THREE

Thomas Jefferson
1801-1809

On March 4, 1801, Thomas Jefferson ( 1743-1826) walked to his inauguration in the new capital, Washington, D.C., and then headed back to his boarding house when the ceremony was over. A few months later, when Congress met, he sent a written message to the two houses instead of appearing in person amid much fanfare (as had been the custom). He was just as informal about diplomatic receptions. When Andrew Merry, the British minister to the United States, presented himself at the Executive Mansion, Jefferson received him in dressing gown and slippers. Merry was infuriated. "I, in my official costume," he raged afterward, "found myself at the hour of reception he had himself appointed, introduced to a man as president of the United States, not merely in an undress, but ACTUALLY STANDING IN SLIPPERS DOWN AT THE HEELS, and both pantaloons, coat, and under-clothes indicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to appearances, and in a state of negligence actually studied. I could not doubt that the whole scene was prepared and intended as an insult, not to me personally, but to the sovereign I represented." 1

Jefferson probably did not mind needling the pompous and humorless Merry. But he was more interested in introducing what he called "Republican simplicity" into the American system. He thought the federal government had become too high-toned under his Federalist predecessors, so he called his victory as a Republican in the recent presidential election the "revolution of 1800." It was not a real revolu

-34-

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