Jefferson and Madison
1. President Jefferson
The Twelfth Amendment
At this time in the nation’s history, the person who received the most votes became president; the person with the second most votes became vice president. In the Election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson and his vice presidential running mate Aaron Burr tied in the voting. In cases of a tie, the House of Representatives got to chose the next president. Votes were counted several times before Jefferson was announced the winner.
As a result of the election mess, Congress passed and the states ratified the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, stating that electors would vote for president and vice president separately. Therefore, a person running for vice president could not be elected president.
A Change in Power
In 1800, the Federalists lost power and the Democratic-Republicans took control of the federal government. Many people thought the change in power would lead to civil war as it always did in other countries when one group of people took control from another group. Instead, power peaceably changed hands.
Jefferson was the first president inaugurated in Washington DC. In his inaugural speech he said, “We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans.” He wanted to bring the country together after the bitter election between the two parties.
In 1801, the Barbary Pirates, as they were called, operated from North Africa. They attacked U.S. ships moving through the Mediterranean Sea. To stop attacking, the North African states demanded money. President Jefferson refused to pay and took military action. An undeclared war with Tripoli continued until 1805 when the U.S. invaded Tripoli. Afraid of losing his throne, the leader of Tripoli signed the Treaty of Peace and Amity (1805) ending the war.
In 1803, the Supreme Court made one of its most important decisions in the Marbury v. Madison court case. Just before he left office, President Adams made William Marbury a judge, but Adams left the paperwork for the job for President Jefferson to deliver to Marbury. Jefferson told Secretary of State James Madison not to deliver the papers. So Marbury went to the Supreme Court to sue Madison because the Judiciary Act of 1789 said the Supreme Court could force Madison to deliver the papers. The Supreme Court decided part of the Judiciary Act was illegal or unconstitutional. This ruling gave the Supreme Court the power to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.
In 1803, France sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million. This land deal doubled the size of the United States and allowed farmers to use the Mississippi River as a highway to transport their crops to markets.
To explore the vast new territory, President Jefferson sent the Corps of Discovery, led by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to travel to the Pacific Ocean and investigate the people and land along the way. Lewis and Clark left St. Louis in the spring of 1804 and returned in September 1806.
Lewis and Clark made several maps that would aid later American explorers. In addition, the Corps made peaceful contact with and learned about many Native American nations. They also collected valuable information about western plants and animal life.
2. President Madison
James Madison became president in 1809 during troubling times. Britain and France had gone to war in 1803, and each country was also attacking American ships. To make matters worse, Britain was stopping American ships and kidnapping or impressing American sailors and forcing them to serve on British ships.
Then in the west in and around Indiana Territory, fighting started between Native Americans and American settlers. It was discovered that Britain had been giving weapons to the Native Americans. Outraged, President Madison asked Congress for and got a declaration of war against Britain.
War of 1812
Both sides were unprepared for war. Britain was already fighting France in Europe and the United States had almost no army. Both sides won battles and suffered defeats.
In 1813, U.S. troops invaded Canada and burned down the Parliament building before retreating. In 1814, the British invaded Washington D.C. and burned down all of the buildings forcing Madison and Congress to flee. Yet, by the end of 1814, neither side was winning the war and both sides became tired of fighting.
Britain and the United States signed a peace treaty on December 24, 1814, in Belgium. Neither side lost or gained territory, and the United States agreed to help Britain end the international slave trade.
Unfortunately, word of the treaty failed to reach America before 8,700 British soldiers marched on New Orleans. Blocking them was 6,500 American soldiers under the command of General Andrew Jackson. It was the biggest battle of the war but only lasted about a half hour. Jackson destroyed British forces while only taking a handful of casualties himself.
The war created a sense of nationalism. People believed the United States was now a real power. The rest of Madison’s presidency was uneventful.