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Burr on the visible “dawn of change” in his State of New York. He had full confidence that Republicanism was growing like a sound tissue to possess the whole body politic. Patience and labor! till “time has been given to the States to recover from the temporary frenzy into which they have been decoyed, to rally round the Constitution and rescue it from the destruction with which it has been threatened.” Jefferson hoped even to convert the Federalists, while they expected only to defeat and awe the “Jacobins.” It was a battle between intrenched privilege and insurgent democracy-between the expiring eighteenth century and the dawning nineteenth.
The battle was close and fiercely fought. Jefferson, as leader of the “opposition,” was subjected to extravagant abuse. He was accused of having robbed a widow and her children of an estate of ten thousand pounds; of preaching class hatred and “Jacobinical phrensy"; of slandering George Washington and ridiculing the Christian religion. The direst predictions were made in the event of his election. Government would be at an end and civic virtue a thing of the past. One panic-stricken Federalist declared that every decent man would have to go abroad armed "to defend his property, his wife, and children ... from the daggers of his Jacobin neighbors." Old ladies in Connecticut hid their family Bibles, believing that the first act of the “atheistic” President would be a decree confiscating all copies of the Sacred Book. Following his custom, Jefferson ignored these attacks. While he was contradicting one campaign lie, he said, they would publish twenty new ones.
With his usual political sagacity, Jefferson de clared that as New York City went the election would go. And so it was. Aaron Burr arranged an attractive slate of the city candidates for the State legislature in the spring election of 1800. They carried the city and insured a Republican majority in the legislature which was to choose the presidential electors in November. As a last resort to save a few of New York's votes for the Federalist ticket, Hamilton wrote a letter to Governor Jay, advising him to reconvene the old legislature and put through a law for the choice of presidential electors by districts. He confessed that it was not a "regular or delicate proceeding,” but urged that “scruples of delicacy and propriety ought to be laid aside” when it was a question of preventing the election to the presidency of “an atheist in religion and a fanatic in politics." Governor Jay filed the letter with the indorsement: “Proposing measures for party purposes which I think it would not become me to adopt.”
When the electoral votes were counted in January, Jefferson and Burr had seventy-three apiece, to sixty-five for Adams and sixty-four for Pinckney.
Not a single Republican elector had been thoughtful enough to vote another name than Burr's for second choice, so Jefferson and Burr were technically tied for the presidency, and the decision was thrown into the House of Representatives. Burr knew that every elector had intended to vote for him for VicePresident, and, had he been an honorable man, he would have given first place to Jefferson immediately. But Burr was not an honorable man. He allowed himself to be put forward by a caucus of the Federalists in the House against the man of his own party who was obviously the choice of the nation.
When the balloting began in the House on February 11, 1801, Vermont and Maryland were equally divided, and lost their vote. Of the other fourteen States six voted for Burr (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and South Carolina), and the remaining eight for Jefferson. Nine States were the majority necessary for an election. Day after day the balloting was repeated with the same result. There were rumors that the Federalists would continue the deadlock till the 4th of March, and then devolve the presidency on John Marshall, who had just been appointed by John Adams as chief justice of the supreme court. The two great States of Pennsylvania and Virginia, with their Republican governors, McKean and Monroe, were ready to appeal to arms rather than see Jefferson cheated out of the presi
dency. Hamilton, too, used his influence in behalf of Jefferson, not that he loved Jefferson more, but that he loved Burr less. At last the Federalists in the House gave up the hopeless policy of obstruction. On the thirty-sixth ballot the Federalist members of all the States except New England cast blanks, and Jefferson was elected by a vote of ten States to four.1
Ousted from the presidency and their majority gone in Congress, the Federalists attempted to keep control of the third branch of the government by a reorganization of the judiciary in the last days of Adams's term. A law was passed creating sixteen new federal judgeships, with a number of marshals, attorneys, and clerks. Adams was busy until nine o'clock on the evening of March 3, signing the new commissions. Before sunrise on the morning of the 4th he drove away from the White House, and the reign of Federalism was ended. 2
1 The vote of Maryland was still divided, and Delaware had only one representative in Congress, the Federalist Bayard, whose vote could at any moment have elected Jefferson. Jefferson, without making any “capitulation" to the Federalists, seems to have let it be understood among them that he would not disturb the main institutions of the government if elected (bank, tariff, army and navy). He had no hard feeling toward Burr, who, to his credit be it said, did not attempt to influence the members of the House in their choice. The direst effects of the choice of “a feeble and false enthusiast, a profligate without character or property (!)” for President were predicted by the unreconciled Federalists of New England.
2 Two persistent fables have clung to the last days of Adams's presidency. One to the effect that Levi Lincoln, Jefferson's designated attorney-general, appeared with watch in hand, in the office
We have tarried so long over the great battle of 1800 because it is the central fact of Thomas Jefferson's career. From his entrance into the cabinet in March, 1790, to his entrance into the White House eleven years later, he waged an uninterrupted campaign against what he believed to be a deliberate plot to subvert the Constitution and nullify the Declaration of Independence. For him the victory of 1800 was the vindication of the principles of 1776. He was not overscrupulous in his methods, though he never descended to such trickery as Hamilton's advice to Governor Jay. He gave secret encouragement, if not open support, to such writers as Freneau, Bache, Duane, and Callender, whose slanderous articles on the Federalist leaders tried their patience to the utmost. His compilation of the Anas, with their gossipy depreciation of the deeds and motives of his political adversaries, was unchivalrous. His correspondence too often shows of the State Department at midnight of March 3, to order John Marshall to discontinue signing the commissions of the new judges -the "midnight judges of the Duke of Braintree" (Adams), as the Republicans called them. But Jefferson used the term “midnight" in connection with these new officers, just as we use the phrase "the eleventh hour," to mean late. In a letter of March 24 he speaks of “Adams's midnight appointments, to wit, all after December 12" (the day on which the defeat of the Federalists was certainly known). The other story is that Adams left the White House before dawn of the day Jefferson entered, in order to avoid the humiliation of meeting his successor. But the reason for Adams's hasty departure was the sudden death of his son Charles at New York. He entertained no ill feeling toward Jefferson, and wrote to him a few days after the inauguration, “heartily wishing" him a “quiet and prosperous administration."