ON March 4, 1801, three men stood facing each other in the chamber of the Senate of the United States -- Thomas Jefferson, President-elect, Aaron Burr, Vice-President-elect, and John Marshall, Chief Justice. Three men mutually distrustful, mutually inimical, whose duty it was to carry on the government and interpret the laws of the nation, who were to meet again in implacable conflict and under even more dramatic circumstances within a few short years. The oaths of office were administered; the new President read his Inaugural Address -- a placating document in which, remarked Henry Adams, Jefferson seemed anxious to prove to his opponents that actually there had been no revolution at all.1 The new Republican government was formally launched.
The new incumbents found themselves confronted, not merely with a complex of problems, both foreign and domestic, inherited from the old Federalist regime, but with another inheritance even more burdensome, and, to their minds, considerably more vicious. This was the famous midnight appointments of John Adams, who, seeing the twilight of the Federalist gods almost upon him, sat in his study until the very last stroke of his expiring term, signing appointments to office as fast as he could write. Chiefly they were made to the Judiciary, whose limits the Federalist Congress had thoughtfully extended for just such an emergency, and whose incumbents held tenure for life on good behavior.
Jefferson was confronted with a fait accompli, as well as with a horde of hungry Republican partisans seeking office under the new administration. Yet he had promised Bayard -- so at least Bayard claimed -- that no Federalist administrative office-holders would be disturbed for political reasons. It was a promise which, if made, he was compelled to ignore, except in isolated cases. The pressure placed upon him was tremendous. He tried to compromise, proclaiming a doctrine in his famous reply to the New Haven remonstrants that to the victors belong at least one-half the spoils.
"If a due participation of office," he wrote the merchants of