What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States

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9780786245475: What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States

The bitter and protracted struggle between President Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall defined the basic constitutional relationship between the executive and judicial branches of government. More than one hundred fifty years later, their clashes still reverberate in constitutional debates and political battles. In this dramatic and fully accessible account of these titans of the early republic and their fiercely held ideas, James F. Simon brings to life the early history of the nation and sheds new light on the highly charged battle to balance the powers of the federal government and the rights of the states. A fascinating look at two of the nation's greatest statesmen and shrewdest politicians, What Kind of Nation presents a cogent, unbiased assessment of their lasting impact on American government.

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About the Author:

James F. Simon is the Martin Professor of Law at New York Law School. A former correspondent and contributing editor at Time magazine and the author of several critically acclaimed books on judicial history, including The Antagonists and The Center Holds, he lives with his wife in West Nyack, New York.



Patrick Cullen (a.k.a. John Lescault), a native of Massachusetts, is a graduate of the Catholic University of America. He lives in Washington, DC, where he works in theater.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 6: "The Fangs of Jefferson"

After he was selected to lead the Republicans' presidential ticket in 1800, Jefferson projected the image of a political ascetic, wishing only that his pure republican principles be put before the voters. He told his opponent, John Adams, that the presidential contest had nothing to do with their personalities, and everything to do with their conflicting political principles. "Were we both to die today," Jefferson told Adams, "tomorrow two other names would be put in the place of ours, without any change in the motion of the machinery."

As the candidate of lofty principle, Jefferson often appeared to view the day-to-day business of winning the presidency as beneath him, or at least irrelevant to his role as the Republican standard-bearer. His determination to avoid any opportunity to bring public attention to himself was apparent when he made plans to return to Virginia after the adjournment of the spring congressional term. He wrote Virginia Governor Monroe that he hoped to meet with him in Richmond before returning to Monticello. But he cautioned Monroe that their meeting should take place without the public's knowledge.

"Besides my hatred of ceremony," Jefferson wrote Monroe, "I believe it better to avoid every occasion for the impression of sentiments which might drag me into the newspapers." He acknowledged that the Federalists had put public displays to powerful political use, rallying support by furnishing occasions for "the flame of public opinion to break out from time to time." But Jefferson thought such public events unnecessary, even detrimental, to the achievement of his ambitious goals.

Despite his public image of detachment, Jefferson was anything but aloof in his behind-the-scenes political activities. He and Madison, in particular, discussed both broad issues of political principle and specific strategies for partisan advantage. Jefferson had firm ideas on how to exploit the growing fissure between the moderate and conservative Federalist factions over the second Paris peace mission and the related issue of a standing army. He knew that Adams and Marshall supported the peace mission and wanted to maintain the army only for defensive purposes, whereas the High Federalists, led by Hamilton, opposed any settlement with France and favored an expansive, permanent military presence.

Jefferson believed it was important that the Republicans give the warring Federalist factions no reason to unite on the issues. Republicans should continue to advocate a peace settlement with France without saying or doing anything that could provide the Federalists a pretext for keeping a large standing army in peacetime.

At the same time that he was setting the broad parameters of the Republicans' national strategy, Jefferson maintained a very active interest in his party's organization, down to the local county level -- as his directive to Virginia's Republican chairman to distribute Thomas Cooper's Political Arithmetic demonstrated. He was, moreover, vigilant in urging that the party's message be widely disseminated by the fervent Republican press and the party's most effective pamphleteers. He could justifiably deny that he was "the Chief Juggler" of partisan Republican writers like Duane, Cooper, and Callender -- but he knew and encouraged their work.

Jefferson also demonstrated a sure grasp of the electoral process. He prided himself on his ability to know how each state's electors were likely to vote, and indeed boasted that in the 1796 presidential election his prediction was within one or two votes of the outcome. He was somewhat less confident of his prognostications in 1800, but nonetheless ventured to make an educated estimate of the Republicans' chances. He conceded the New England states to Adams and counted most of the Southern and Western states in the Republican column, though he was concerned about Federalist inroads in the Carolinas. The election, Jefferson thought, would be decided in the Middle Atlantic states.

Jefferson had received reliable reports that the two houses of the Pennsylvania legislature -- one controlled by Federalists, the other by Republicans -- were deadlocked and would not agree on an electoral law, thereby neutralizing the state in the presidential election. Despite assurances from Republican supporters in New Jersey that his party would prevail, Jefferson was not prepared to make such a prediction. His attention, therefore, turned to New York, and more particularly to New York City, where the April election of the city's representatives to the state assembly would determine which party would control the state's electors -- and probably the national election.

The fate of the presidential election was, in effect, placed in the hands of the rival political leaders in New York, the Federalists' Alexander Hamilton and the Republicans' Aaron Burr. During the campaign, Burr not only demonstrated superior organizational skills but also proved to be a better strategist than Hamilton. Hamilton's task appeared somewhat easier than Burr's, since the Federalist incumbents already held a majority in the state assembly. But the Federalists made a fatal miscalculation by naming a lackluster list of candidates from New York City for the new assembly. Burr had shrewdly withheld his own slate of Republican candidates until the Federalists had named theirs. Once the Federalist candidates had been announced, Burr stunned Hamilton and other members of his party by announcing a dazzling Republican ticket that included some of the most illustrious names from the American Revolution -- former Governor George Clinton, Judge Brockholst Livingston, and General Horatio Gates.

Hamilton was furious that he had been outmaneuvered by Burr, whose Republican slate in New York City won, and took the desperate step of pleading with Governor John Jay to call a special session of the state legislature to nullify what appeared to be a certain Republican electoral victory in the state. Since the old Federalist-dominated assembly was still in office, Hamilton reasoned, the governor could ask the lame-duck legislature to adopt an electoral plan that would take the presidential vote away from the new Republican majority in the assembly and give it to the state's districts, where the Federalists were likely to be victorious.

To Hamilton, such an extraordinary measure was necessary to prevent a Jefferson victory, a catastrophe he compared to "the overthrow of the government...a revolution after the manner of Bonaparte." And if that specter of national disaster did not move Jay, Hamilton provided another: the governor must act "to prevent an Atheist in religion, and a Fanatic in politics, from getting possession of the helm of state." Despite Hamilton's dire warnings, Governor Jay refused the invitation to participate in the electoral scheme.

The New York City election, which appeared to clinch the presidency for Jefferson, dramatically lifted Burr's political fortunes within the Republican party. Although Burr had been on the Republican presidential ticket with Jefferson in 1796, he had never been fully accepted by Virginia's Republican establishment. Jefferson himself had met with Burr only once before the election. The 1796 election had only deepened Burr's distrust of the dominant Southern wing of the party when all but one of Virginia's electors withheld their votes from him.

With his brilliant success in New York City's election, Burr's name was again prominently mentioned for vice president on the Republican national ticket. The Republican House leader, Albert Gallatin, made inquiries about the availability of either George Clinton or Burr to run with Jefferson. Clinton declined for reasons of age and poor health.

Burr could well have afforded to turn down an offer to run with Jefferson, for he was almost assured election as New York's next governor if he chose to make the race. He let it be known, nonetheless, that he was interested in the vice-presidency, if he could be assured that there would be no recurrence of the 1796 electoral slight by Southern Republicans. He would agree to be on the ticket with Jefferson only if he received the total allegiance of his party, including the Virginia electors. After those assurances were made, Burr was officially nominated to the ticket with Jefferson at the Republican congressional caucus in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the Federalists were in disarray. Their hopes of retaining the presidency had plummeted with news of the Republican victory in New York City's election. Inside the party, the feud between Adams and Hamilton intensified. For more than a year, Hamilton and his followers had condemned Adams for sending a second peace delegation to Paris. With Adams's determination to support the peace initiative and his resolve to resist the High Federalists' demand for a large standing army, Hamilton had thoroughly soured on the prospect of a second Adams presidential term.

As John Marshall had reported to his brother James during the congressional session, Hamilton intended to undermine Adams's candidacy by urging Federalists to divide their support between the president and South Carolina's Charles Cotesworth Pinckney equally. Hamilton expected Federalist electors in all states but South Carolina to give Pinckney the same number of votes as Adams. In Pinckney's home state, Hamilton calculated, Pinckney would split the vote with Jefferson, not Adams. The result, Hamilton hoped, would be the presidential election of Pinckney, over both Adams and Jefferson.

It was a devious plan but one, Hamilton insisted, that was necessary to save the country from both Adams and "the fangs of Jefferson."

On May 15, Jefferson left Philadelphia for the last time. The three years he served there as vice president had been pocked with relentless political rancor, so he had few regrets about his departure. Jefferson returned to Virginia by way of the Eastern Shore, stopping briefly for a private visit with Governor Monroe in Richmond before reuniting with his daughter Maria at her home in Mont Blanco. At Monti...

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James F. Simon
Editorial: Thorndike Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0786245476 ISBN 13: 9780786245475
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Descripción Thorndike Press, 2002. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería DADAX0786245476

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