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- A Brief History of the United States - 30/72 -
to Congress, dismounted, hitched his horse, and went into the chamber to read his fifteen-minutes inaugural. Some of the sentences of that short but memorable address have passed into proverbs. The unostentatious example thus set by the nation's President was wise in its effects. Soon the public debt was diminished, the treasury was replenished, and the army and navy were reduced. A man of such marked character necessarily made bitter enemies, but Jefferson commanded the respect of even his opponents, while the admiration of his friends was unbounded. The last seventeen years of his life were passed at Monticello, near the place of his birth. By his profuse hospitality, he had, long before his death, spent his vast estates. He died poor in money, but rich in honor. His last words were, "This is the fourth day of July."]
(THIRD PRESIDENT--TWO TERMS: 1801-1809.)
DOMESTIC AFFAIRS.--_Purchase of Louisiana_ (1803).--The most important event of Jefferson's administration was the purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon. Over one million square miles of land and the full possession of the Mississippi were obtained for $15,000, 000 (see map, VIth Epoch).
[Footnote: This territory (p. 90) was ceded back to France in 1800. From it we have since carved five States, four Territories, and parts of three States and three Territories.]
_Aaron Burr_, the Vice-President, was Alexander Hamilton's bitter rival, both in law and in politics, and at last challenged him to a duel. Hamilton accepted. The affair took place at Weehawken (July 11, 1804). Hamilton fell at the first fire, on the very spot where his eldest son had been killed shortly before, in the same manner. His death produced the most profound sensation. Burr afterward went west and organized an expedition with the avowed object of forming a settlement in northern Mexico. Being suspected, however, of a design to break up the Union and found a separate confederacy beyond the Alleghanies, he was arrested and tried (1807) on a charge of treason. Although acquitted for want of proof, he yet remained an outcast.
[Footnote: While awaiting his trial, Burr was committed to the common jail. There, among its wretched inmates, stripped of all his honors, lay the man who once lacked but a single vote to make him President of the United States.]
[Footnote: Closely connected with Burr's conspiracy is the romantic story of Blennerhassett. He and his beautiful wife. Having settled on an island in the Ohio Kiver, they had transformed the wilderness into a garden of beauty, and every luxury and refinement which wealth or culture could procure clustered about their homes. Into this paradise came Burr, winning their confidence, and engaging them in his plans. On his downfall, Biennerhassett as arrested. When finally acquitted everything had been sold, the grounds turned into a hemp field, and the mansion into a store-house.]
_Fulton's Steamboat_.--The year 1807 was made memorable by the voyage from New York to Albany of Robert Fulton's steamboat, the Clermont. For years the Hudson could boast of having the only steamboat in the world.
[Illustration: THE FIRST STEAMBOAT]
_War with Tripoli_.--The Barbary States, of which Tripoli is one, for many years sent out cruisers which captured vessels of all Christian nations, and held their crews as slaves until ransomed. The United States, like the European nations, was accustomed to pay annual tribute to these pirates to secure exemption from their attacks. The Bashaw of Tripoli became so haughty that he declared war (1801) against the United States. Jefferson sent a fleet which blockaded the port and repeatedly bombarded the city of Tripoli. The frightened Bashaw was at last glad to make peace.
[Footnote: During this blockade a valiant exploit was performed by Lieutenant Decatur. The frigate Philadelphia had unfortunately grounded and fallen into the enemy's hands. Concealing his men below he entered the harbor with a small vessel which he warped alongside the Philadelphia, in the character of a ship in distress. As the two vessels struck, the pirates first suspected his design. Instantly he leaped aboard with his men, swept the affrighted crew into the sea, set the ship on fire, and amid a tremendous cannonade from the shore escaped without losing a man.]
_England and France_.--During this time England and France were engaged in a desperate struggle. England tried to prevent trade with France, and, in turn, Napoleon forbade all commerce with England. As the United States were neutral, they did most of the carrying trade of Europe. Our vessels thus became the prey of both the hostile nations. Besides, England claimed the right of stopping American vessels on the high seas, to search for seamen of English birth, and press them into the British navy. The feeling, already deep, was intensified when the British frigate Leopard fired into the American frigate Chesapeake, off the coast of Virginia.
The American vessel, being wholly unprepared for battle, soon struck her colors. Four of the crew, three being Americans by birth, were taken, on the pretence that they were deserters. Jefferson immediately ordered all British vessels of war to quit the waters of the United States. Though England disavowed the act, no reparation was made. An embargo was then laid by Congress on American vessels, forbidding them to leave port. This was so injurious to our commerce that it was removed, but all intercourse either with England or France was forbidden.
[Footnote: The American doctrine was that a foreigner naturalized became an American citizen; the British, Once an Englishman always an Englishman]
[Illustration: MONTICELLO, THE HOME OF JEFFERSON]
POLITICAL PARTIES.--While the country was in this feverish state, Jefferson's second term expired. James Madison, the republican candidate, who was closely in sympathy with his views, was elected as his successor by a large majority. The republicans were generally in favor of a war with England. The federalists, however, were a strong minority, and throughout this administration bitterly opposed the war policy of the republicans.
* * * * *
[Footnote: James Madison was born in Virginia in 1751; died 1836. Entering Congress in 1789, he became one of the strongest advocates of the Constitution, and did much to secure its adoption. From his political principles he was obliged, though reluctantly, to oppose Washington's administration, which he did in a courteous and temperate manner. He led his party in Congress, where he remained till 1797. The next year he drafted the famous "1798-99 Resolutions," enunciating the doctrine of State rights, which, with the accompanying "Report" in their defence, have been the great text-book of the democratic party. He was Secretary of State to Jefferson. After his Presidential services, he retired from public station. Madison's success was not so much the result of a great national ability as of intense application and severe accuracy. His mind was strong, clear, and well-balanced, and his memory was wonderful. Like John Quincy Adams, he had laid up a great store of learning, which he used in the most skilful manner. He always exhausted the subject upon which he spoke. "When he had finished, nothing remained to be said." His private character was spotless. His manner was simple, modest, and uniformly courteous to his opponents. He enjoyed wit and humor, and told a story admirably. His sunny temper remained with him to the last. Some friends coming to visit him during his final illness, he sank smilingly back on his couch, saying: "I always talk better when I _lie_." It has been said of him: "It was his rare good fortune to have a whole nation for his friends."]
(FOURTH PRESIDENT--TWO TERMS: 1809-1817.)
DOMESTIC AFFAIRS.--_Battle of Tippecanoe_ (November 7, 1811). --British emissaries had been busy arousing the Indians to war. Tecumseh, a famous chief, seized the opportunity to form a confederacy of the northwestern tribes. General Harrison having been sent against them with a strong force, was treacherously attacked by night near the Tippecanoe. The Indians, however, were routed with great slaughter.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS.--_England_.--This war greatly aroused the people of the West against England. The impressment of our seamen and the capture of our ships continued. The British government went so far as to send war vessels into our waters to seize our ships as prizes. The American frigate President having hailed the British sloop-of-war Little Belt, received a cannon-shot in reply. The fire was returned, and the sloop soon disabled; a civil answer was then returned. The British government refusing to relinquish its offensive course, all hope of peace was abandoned. Finally (June 19th, 1812), war was formally declared against Great Britain.
[Footnote: Madison, whose disposition was very pacific, hesitated so long, that one of the federalists declared in Congress that "he could not be kicked into a fight." This expression passed into a proverb.]
SECOND WAR WITH GREAT BRITAIN, 1812-14.
SURRENDER OF DETROIT (August 16).--As in the previous wars, it was determined to invade Canada. General William Hull accordingly crossed over from Detroit and encamped on Canadian soil. While preparing to attack Fort Malden (mahl-den), he learned that the enemy were gathering in great force, and had already captured Fort Mackinaw. He, therefore, retreated to Detroit. The British under General Brock and the Indians under Tecumseh followed thither, and landing, advanced at once to assault the fort at that place. The garrison was in line, and the gunners were standing with lighted matches awaiting the order to fire, when Hull, apparently unnerved by the fear of bloodshed, ordered the white flag--a table-cloth--to be raised. Amid the tears of his men, it is said, and without even stipulating for the honors of war, he surrendered not only Detroit, with its garrison and stores, but the whole of Michigan.
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