Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

By John Ferling | Go to book overview
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“The Revolution of 1800”

IN THE TWO WEEKS THAT FOLLOWED his inauguration, Jefferson behaved like a person who had been called on suddenly to speak but later regretted not having said things a bit differently. Or perhaps he simply wished to broach ideas that he had thought were better left unsaid in his conciliatory Address. While still residing at Conrad and McMunn's—he remained there during the first fifteen days of his presidency, while work continued on the President's House—Jefferson wrote to many of the surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence, and to Thomas Paine, who had been the first to publicly broach the idea of independence, to expand on several themes. 1

Jefferson expressed pride in the Revolutionary generation, which, like its predecessors, had sacrificed to preserve liberty. We have “done our part” and deserve the “embraces of our fathers, he boasted. He hoped that America would serve as a beacon to the oppressed everywhere and that “the condition of man over a great portion of the globe” would be ameliorated through “our example [of] a free government.” He reflected a bit on the recent election, characterizing it as a “recovery from delusion, for his party's victory signaled that the nation had overcome its rapture for militarism, monarchy, commercialism, corrupt stockjobbery, infringements on civil liberties, and a reunion with Great Britain. To Paine, who had forecast in 1776 that the American Revolution was the


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