February 17, 1801: Thomas Jefferson is Elected.
On this day in 1801, Thomas Jefferson one of the founding fathers of the United States is elected as the third President of the United States. The election became the first of its kind, in which a transfer of political power from one political party to another came about in a peaceful manner.
By 1800, when Thomas Jefferson decided to run for president, Jefferson had an outstanding political career already and was more than prepared to hold the Presidency of the United States. In addition to drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson had served in two Continental Congresses, as minister to France, as Secretary of State under George Washington and as John Adam’s Vice President.
The campaign of 1800’s was between Democratic-Republicans Jefferson and Aaron Burr and Federalists John Adams, Charles C. Pickney and John Jay. The Federalists supported a strong centralized government, a standing military and financial support for emerging industries, in contrast, Jefferson’s Republicans preferred limited government, unadulterated state rights and an agrarian economy. They feared that the Federalists would abandon the revolutionary ideals and revert to the English monarchial tradition.
As Secretary of State, Jefferson opposed Alexander Hamilton’s proposal to increase military expenditure and when George Washington supported the leading Federalist’s plan for a national bank, he resigned.
Voting began on April 1800, individual states scheduled voting all throughout the day and although Jefferson and Burr ran on the same ticket, the Constitution still demanded votes for each candidate to be counted. As a result, by the end of January 1801 Jefferson and Burr emerged tied at 73 electoral votes apiece. Adams came in third at 65 votes.
A contingent of sword-bearing soldiers escorted Jefferson to his inauguration on March 4, 1801. In his inaugural address Jefferson attempted to heal political differences by stating that “We are all Republicans, We are all Federalists.”
As President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, which at the time doubled the size of the United States. Although Jefferson encountered much opposition to the purchase, some claiming that the purchase was unconstitutional, Jefferson ambition to see France’s presence in the region gone, he approved the Louisiana Purchase in which the United States gained 828,000 square miles for a price of 15 million dollars (less than 3 cents per acre). While Jefferson opposed Hamilton’s proposal to increase military expenditure, Jefferson found common ground and strengthened the American Navy, which would later come to great use when Jefferson sent the navy to suppress Barbary piracy against American shipping. Jefferson as well sponsored the expedition of Lewis and Clark, which gave American settlers a much greater depiction of the land out west.