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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Jefferson was elected President and Burr Vice President


the intrigue failed was due mainly to the patriotism of Hamilton. All that was best and worst in him concurred in despising the mere flatterer of the mob. Jefferson was at least a gentleman. And, unfairly as he estimated him both morally and intellectually, he knew very well that the election of Jefferson would not be a disgrace to the Republic, while the election of Burr would. His patriotism overcame his prejudices. He threw the whole weight of his influence with the Federalists against the intrigue, and he defeated it. It is the more to his honour that he did this to the advantage of a man whom he could not appreciate and who was his enemy. It was the noblest and purest act of his public career. It probably cost him his life.

Jefferson was elected President and Burr Vice-President, as had undoubtedly been intended by the great majority of those who had voted the Democratic ticket at the elections. But the anomaly and disaster of Burr's election had been so narrowly avoided that a change in the Constitution became imperative. It was determined that henceforward the votes for President and Vice-President should be given separately. The incident had another consequence. Burr, disappointed in hopes which had almost achieved fulfilment, became from that moment a bitter enemy of Jefferson and his administration. Also, attributing the failure of his promising plot to Hamilton's intervention, he hated Hamilton with a new and insatiable hatred. Perhaps

in that hour he already determined that his enemy should die.

Jefferson's inauguration was full of that deliberate and almost ceremonial contempt of ceremony in which that age found a true expression of its mood, though later and perhaps more corrupt times have inevitably found such symbolism merely comic. It was observed as striking the note of the new epoch that the President rejected all that semi-regal pomp which Washington and Adams had thought necessary to the dignity of their office. It is said that he not only rode alone into Washington (he was the first President to be inaugurated in the newly built capital), dressed like any country gentleman, but, when he dismounted to take the oath, tethered his horse with his own hands. More really significant was the presence of the populace that elected him--the great heaving, unwashed crowd elbowing the dainty politicians in the very presence chamber. The President's inaugural address was full of a generous spirit of reconciliation. "We are all Republicans," he said, "we are all Federalists." Every difference of opinion was not a difference of principle, nor need such differences interfere with "our attachment, to our Union and to representative government."

Such liberality was the more conspicuous by contrast with the petty rancour of his defeated rival, who not only refused to perform the customary courtesy of welcoming his successor at the White House, but spent his last hours there appointing Federalists feverishly to public offices solely in order to compel Jefferson to choose between the humiliation of retaining such servants and the odium of dismissing them. The new President very rightly refused to recognize nominations so made, and this has been seized upon by his detractors to hold him up as the real author of what was afterwards called "the Spoils System." It would be far more just to place that responsibility upon Adams.

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