Distressed by the embargo's failure, Jefferson looked forward to his retirement from the presidency. "Never," he wrote, "did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power."
The problem of American neutrality now fell to Jefferson's hand-picked successor, James Madison. A quiet and scholarly man, who secretly suffered from epilepsy, "the Father of the Constitution" brought a keen intellect and wealth of experience to the presidency. As Jefferson's Secretary of State, he had kept the United States out of the Napoleonic wars and was committed to using economic coercion to force Britain and France to respect America's neutral rights. In this letter, former President Adams notes Madison's ascension to the presidency.
Jefferson expired and Madison came to Life last night...I pity poor Madison. He comes to the helm in such a storm as I have seen in the Gul[f] Stream, or rather such as I had to encounter in the Government in 1797. Mine was the worst however, because he has a great Majority of the officers and Men attached to him.