Jefferson`s Presidency

Election of 1800
The election of 1800 between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans was an emotional
and hard-fought campaign. Each side believed that victory by the other would ruin the nation.
The tickets in the election were Federalists John Adams and Charles C. Pinckney, and the
Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. When the ballots for the Electoral
College were counted, it was discovered that the election was a tie.
Jefferson and Burr each received 73 electoral votes. John Adams received 65 votes, Charles
C. Pinckney received 64 votes. Adams did not win reelection but that isn’t why this election is
The original wording of the Constitution didn't distinguish between electoral votes for
president and vice president, which is what led to the
problematic outcome. Every Democratic-Republican who voted
for Jefferson also voted for Aaron Burr. In the event of a tie in
the Electoral College, the Constitution dictated that the House
of Representatives would decide the election. So Jefferson and
Burr, who had been running mates, were now rivals in the
election in the House. The House voted for what they
considered to be the safer choice, Jefferson, by a single vote,
thus making him the 3rd president and Aaron Burr the new vice
Jefferson’s Beliefs
Jefferson believed strongly in the Democratic-Republican platform. As the leader and
founder, he literally based the party on his beliefs. When he was inaugurated in 1801 he let the
Alien and Sedition Acts from Adams’ Presidency expire. He wanted the national government to
spend less. He wanted to scale back the Army and its funding. He wanted state banks, rule by the
common man, and most importantly he wanted to give political power back to the states.
Louisiana Purchase
After the French and Indian War, the French lost all of their North American Territory
except for the sugar producing island of Haiti. The large territory in central North America,
known as Louisiana (Named after French King Louis
XIV) was given to Spain. 40 years later, the Spanish, in
secret negotiations, sold the territory back to France.
Napoleon Bonaparte was the leader of France and
wanted to use the territory to supply slaves in Haiti with
food and other supplies.
When France lost control of Haiti due to a slave
revolt, Napoleon no longer needed the land. What
Napoleon wanted was money to build an army and navy
to conquer most of Europe. The United States was
fearful of having a powerful county like France sharing a border to the west. Also, the United
States had long had its eye on the city of New Orleans. New Orleans was the biggest city in the
Louisiana territory. It sat of the mouth of the Mississippi River and therefore controlled
materials flowing up and down the river.
Jefferson approached Napoleon and offered him $10 Million for the sale of New Orleans.
He countered with $15 million for not just the city, but also the entire Louisiana Territory.
Jefferson was hesitant to accept because he, as a Democratic-Republican, believed in a strict
interpretation of the Constitution and there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the President
the power to add territory. In the end, Jefferson could not refuse this offer because it was too
good of a deal. America doubled its size with the stroke of a pen, and remarkably without firing a
bullet, for just 4 cents an acre.
American didn’t know much about this territory. It was purchased sight unseen. Jefferson
sent a team of explores led by a duo named Lewis and Clark to explore this land. The team spent
over two years meeting natives, documenting wildlife, and collecting valuable information for the
United States.
Embargo Act of 1807
The neutrality of the United States was tested during Jefferson Presidency. Britain and
France went to war (again) and both imposed trade restrictions in order to weaken each other’s
economies. This also had the effect of disrupting American trade and therefore the United States'
neutrality was difficult to maintain. Jefferson’s solution to this problem was to establish the
Embargo Act, which essentially stated that the United States wasn’t going to trade with either
The embargo was an unpopular and costly failure. It was considered
Jefferson’s worst decision while in office. It hurt the American economy far
more than the British or French, and resulted in widespread smuggling.
Exports fell from $108 million in 1807 to just $22 million in 1808. Farm
prices fell sharply. Shippers also suffered. Harbors filled with idle ships and
nearly 30,000 sailors found themselves jobless. Pressure to abandon the
embargo mounted, and early in 1809, just 3 days before Jefferson left office,
Congress repealed the embargo.
Jefferson’s Legacy
Jefferson retires after two terms as President. Upset by the failure of his
Embargo Act, the 65-year-old Jefferson looked forward to his retirement:
"Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on
shaking off the shackles of power.'' Jefferson spends his retirement keeping
busy. He founded the University of Virginia and continued to correspond
with political thinkers. He even patched things up with his political
enemy, John Adams, before their death (on the same day, July 4th 1826).
Although much of the nation looked at him as a hero, Jefferson looked
at his own presidency as a failure because he went against many of
his personal beliefs while he was in office. He even left the fact that
he was president off his own tombstone.