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Mr. Pickering, and Samuel Dexter, of Massachusetts, in the place of Mr. M'Henry.
Within a few months a presidential election was to take place; and the great object of the federal opponents of Mr. Adams was to contrive a plan to prevent his reëlection without defeating the party; in other words, to effect the election of some other federalist. In order to succeed, their purpose must be concealed from the mass of the party.
It will be recollected that the original mode of electing president and vice-president still existed, by which the presidential electors were required to vote for two persons without designating the office to which each was to be elected, and by which the one having the highest number of votes was to be president, the one having the next highest was to be vice-president. John Adams and Charles C. Pinckney were the federal candidates. The plan of Mr. Adams' federal opponents was to try, by secret exertions, to secure the largest number of votes for Mr. Pinckney. Mr. Adams knowing their scheme, and conceiving their opposition to him to have arisen from their partialities for England, and his own desire to avoid a war with France, he stigmatized them as a British faction. They were by some suspected of actually wishing for a war, believing it would be a popular measure, and insure the success of the party at the next presidential election.
This charge by Mr. Adams and his friends against these federal leaders, provoked their resentment, and incited them to a more determined opposition. So highly inflamed were the feelings of Hamilton, that, against the remonstrances of some of his friends, he wrote and printed a pamphlet, repelling the imputations of subserviency to Great Britain, noticing the defects in the character of Mr. Adams which unfitted him for the station he occupied, and maintaining the superior fitness of Mr. Pinckney for that office. The issuing of this pamphlet at this time, was not a wise measure. It was intended only for private circulation among the leading federalists; but as might have been expected, it soon passed its prescribed limits, and portions of it appeared in democratie newspapers. It was, however, apparently written in a spirit of candor, and was not discreditable to its author ; and, as between the accuser and the accused, its publication was justifiable.
The prospects of Mr. Adams' reëlection were not flattering. He had been elected in 1796, by 71 votes against 68 for Mr. Jefferson, and there were early indications of another close contest, with the chances rather against him than in his favor. The alien and sedition laws had been doing their work, wielded, as they were, by the skillful leaders of the opposition. True, his conduct toward France had been mild and conciliatory; and her insults and injuries had been borne until her most ardent friends could not but justify the change of policy which it had been deemed necessary to adopt. His defensive measures were on the whole popular; but then they required an increase of taxation, which, though for the wisest and best of purposes, is always regarded by many as a greater evil than an unconstitutional law or a national The balloting continued about a week; Jefferson receiving the votes of eight states : New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Burr received the votes of six states : New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, and South Carolina. Vermont and Maryland were equally divided. Had all the federal members voted for Burr, he would have had a plurality of the states. The division of Maryland was caused by one of the federal representatives voting for Jefferson in conformity with the wishes of his constituents; and the single member from Georgia, a federalist, (his colleague having died,) did the same; as did also one of the North Carolina members; but for which, this state would have been divided; which would have given Burr eight states, Jefferson sis, and leaving Vermont and North Carolina without a vote. By the absence of Morris, of Vermont, a federalist, and by Craik and Baer, of Maryland, also federalists, casting blank ballots, the 36th ballot gave Jefferson ten states.
His efforts to maintain friendly relations with France, and his precautionary measures of national defense when threatened by war, however they may have checked the virulence of the opposition, yet failed to gain for him many active supporters from that party, while his ready compliance with the wishes of France, as we have seen, seriously affected his standing with his own. Hence, the result of the election in November took no one by surprise.
The 2nd session of the 6th congress, which, as has been stated, was held at the new seat of government, terminated the 3d of March, 1801. At this session was passed " an act to provide for the more convenient organization of the courts of the United States ;" an act which, from the circumstances connected with and following it, obtained not a little celebrity. Under the act previously existing, the United States were divided into thirteen judicial districts, which composed three circuits. In each of these thirteen districts, two courts were to be held annually by two justices of the supreme court, (then six in number,) with the judge of the district. The great extent of these circuits, and the difficulties of traveling at that early day, caused great delays in the administration of justice; and the subject of a remedy had been repeatedly urged upon the attention of congress. By the new act, the number of districts was increased to twenty-three
, and the number of circuits to six, with three circuit judges in each. The act was approved February 13, 1801; thus giving to the president less than three weeks before the expiration of his term of office, the appointment of a large number of judges, attorneys, marshals, &c. Filling the new offices mainly or altogether with federalists, loud complaints were made by the opposition, who denounced both the law and the president by whom it had been conceived, as was alleged, for the express purpose of making place for his federal friends. The opposition having obtained majorities in the next congress, the law was repealed at its first session, and of course the new judges sent to private life.
An act was passed near the close of the session, providing for a naval peace establishment. Apprehensions of a war with France having subsided, an act was passed at the close of the session, authorizing the president to sell all the vessels of the navy, except thirteen frigates which were named; six of which were to be kept in constant service and the residue to be laid up in convenient ports.
Upon the 6th congress, at the present session, and almost simultaneously with the passage of the judiciary act, devolved the election of president. In the electoral colleges, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, the republican candidates, had each received 73 votes. The two federal candidates had received, John Adams, 65, and Charles C. Pinckney, 64; one vote having been given to John Jay. The votes for Jefferson and Burr being equal, the house of representatives, voting by states, must determine the election.
There being now sixteen states in the union, the vote of nine states was necessary to a choice, which, after a tedious balloting, was at length obtained by Mr. Jefferson, on the 36th ballot. Although both were republicans, Mr. Burr being from a northern state, (New York) and the supposition that he would, if elected, give less strength to his party than Mr. Jefferson, the former was the least exceptionable to the federal members generally, whose intention it was early known to be, to vote for him, though against the remonstrances, it is said, of Hamilton, who, in a letter to an eastern friend, gave the following striking delineation of his character:
" I trust New England, at least, will not fall into the snare. There is no doubt that, upon every prudent and virtuous calculation, Jefferson is to be preferred. He is by far not so dangerous a man, and he has pretensions to character. As to Burr, there is nothing in his favor. His private character is not defended by his most partial friends. He is bankrupt beyond redemption, except by the plunder of his country. His public principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandizement. If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure himself permanent power, and with it wealth.
" Let it not be imagined that Burr can be won to federal views. It is a vain hope. Stronger ties and stronger inducements will impel him in a contrary direction. His ambition will not be content with those objects which virtuous men of either party will allot to it; and his situation and his habits will oblige him to have recourse to corrupt expedients, from which he will be restrained by no moral scruples. To accomplish bis ends, he must lean upon unprincipled men, and will continue to adhere to the myrmidons who have hitherto surrounded him. To these he will no doubt add able rogues of the federal party; but he will employ the rogues of all parties to overrule the good men of all parties, and to promote projects which wise men of every description will disapprove. These things are to be inferred with moral certainty from the character of the man. Every step of his career proves that he has formed himself on the model of Catiline; and he is too cold blooded and determinrd a conspirator ever to change his plan.”
It was this election which led to the change in the mode of electing president and vice-president, by the adoption of the 12th article of amendments.
Connected with the history of this election, are certain statements which involve the honor and veracity of certain distinguished gentlemen. The design was charged upon the federalists of standing out and preventing an election, and of passing an act to vest the executive authority in some high officer of the government. Mr. Jefferson, in a letter of the 15th of February, wrote to Mr. Monroe as follows: “Four days of bal. loting have produced not a single change of a vote. Yet it is confidently believed that tomorrow there is to be a coalition. I kuow of no foundation for this belief. If they could have been permitted to pass a law for putting the government into the hands of an officer, they would certainly have prevented an election. But we thought it best to declare openly and firmly, one and all, that the day such an act passed, the middle states would arm, and that no such usurpation, even for a single day, should be submitted to. This first shook them; and they were completely alarmed at the resource for which we declared, to wit, a conyention to reorganize the government and to amend it. The very word convention gives them the horrors, as, in the present democratical spirit of America, they fear they should lose some of the favorite morsels of the constitution. Many attempts have been made to obtain terms and promises from me. I have declared to them unequivocally, that I would not receive the government on capitulation; that I would not go into it with my hands tied."
Among the persons implicated in this charge, was James A. Bayard,
of Delaware, afterward senator in congress, and one of the commissioners who negotiated the treaty of peace with Great Britain in 1814. Mr Bayard, who is universally conceded to have maintained through life a character unblemished and above suspicion, in exculpation of himself, made a deposition, April 3, 1806, of which the following are extracts:
“Messrs. Baer and Craik, members of the house of representatives from Maryland, and General Morris, a member of the house from Vermont, and myself, having the power to determine the votes of the states, from similarity of views and opinions, during the pendency of the election, made an agreement to vote together. We foresaw that a crisis was approaching which might probably force us to separate in our votes from the party with whom we usually acted. We were determined to make a president, and the period of Mr. Adams' administration was rapidly approaching
" In determining to recede from the opposition to Mr. Jefferson, it occurred to us, that, probably, instead of being obliged to surrender at discretion, we might obtain terms of capitulation. The gentlemen whose names I have mentioned, authorized me to declare their concurrence with me upon the best terms that could be procured. The vote of either of us was sufficient to decide the choice. With a view to the end mentioned, I applied to Mr. John Nicholas, a member of the house from Virginia, who
was a particular friend of Mr. Jefferson. I stated to Mr. Nicholas that if certain points of the future administration could be understood and arranged with Mr. Jefferson, I was authorized to say that three states would withdraw from an opposition to his election. He asked me what those points were; I answered, First, sir, the support of the public credit; secondly, the maintenance of the naval system; and lastly, that subordinate public officers employed only in the execution of details, established by law, shall not be removed from office on the ground of their political character, nor without complaint against their conduct. I explained myself, that I corsidered it not only reasonable, but necessary, that offices of high discretion and confidence should be filled by men of Mr. Jefferson's choice. I exemplified, by mentioning, on the one hand, the offices of the secretaries of state, treasury, foreign ministers, &c.; and on the other, the collectors of ports, &c.
Mr. Nicholas answered me, that he considered the points very reasonable, that he was satisfied that they corresponded with the views and intentions of Mr. Jefferson, and he knew him well. That he was acquainted with most of the gentlemen who would probably be about him and enjoy his confidence, in case he became president, and that if I would be satisfied with his as. surance, he could solemnly declare it as his opinion, that Mr. Jefferson, in his administration, would not depart from the points I proposed. I