The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1800-1812.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 11.
Going into the 1800 Presidential election, it was neck-in-neck between Jefferson and Adams. Jefferson claimed that he was the guardian of liberty and states’ rights, though his idealistic vision for government would turn bleak once he was elected.
The Federalists’ Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 had earned them a few enemies, but they were Jeffersonians anyway. John Adams’ decision to stay neutral harmed them more than anything. John ‘Father of the American Navy’ Adams had increased taxes, including a new stamp tax, and built up a strong navy in useless preparation for war with France. They also increased attacks against Jefferson, claiming he was an adulterous atheist.
Jefferson had the last laugh when he was elected through a technicality (though Adams won the popular vote, the election was decided by the House of Representatives). The House was controlled by Federalists, who at first wanted to vote for Burr instead of Jefferson, but decided against it as it would doom the Federalist Party in the long run. Jefferson won with his much-hated adversary Aaron Burr as his vice president. The switch in governmental power, usually only attained through a violent revolution, was done in a peaceful, bloodless way.
Thomas Jefferson was the first President to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. and in his address, he asserted that America was a beautiful mixture of D-Rs and Federalists. He also promised to be friendly with other nations and after much debacle, went against many of the policies he advocated. Jefferson would also dress in unorthodox attire and began the tradition of sending messages to Congress to be read by a clerk. He dismissed only a few of the Federalist public servants, a strange move for someone on the other side of the political spectrum.
Jefferson pardoned those who had been imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Acts and worked steadfastly to create the new Naturalization Law of 1802 that would reverse the A and S Acts’ policy of property-owning requirements from fourteen to five years for citizenship. Except for getting rid of the excise tax, and losing $1 million in revenue, he left most of Hamilton’s policies in-tact with the help of Albert Gallatin, who balanced the budget while reducing the national debt.
One of the last acts of the Federalist-controlled Congress was to enact the Judiciary Act of 1801, which secured sixteen new federal judges, all of whom supported the Federalists. They were called ‘midnight judges’ as the posts were formed on the last night of Adams’ term. The Jeffersonians responded by getting rid of the posts, which stirred anger in the new Chief Justice John Marshall. After serving at Valley Forge and seeing what a weak central government was capable of, Marshall began a lifelong Federalist.
One of the posts that Jefferson got rid of belonged to one William Marbury. Sect. of State James Madison had personally refused to honor Marbury’s commission, so Marbury sued him in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. Marshall decided that what Madison did was illegal, but the Judiciary Act of 1789, which Marbury based his argument upon, was unconstitutional. So it kind of cancelled itself out. Marshall implied that the Supreme Court’s role was to decide whether or not acts of Congress were unconstitutional or not.
Jeffersonians responded to Marshall’s actions, though he was on their side in this decision, by trying to impeach Supreme Court Justice Chase. They weren’t able to, but Marshall got the message to lay low in his decisions or he would be next.
In order to shrink the budget, Jefferson lessened the size of the military to just 2,500 men and the navy was also downsized. The pacifist was pushed into the spotlight when the lead pirate of Tripolo cut down the flagstaff of the American consulate and declared war on the US. Jefferson then sent his small fleet out to Tripoli and after four years of fighting, they secured peace in 1805. Tommy realized that a large fleet of small ships would be best for the navy and built them in states where votes could be earned. The boats, however, were badly designed and of little use.
In 1800, Napoleon had agreed with the King of Spain to acquire the Louisiana territory. In 1802, The Spaniards withdrew the right of deposit, which had allowed American farmers to send goods down the Mississippi. Jefferson foresaw a dark future with Napoleon lording over the west and in 1803 sent James Monroe to France to talk down the Emperor. Since Napoleon couldn’t capture Santo Domingo due to a slave uprising in neighboring Haiti, where food stuffs from Louisiana would be sent, he thought there was no reason to own Louisiana.
Napoleon was also at war with Britain at the time, who held huge control over the seas. Napoleon didn’t want to have to give Louisiana away to the Brits, so he instead sold it for $15 million and pocketed the money, hoping that with the land, the US would expand to be able to challenge and defeat the Redcoats in any parameter. Jefferson had instructed Monroe and Livingston to ask what they could get for $10 million, just like a kid in a candy shop, and was distraught that they disobeyed, but eventually he just shrugged it off.
Jefferson was also troubled that the Constitution didn’t mention anything about buying land. But if an amendment was suggested, the process would take too long and Napoleon might pull out like a little wimp, so there was nothing he could do.
The purchase has numerous benefits. Not only did it allow the US to expand over time, it also helped us avoid a entangling alliance with either Britain or France. Lewis and Clark were sent in the spring of 1804 to explore the new territory. With the help of Sacajawea (don’t even try to pronounce it), they stayed alive for 2 and a half years and made it to the Pacific Coast. Another explorer, Zebulon M. Pike, surprisingly not an alien, went up and down the Mississippi and explored the southern part of Louisiana.
The Louisiana Purchase was not taken lightly by the Federalists. How could a Jeffersonian government ever account for such a vast tract of area? They also schemed with VP Aaron Burr to have New York and most of New England secede from the union. Alexander Hamilton caught on to the scheme, dueled with Burr, and was killed in the process. Burr had to leave town as soon as possible and found a safe haven with General Wilkinson, with whom he plotted to secede the western part of the US from the east. Burr was captured, though there was no substantial evidence for treason and he was acquitted.
Jefferson won again in 1804, defeating the Federalists 162 electoral votes to just 14. But he had many new issues to address, namely Napoleon’s declaration of war against Britain as soon as Louisiana was unloaded. Britain would come to control the seas in the Battle of Trafalgar and France would control the land in the Battle of Austerlitz. American trade was all but destroyed in 1806 when London issued the Orders in Council, which required foreign shippers to stop at a British port before going to a French-controlled port. Likewise, any ships that stopped at a British port would be seized by Napoleon’s forces.
6,000 men were impressed into duty in the British army from 1808-1811 after being kidnapped from seized merchant ships. In 1807, a British warship insisted that there were four deserters aboard the US frigate Chesapeake and that they should be seized at once. Britain had never declared the right to seize soldiers from foreign ships and the American captain refused. The warship then fired on the Americans and infuriated a nation, who called for war immediately.
Keep in mind that America’s navy was still pretty weak and the army was even weaker. In response to the skirmish, Jefferson enacted the Embargo Act of 1807 on both France and Britain, both of whom, it was believed, depended on American goods. Farmers and shippers alike went crazy over the stockpiles of unsalable goods lining their storerooms. The US’ commerce was killed overnight and by 1808, an illicit trade had begun near the Canadian boarder. The embargo revived the Federalists and in a last-ditch effort by the Jeffersonians, the embargo was repealed and replaced with the Non-Intercourse Act (which, contrary to popular belief, didn’t encourage abstinence) of 1809 and re-opened trade.
The embargo collapsed because of Britain’s resourcefulness to look to other ports, mainly in Latin America, for their goods. The French, on the other hand, seized all and any illicit American trading ships. Americans were resourceful as well and started building factories to manufacture goods normally imported from Britain or France. This saddened Jefferson, who preferred farms to factories. This was the foundation of the industrial revolution.
Once elected, Madison barely filled Jefferson’s shoes and it wasn’t just because he stood an astounding 5’4″. When the Non-Intercourse Act was about to expire in 1810, Madison signed into law Macon’s Bill No. 2, which admitted that America’s commerce could never survive without France or Britain and that America was free to trade with the world. France saw its opportunity and declared that France was open to commercial trade again. The only thing in the way were the Brits’ Orders in Council. Macon’s Bill gave Britain three months to repeal their Orders, but the Brits called their bluff and did nothing. As a result, Madison had no choice but to reinstate the embargo.
Entering the 1810s, the submissive men of old were swept away by youthful war-hawks (Jeffersonians who detested the whole trading situation). The war-hawks also wanted to crush the Indians once and for all and encouraged people to trudge into the wilderness. Tecumseh was a famed Shawnee who had assembled a large confederacy. Tecumseh’s brother, ‘the Prophet’, was defeated at their base of operations on the Tippecanoe River by Indiana Gov. William H. Harrison, and Tecumseh was left with no choice but to ally with the Brits. He later died in 1813 at the Battle of Thames.
War was now unavoidable for Madison. The Indians were killing more Americans than ever before and the only solution was to wipe out their Canadian base. Madison thought the war would restore confidence in the Jeffersonians. The vote for declaration of war passed easily in the House, but was almost derailed in the Senate. The Federalists in New England remained pro-British and would offer no support to the war effort.