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The Jeffersonians in Power
Digital History ID 179

Author:   Elias Boudinot


Beginning in his first day in office, Jefferson sought to demonstrate his administration's commitment to republican principles. At noon, March 1, 1801, clad in clothes of plain cloth, he walked from a nearby boarding house to the new U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and took the presidential oath of office. In his inaugural address, he sought to allay fear that he planned a Republican reign of terror. "We are all Republicans," he said, "we are all Federalists." Echoing Washington's Farewell Address, he asked his listeners to set aside partisan and sectional differences. He also laid out the principles that would guide his presidency: a frugal, limited government; reduction of the public debt; respect for states' rights; encouragement of agriculture; and a limited role for government in peoples' lives.

In the following letter, Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), a leading New Jersey Federalist who had served as president of the Continental Congress, describes the reaction to Jefferson's inaugural address and then comments on recent events in Europe, which hold out the prospects of radical shifts in European power relations. As the letter makes clear, the United States was born during a period of war and revolution, which presented the country both with great opportunities for territorial expansion and grave perils to its political and economic independence.


We have had little political News--the President's inauguration past gave great hopes that he would pursue such measures, as to council[iate] all parties--but some turnings out & appointments have a little roused the Jealousy of the federalists.... However there seems a prevailing disposition to give the present Administration fair play, and to make no opposition till a full experiment is made.

Great Britain has experienced a great reverse of fortune--Lately she was in league with all the Power of Europe ag[ainst] France--Now all the Power of Europe seem to be leagued ag[ainst] her--The King is again quite insane.--a dreadful scarcity, if not a famine, prevails thru the united Kingdoms. Mr. Pitt has again gained the reins of government, and the Dogs of War are let loose afresh to destroy mankind--France & Spain are invading Portugal, and a deadly stroke at the trade of great Britain, in making by all the northern powers, joined by France and Russia.

Thus it is that the Powers of Europe seem to be overturning, overturning, & will still be overturning till he whose right it is, shall rule....

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Elias Boudinot to Jacob Burnet

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