March 4, 1801: Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration as 3rd president


Words to be sung at a service honoring the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson as President. Image from the Treasures of the Library of Congress.

Words to be sung at a service honoring the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson as President. Image from the Treasures of the Library of Congress. (If we only knew the music . . .)

Thomas Jefferson ascended the the presidency to save the American Revolution, and to celebrate American arts and sciences, his friends and supporters said. The lyrics to be sung at the service at the German Reformed Church reflect those views.

What joyful prospects rise before!
Peace, Arts, and Science hale our shore
      And thro’ the country spread.
Long may these blessings be preserv’d,
And by a virtuous land deserv’d
      With JEFFERSON our head.

1800’s election campaign was a bitter one. Because balloting was not for president and vice president, but instead with the second-leading vote-getter taking the vice presidency, the Electoral College deadlocked on Jefferson and his vice president running mate, Aaron Burr. The election then went to the House of Representatives — the holdover House, dominated by Federalists who supported the vanquished John Adams. The House had great difficulty choosing between Jefferson and Burr, but at length picked Jefferson when Alexander Hamilton pushed his influence, favoring his once-friend Jefferson, and snubbing his enemy and eventual killer, Burr.

The Library of Congress briefly described Jefferson’s inauguration:

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was the first to be inaugurated in the capital city of Washington, D.C. The ceremonies took place on March 4, 1801, in the Senate wing of the not yet finished Capitol building. Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office to Jefferson, the first of five presidents-elect he would induct. In his speech Jefferson attempted to assuage the bitter rivalry between the Federalist and Republicans that had culminated in a deadlock election broken by Congress’s election of Jefferson on the 36th ballot. Jefferson remarked: “but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principles. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.” Jefferson’s sentiments notwithstanding, his predecessor, former president John Adams, did not attend the ceremony — the first president to do so.

Mathematicians and scientists celebrate the election of Jefferson as a triumph for reason and science in politics. Jefferson was an accomplished and proud American naturalist, and often turned to scientists for advice on issues. Ironically perhaps, he never did reconcile his belief that rocks could not “fall from the sky,” doubting the provenance of meteoroids; skeptic to the end.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pat’s Blog.

3 Responses to March 4, 1801: Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration as 3rd president

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    After Washington’s inauguration, Congress fixed inauguration day as March 4 the year following the November elections. That was the law until FDR’s second term, when it was moved to January 20.

    So, many presidents started service on March 4.

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Yes, like that. Not a foolish skepticism at all, but skepticism that eventually would lead to understanding of the cosmos.

    Thanks for looking that one up!

    Like

  3. sbh says:

    “We certainly are not to deny whatever we cannot account for. A thousand phenomena present themselves daily which we cannot explain, but where facts are suggested, bearing no analogy with the laws of nature as yet known to us, their verity needs proofs proportioned to their difficulty. A cautious mind will weigh well the opposition of the phenomenon to everything hitherto observed, the strength of the testimony by which it is supported, and the errors and misconceptions to which even our senses are liable. It may be very difficult to explain how the stone you possess came into the position in which it was found. But is it easier to explain how it got into the clouds from whence it is supposed to have fallen?” Thomas Jefferson to Daniel Salmon, 15 February 1808

    Like

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