Page images

Purchase of Louisiana.


Constitution amended. - Exploring expedition of Lewis and Clarke. Having received information of the cession of Louisiana to France, the president communicated with Mr. Livingston, then minister to France, and instructed him to open negotiations for the purchase of the island of New Orleans and the Floridas.* Mr. Monroe was appointed in January, 1803, minister plenipotentiary to France, to act with Mr. Livingston, and an appropriation of two millions of dollars was made for the purpose of purchase. Napoleon, who was first consul, had appointed the marquis de Marbois to confer with American ministers; and the next day after Monroe's arrival, the conference was opened. To the astonishment of the Americans, the French minister offered to cede all Louisiana, and upon this basis they proceeded. Messrs. Livingston and Monroe had no authority to enter into such extensive negotiations, but there was no time to be lost, for France and England were arming against each other. A treaty was finally concluded, a by which

a April 30, the United States agreed to pay fifteen millions of dollars for the vast territory of Louisiana,t four millions of which France allowed to go toward the payment of indemnities for spoliations during peace. The treaty was equally satisfactory to both governments. It was ratified by Bonaparte on the 22d of May, 1803, and by the United States on the 20th of October following, a special session of Congress having been called for the purpose of taking measures to put the treaty into execution.

During the session of 1803–'4, an amendment to the constitution was proposed relative to the election of president and vice-president, so as to designate which person was voted for, for the respective offices. It was carried, and ratified by the state legislatures. In 1804, an expedition for exploring the continent, from the

6 May 14. Mississippi to the Pacific (for which, at the suggestion of the president, an appropriation had been made), left the “Father of Waters," under the direction of Captains Lewis and Clarke. They were absent two years, and were eminently successful.

During this year another presidential election occurred. The republicans nominated Mr. Jefferson and George Clinton, of New York; and Re-elected president. — Non-importation act. -- Burr's alleged conspiracy. the federalists placed upon their ticket Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina, and Rufus King, of New York. The republican candidates received an overwhelming majority-one hundred and sixty-two against fourteen. Previous to the close of Mr. Jefferson's first administration, the war which had occurred with Tripoli was brought to a close.

was ceded to France by Spain in 1802, and the Spanish intendant at New Orleans declared that the privilege given to the people of the United States, to make that city a place of deposite for merchandise, was ended.

* The president erroneously supposed that the Floridas would also be ceded to France.

† Its extent exceeded a million of square miles, and contained about eighty-five thousand inhabitants, including forty thousand slaves.

When the articles were signed, the negotiators cordially shook hands, and Mr. Livingston said : " From this day, the United States take their place among the powers of the first rank; the English lose all exclusive influence in the affairs of America." And Napoleon afterward remarked to Marbois : “ This accession of territory strengthens for ever the power of the United States ; and I have just given to England a maritime rival that will sovner or later humble ber pride !"

In 1803, the president had recommended the construction of gunboats for the protection of our harbors : and in 1805, an appropriation of sixty thousand dollars enabled him to try the experiment of this cheap marine. But the system was very unpopular with the officers of the navy, and greatly opposed by the federalists. A large portion of the boats were driven ashore by a tempest; yet for three or four years they were kept in service.

The ninth Congress assembled on the 2d of December, 1805. Difficulties with Spain still existing, it was proposed to give the president authority to call out troops for the defence of the southern frontier, as it was supposed that Spain would make aggressions from her Florida possessions. The proposition was not acceded to, and two millions of dollars were appropriated to purchase Florida. General John Armstrong, of New York, and Mr. Bowdoin, of Massachusetts, were appointed commissioners to negotiate with Spain, at Paris. The negotiation proved unsuccessful.

The interruptions to our commerce and the impressment of our seamen by the British navy, caused Congress to pass an act against the importation of certain British manufactures ; and one hundred and fifty thousand dollars were appropriated for fortifying the ports and harbors of the United States.

During the year 1806, Colonel Burr's mysterious expedition in the valley of the Mississippi caused great excitement in the public mind, it being believed by many that the object of his extensive military arrangements was to dissever the Union, and establish an independent government west of the Alleganies. In 1807, he was arrested on charges having these suspicions for a basis ; and he was taken to Richmond, Virginia, where, in June, he was tried for high-treason before Chief Justice Marshall. His trial lasted till August, when he was acquitted. The evidence seemed to show that his expedition was intended to be against the Spanish provinces of Mexico.

In December, amicable negotiations having been entered into with Great Britain, the non-importation act was suspended for one year. A treaty was concluded, but it was so unsatisfactory-nothing having been stipulated in it respecting impressments—that the president rejected it, the senate not then being in session. This act caused great excitement, especially in commercial circles.

Effects of the Berlin and Milan decrees. — Jefferson retires from public life. Napoleon's Berlin decree, of November 21, 1806; the British orders in council, November 11, 1807; and Napoleon's Milan decree, of December 17, 1807 - all operated powerfully against American commerce, and nearly destroyed it, as all our vessels were liable to cure, under these decrees and orders, if approaching the European coast. On the 18th of December, the president recommended an embargo upon American vessels, which recommendation was considered by Congress, and an act in accordance was passed.* This measure produced a great deal of dissatisfaction and commercial distress, but Congress fully sustained the president.

During the excitement produced by the embargo, in 1808, another presidential election came on. James Madison, of Virginia, was nominated for president, and George Clinton for vice-president, by the republicans; the federalists again nominated Pinckney and King. Mr. Madison was elected by a large majority-one hundred and twenty-two to forty-seven.

So seriously oppressive became the embargo, that the leading federalists of the New England states meditated a withdrawal of those states from the Union, unless the act was repealed. That fact, it is said, was disclosed to Mr. Jefferson by John Quincy Adams early in 1809. This new danger seemed paramount to all others; and to preserve the Union intact, the embargo-act was so far repealed as to apply only to Great Britain and France.

On the 3d of March, 1809, the administration of Mr. Jefferson closed, and immediat ly after the inauguration of Mr. Madison he retired to Monticello. I ring his administration he had accomplished much for the future pros; verity of the country; but at the moment of his leaving the executive chair, events wore a gloomy aspect.

Mr. Jefferson never again engaged in public life, but spent the remaining seventeen years in the sweet retirement of Monticello, where, says Mr. Webster, “he lived as became a wise man.” He employed his time in philosophical pursuits and the management of his farm. Through his instrumentality, a university was foundedt at Charlottesville, near Monticello, of which he was rector until his death, and a liberal patron as far as his means would allow.

• This act prohibited all American vessels from sailing for foreign ports ; all foreign vessels from taking out cargoes; and all coasting.vessels were required to give bonds to land their cargoes in the United States. These restrictive measures were intended to so affect the com. merce of Great Britain, as to bring that government to a fair treaty of amity and commerce.

Called the University of Virginia. It was founded in 1818.

Toward the close of his life his pecuniary affairs became embarrassed, and he was obliged to sell his library, which Congress purchased for thirty thousand dollars. A short time previ. ous to his death he received permission from the legislature of Virginia to dispose of his estate by lottery, to prevent its being sacrificed to pay his debts. He did not live to see it consummated

[ocr errors]

His death. - His person and character. In the spring of 1826, his bodily infirmities greatly increased, and in June he was confined wholly to his bed. About the first of July he seemed free from disease, and his friends had hopes of his recovery; but it was his own conviction that he should die, and he


directions accordingly. On the 3d, he inquired the day of the month. On being told, he expressed an ardent desire to live until the next day, to breathe the air of the fiftieth anniversary of his country's independence. His wish was granted : and on the morning of the 4th, after having expressed his gratitude to his friends and servants for their care, he said with a distinct voice, “I resign myself to my God, and my child to my country."* These were his last words, and about noon on that glorious day he expired It was a most remarkable coincidence that two of the committee (Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson) who drew up the Declaration of Independence; who signed it; who successively held the office of chief magistrate, should have died at nearly the same hour on the fiftieth anniversary of that solemn act.

Mr. Jefferson was a little over eighty-three years of age at the time of his death. In person, he was six feet two inches in height, erect, but quite thin. His complexion was fair, eyes light, and brilliant with intelligence, and his hair, originally red, became silvery white in old age. His manner was simple but dignified, and his conversational powers were of the rarest value. He was exceedingly kind and benevolent, an indulgent master to his servants, and liberal and friendly to his neighbors. He possessed remarkable equanimity of temper, and it is said he was never seen in a passion. His friendship was lasting and ardent, and he was confiding and never distrustful.

In religion, he was a freethinker; in morals, pure and unspotted; in politics, patriotic, honest, ardent, and benevolent. Respecting his political character, there was (and still is) a great diversity of opinion, and we are not yet far enough removed from the theatre of his acts to judge of them dispassionately and justly. His life was devoted to his country: the result of his acts, whatever it may be, is a legacy to mankind.

* Mrs. Randolph, whom he tenderly loved. Just before he died, he handed her a morocco case, with a request that she should not open it until after his decease. It contained a poetical tribute to her virtues, and an epitaph for his tomb, if any should be placed upon it. He wished his monument to be a small granite obelisk, with this inscription :

“Here was buried

Author of the Declaration of Independence,
Of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom,

And Father of the University of Virginia."
† During his presidency, Humboldt, the celebrated traveller, once visiting him, discovered
in a newspaper upon his table a vile and slanderous attack upon his character. · Why do
you not hang the man ?" asked Humboldt. “Put the paper in your pocket,” said Jefferson,
with a smile, “and, on your return to your country, if any one doubts the freedom of our
press, show it to him, and tell him where you found it."


« EelmineJätka »