The Courts

The Administration asked Congress to repeal the Judiciary Act of 1801. This act had allowed President John Adams to make more than 200 midnight appointments of judges and other court officials just before he left office. Some of these judges had no commissions, no duties, and no salaries. Jefferson told them to consider their appointment as never having been made.

William Marbury was one of 42 justices of the peace whom Adams had appointed to five-year terms in the District of Columbia. He applied to the Supreme Court for a writ of man dramas, ordering Secretary of State James Madison to deliver his commission.

Marbury did this in accordance with the Judiciary Act of 1789, which gave the Supreme Court power to issue such writs. Marbury’s action led to one of the most important decisions in American history, that of Marbury v. Madison in 1803.

In its decision, the court declared unconstitutional the section of the Judiciary Act of 1789 that gave the court power to issue writs of mandamus. Therefore, the court refused to force Madison to deliver Marbury’s commission.

On the surface, Chief Justice John Marshall’s decision should have pleased Jefferson and his fellow Democratic-Republicans. The decision meant that the Jefferson Administration didn’t have to deliver commissions to the “midnight judges” appointed by the Federalists.

But the Democratic-Republicans were disturbed by the idea that the Supreme Court could declare unconstitutional a low passed by Congress. This principle placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the courts, which the Federalists still controlled.

Many Democratic-Republicans feared that the Supreme Court would use its power to help the Federalists.

John Marshall (1755-1835)

Was an American politician. He was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1801–1835). His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and many say he made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. Previously, Marshall had been a leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800. He was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801.

The longest-serving Chief Justice and the fourth longest-serving justice in U.S. Supreme Court history, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades (34 years) and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, Marshall’s court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. In particular, he repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.

The Democratic-Republicans tried impeach met as a way of checking the federal courts. First they impeached John Pickering, a New Hampshire judge who was a victim of insanity. After the Senate had removed Pickering from office, the House brought impeachment charges against Justice Samuel Chase of the Supreme Court. The House claimed that he had shown bias in conducting trials against several Democratic-Republicans prosecuted under the sedition law. The Senate acquitted him, much of Jefferson’s disappointment. This helped establish the precedent that political charges don’t affect the tenure of judges.

War with Tripoli

Ever since Jefferson had been Minister of France, he had urged that the United States should act against the Barbary pirates of North Africa.

These pirates attacked trading ships, demanding tribute and ransom from all countries. The United States had paid Tripoli, the most unruly of the Barbary States, $2 million in 10 years.

In 1801, Tripoli opened war on American shipping because it wanted more tribute money, but Jefferson refused. The little United States Navy blockaded Tripoli’s parts bombarded fortresses, and eventually forced the pirate power to respect the American flag. The war with Tripoli did not end the troubles with the Barbary States, but it brought prestige to the United States Navy.

Western Expansion

President Jefferson had shown great interest in the west since his days in Congress. He obtained a grant from Congress early in 1803 for exploration of the region all the way to the Pacific Ocean. He sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to the head waters of the Missouri River, then across the Rockies to the Pacific.

The population of the Northwest Territory grew rapidly. Ohio joined the Union in 1803 as the 17th State.

In 1804, the government encouraged western settlement by cutting in half, from 320 to 160 acres (130 to 60 hectares), the minimum number of acres of western land that could be bought.

Anyone with $80 in cash could make the first payment on a frontier farm.

Louisiana Purchase

Ranks as one of Jefferson’s greatest achievements. The Louisiana Territory, a vast region between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, had been transferred from France to Spain in 1762. Jefferson learned in 1801 that Spain planned to cede the area back to France. When Louisiana belonged to Spain, it offered no threat to the United States, Under Napoleon, it might block American expansion and threaten American democracy. In 1803, Jefferson obtained $2 million from Congress for “extraordinary expenses”. He sent James Monroe to Paris to help the American minister, Robert Livingston, negotiate with France. Jefferson hoped to buy New Orleans and the Florida’s. He at least wanted to get a perpetual guarantee of free navigation of the Mississippi and various commercial privileges at New Orleans.

Before Monroe reached Paris, Livingston proposed a modest purchase of New Orleans. Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, astounded Livingston by asking: “What would you give for the whole of Louisiana?” After Monroe arrived, he and Livingston quickly struck a bargain.

For the province of Louisiana, the United States paid $11,250,000 and gave up claims on France estimated at $3,750,000. So, for about $15 million, the government gained control of the Mississippi River and almost doubled the nation’s size.

Jefferson was amazed when he learned about the purchase. He doubled whether the government had a right under the Constitution to add this wasn’t territory to the Union.

But his doubts did not keep him from submitting the treaty to the Senate, which ratified it by a vote of 24 to 7.

Election of 1804

There seemed little doubt that a prospering nation would reelect Jefferson in 1804. The Democratic-Republicans nominated Governor George Clinton of New York for Vice President.

But a group of northeastern Federalists feared that the purchase of Louisiana would weaken New England’s position and influence. They felt that the time had come to break up the Union and sought on ally in Vice President Burr. The plotters wanted to elect Burr governor of New York so he could help take that state out of the Union along with New England. But Alexander Hamilton who distrust Burr, helped to defeat the plot which make Burr lost.

The election of 1804, completely defeated the Federalists. Even New England, except for Connecticut, went Democratic-Republican. The final electoral court gave 162 votes to Jefferson and only 14 to the Federalist candidate, Charles C. Pickney, a lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina.

Jefferson’s Second Administration (1805-1809)

Burr conspiracy

Aaron Burr was already discredited in politics, had father damaged his reputation by killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel in July 1804. He then became involved in a mysterious scheme, the purpose of which is still not clear.

He may have wanted to take the west away from the United States, or perhaps to conquer the Spanish Southwest. In any case, Burr tried unsuccessfully to get support from the British, French, or Spanish against his own government. He then raised a small military force of his own. In 1806, Burr set off down the Ohio River for New Orleans, hoping to gather recruits along the way.

General James Wilkinson, the governor of the Louisiana Territory, had encouraged Burr to expect his support. But he decided to expose Burr’s plot and wrote to Jefferson about a “deep, dark, wicked, and widespread conspiracy,”

Jefferson had Burr captured, taken to Richmond, and tried for treason. To the disgust of Jefferson and others, Chief Justice John Marshall interpreted the charge of treason so narrowly that the jury had acquit Burr.

The Struggle for Neutrality

The war had broken out between Great Britain and France in May 1803. Jefferson found that his Chief tasks were to keep the United States out of the war, and at the same time uphold the country’s right as a neutral. Britain and France were destroying each other’s merchant shipping. One result was that a large part of the West Indies-Europe Trade fell into American hands. American shipbuilding and commerce grew rapidly, and thousands of sailors were needed. Most of these men came from New England, but many had deserted from British ships.

Britain, desperately needed seamen, began stopping American ships on the high seas and removing sailors suspected of being British. But it was hard to tell British and Americans apart. Thousands of Americans were seized and forced into the British Navy. The struggle in Europe soon became so intense that neither side cared much about the rights of neutral nations. In the Berlin and Milan decrees of 1806 and 1807, Napoleon announced his intention to seize all neutral ships bound to or from a British port.

The British issued a series of orders in council which blockaded all ports in the possession of France or its allies (order in Council). In practice, this meant that the British would try to seize any ship bound for the European continent, while the French would do their best to seizer ships sailing about anywhere else. The crowing outrage occurred in June 1807, when the British frigate Leopard launched an unprovoked attack on the American ship Chesapeake. The Leopard find on the American ship Chesapeake. The Leopard find on the Chesapeake after the captain of the American vessel refused to let the British search his ship for deserters. This incident almost brought the two nations to war.

Commercial Retaliation

Jefferson knew that the United States wasn’t prepared for war. In any case, it would have been hard to decide whether to fight France or Britain. Jefferson believed that he could bring the warring nations to reason by closing American markets to them, and not selling them any American supplies. In 1807, he forced Embargo Act through Congress. This law prohibited experts from the United States and barred American ships from sailing into foreign parts. The embargo injured the United States for more than it did either Britain or France. The ships lay, idle, sailors and shipbuilders lost their jobs, and exports piled up in ware houses. Many Americans evaded the law, and smuggling flourished.

The government had to pass additional laws to increase the nation’s coastal defenses and to enforce the embargo. Jefferson, who found himself favoring more and more federal control, commanded: “Third embargo law is certainly the most embarrassing one we have ever had to execute.” After 14 months, it became clear that the embargo would force no concessions from either Britain or France. Public clam against the measure grew overwhelming, and Congress repealed it in March 1809 by passing the milder. Non-Intercourse Act. May people urged Jefferson to run for reelection again in 1808. But he chose to follow George Washington’s example and retire from office after two terms. Jefferson made it clear that he expected James Madison to be the next President. Madison won the election as he became the 4th President of the United States.

Later Years

Jefferson was 65 when he retired from the presidency in 1809. He felt at last to cultivate those “tranquil pursuits of science” for which, he said, nature had intended him “Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power”, he wrote.

The Sage of Monticello

Leisured gave Jefferson a chance to enjoy his countless and varied interests. He turned to music, architecture, chemical experiments, and the study of religion, philosophy, law, and education. During his long absence, Monticello had been run down, and Jefferson worked energetically to repair the damages of long neglect. He also experimented with new crops and new farming techniques, and improved his flower and herb gardens.

He carried on an immense correspondence with people in all parts of the world. He improved a copying device called the polygraph, which made file copies of the many letters he wrote. He entertained an endless stream of guests who came to pay their respects. In 1811, Jefferson was reconciled with John Adams, and the two men renewed their old friendship, after the death of Adam’s wife Abagail Adams. Their letters ranged widely over the fields of history, politics, philosophy, religion, and science. The remarkable correspondence continued until they died on the same day, on July 4, 1826, Jefferson died earlier that day, and Adams day later as he said “Jefferson lives”, as he didn’t know Jefferson already died.

Jefferson had withdrawn from politics, but he was consulted constantly on public affairs Madison and Monroe, his successors in the White House, frequently sought his advice.

Jefferson had little money. He had made additions to Monticello, entertained lavishly, and supported members of his family.

In 1815, he sold his library of more than 6,400 volumes to Congress to repulse the books that the British destroyed when they burned the Capitol during the War of 1812 (1812-1815). Public contributions aided him in later years, but Monticello passed out the hands of his family after his death.

University Founder

Jefferson’s most important contributions in his later years were probably in the field of education. As a young legislator, he had worked for reform of Virginia’s system of public education. Later he had tried to improve William and Mary College. In time, he became convinced that the state needed an entirely new university.

After he returned to Monticello, Jefferson worked constantly to create the University of Virginia. He projected his character, interests, and talents in planning a university based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of its contemplation. Jefferson reorganized the curriculum, hired the faculty, and selected the library books. He also drew the plans for the buildings and supervised their construction. As a result of his efforts, scholars from other countries were persuaded to teach at the university. In March 1825, Jefferson had the joy of seeing the University of Virginia opened with 40 students, which is still standing today.

But his strength was failing. On July 4 1826, just 50 years after the adaption of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson died at the age of 83. He was buried beside his wife at Monticello. The inscription that Jefferson wrote for his grave marker reads: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the statute of Virginia for religious and freedom, & Father of the University of Virginia”. These were accomplishments that he ranked higher than being President of the United States’

Memorials and Honors

Jefferson has been memorialized with buildings, sculptures, postage, and currency. In the 1920s, Jefferson, together with George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, was chosen by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and approved by President Calvin Coolidge to be depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial.

The Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. in 1943, on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth. The interior of the memorial includes a 19-foot (6 m) statue of Jefferson and engravings of passages from his writings. Most prominent are the words inscribed around the monument near the roof: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”