.
- Tecumseh was killed by Harrison at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, and the Indian confederacy dream perished.
- In the South, Andrew Jackson crushed the Creek Indians at the
Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814, effectively
Indian rebellion and leaving the entire area east of the Mississippi
open for safe settlement.
- The War Hawks cried that the only way to get rid of the Indians was
to wipe out their base, Canada, since the British
had helped the
- War was declared in 1812, with a House vote of 79 to 49 and a very
close Senate vote of 19 to 13, showing America’s
XIV. Mr. Madison’s War
- Why did America go to war with Britain and not France? Because
England’s impressments of American sailors stood
out, France was
allied more with the Republicans, and Canada was a very tempting prize
that seemed easy to get, a “frontiersman’s
- New England, which was still making lots of money, damned the war
for a free sea, and Federalists opposed the war because
(1) they were
more inclined toward Britain anyway and (2) if Canada was conquered, it
would add more agrarian land and
increase Republican supporters.
- In brief, America’s reasons for entering the War of 1812 were…
- “Freedom of the seas” – The U.S. wanted the right to sail and trade without fear.
- Possibility of land – The U.S. might gain Canada or Florida.
- Indian issues – Americans were still upset about British guns being giving to Indians.
- The nation became sectionalized. Generally, the North was against war, the West and the South was for the war.
- Thus, a disunited America had to fight both Old England and New
England in the War of 1812, since Britain was the enemy
England tried everything that they could do to frustrate American
ambitions in the war.
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