Thomas Jefferson (president from 1800-1808)
By Richard E. Noble
It took thirty-six ballots in the House of Representatives to get Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr in their tie vote for the presidency. Actually Burr wasn’t even running for the presidency. He was a candidate for the vice presidency at the time. Thomas Jefferson was a Republican.
George Washington and John Adams were both Federalist. The Federalists were the conservatives of their day and the Republicans were the liberals.
Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe in having a standing army; he felt that the Navy should be nothing more than a coast guard, and that the American people should protect their freedom and independence by way of a voluntary militia. A large standing military only led a nation to foreign wars, he thought. But no sooner did he get into office than he sent the Army and Navy to Tripoli to fight the Barbary Pirates.
The Barbary Pirates were the terrorists or gangsters of their day. They were getting protection money from governments all over the world. Pay the premium and your ships would not be harassed. It took until 1805 for Jefferson to subdue the Barbary Pirates. This was all done without authorization from congress.
His famous Louisiana Purchase was not entirely without controversy either. He had only been authorized two million dollars to buy the port of New Orleans, and secure shipping rights along the Mississippi. But when he found out that Napoleon was willing to sell, in addition to New Orleans, half the western continent for just sixteen million he immediately agreed to the sale without even consulting congress. He put it through Congress not as a request but as a done deal.
He repealed the Federalist’s Alien and Sedition acts, and pardoned all those under conviction due to their enactment. To Jefferson’s thinking the Federalists were despots and dictators who did not have faith in a democratic society. The Federalist, especially archrival Alexander Hamilton, called Jefferson everything under the sun. Jefferson was called, in the conservative press of the day; a drunkard, the father of numerous mulattos because he was having a well publicized affair with one of his slaves, and an atheist.
Jefferson’s election will undoubtedly bring about a Civil War and initiate a reign in which murder, adultery, robbery, rape and incest will be openly taught and practiced, so it was said. Alexander Hamilton, who seemed to be hell on roller skates in those days, was finally shot in a duel with Aaron Burr who was no mild mannered, compassionate figure himself. Burr actually tried to get a country of his own going. He was eventually captured and tried for treason. But the politics of the day being pretty much like the politics of today, Burr was freed by Federalist, and Jefferson adversary, Judge John Marshall.
Jefferson was also responsible for the Lewis and Clark expedition and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. In the original he tried to get slavery abolished, and blamed it all on the British. He established an embargo on trade trying to avoid a war with England and France that nearly bankrupted everybody.
Jefferson was another one of our reluctant leaders. He fought for the job, but was more than happy to see his term finally come to an end.