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Thomas Jefferson - 3rd President of the United States of America

In the presidential election of 1800, Jefferson squared off against Adams in another competitive campaign between the Republicans and the Federalists. Two Republicans, Jefferson and Aaron Burr of New York, tied for victory with 73 electoral votes apiece, and Adams finished with 65 electoral votes.

The United States Constitution prevented electors from distinguishing between their choice of president and vice president on a political party's ballot. Although the voters preferred Jefferson, Burr refused to relinquish the presidency to him. Therefore, the House of Representatives convened to review the votes and decided upon Jefferson for president and Burr for vice president. To avoid a same-party tie in the future, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1804. In short it read; "The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves".

Jefferson was inaugurated into office on March 4, 1801. During his administration, he reduced the authority of the U.S. government by dismantling the military, lowering taxes, and decreasing the national debt. In his attempt to minimize the exposure of the presidential office, Jefferson delegated all executive messages in writing rather than through public speeches.

Jefferson's Cabinet included James Madison as secretary of state and Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania, who was one of the nation's most qualified financial managers, as secretary of the treasury. When war between Great Britain and France settled temporarily in 1801, Gallatin took advantage of trade opportunities with these two countries to strengthen the U.S. economy.

Territorial Gains and Exploration

When Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison learned that Spain had given the Louisiana Territory to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso in October 1800, the U.S. leaders worried about losing access to an important trade port of New Orleans. Having the mouth of the Mississippi, and the outlet for the produce of the western states, in the hands of the active and powerful France posed a potential threat to the United States. In the treaty, Napoleon Bonaparte agreed never to transfer Louisiana to a third power.

Thomas Jefferson instructed The U.S. ambassador to France, Robert R. Livingston, to negotiate with French officials for the purchase of New Orleans. Spain also gave West Florida to France. This made Jefferson concerned that France would set limits to U.S. shipping along the entire Mississippi River. He sent James Monroe as a special envoy to assist Livingston in the negotiations with France. Surprisingly, Napoleon Bonaparte disregarded the treaty and sold the entire Louisiana Territory to the United States, which stretched from the land west of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, to the United States for 15 million dollars. Spain filed a protest against the transfer, but was in no position to undo the transfer, and reluctantly accepted the agreement. In May 1803 U.S. delegates signed a treaty with Napoleon I for the Louisiana Purchase, which was Jefferson's most celebrated achievement as president.

In July 1803 Jefferson dispatched his private secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to lead an expedition into the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis recruited his friend, William Clark, to share command of the expedition.

Lewis and Clark's exploration party departed St. Louis, Mo., in May 1804 and headed up the Missouri River. They proceeded west, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and reached the Pacific in November 1805. Along their journey they charted maps, established friendly relations with several Native American tribes, and studied plant and animal life.

Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis in September 1806 with detailed journals and maps and various plant and animal specimens for research. Their trail to the Pacific paved the way for future explorers and traders who sought to colonize the West.

Domestic Challenges of Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson coasted to an easy victory in the presidential election of 1804 against the Federalist candidate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina. The influence of the Republican party under Jefferson's direction was overwhelming to the Federalists who were unable to mount a challenging campaign. In 1804 Vice-President Burr was defeated in a bitter campaign for governor of New York. Burr demanded that Hamilton retract slanderous statements that doomed his political chances. The two men fought the duel in which Hamilton was killed on July 11, 1804. Burr completed his term as vice-president, though indicted for murder in New York and New Jersey.

Burr next embarked upon an ambitious scheme in the West, with financial help from a wealthy Irishman who had built a home on an Ohio River island near present-day Parkersburg, W. Va. Burr took 60 men in boats down the Ohio River, apparently to colonize an area west of the Mississippi. Burr was accused of planning to invade Mexico and to make the southwestern states part of a scheme to found his own empire. The charge led to his trial for treason

Burr was arrested and sent to Richmond, Va., to stand trial for treason in May 1807, and Jefferson testified against him at the trial. Burr was accused of planning an invasion into parts of the Louisiana Territory and the Spanish territories further west. His alleged plan was to form a secessionist movement to establish a new nation under his leadership. He was acquitted of these charges in September 1807, but thereafter he lost his credibility as a political leader. George Clinton, a former governor of New York, replaced Aaron Burr as Jefferson's vice president.

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