| American History Stories, Volume III|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Anecdotes from the time Washington became president through the War of 1812, the rise of Andrew Jackson, and the sectional differences leading to the Civil War. Numerous black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 8-12 |
ADMINISTRATION OF THOMAS JEFFERSON
 The country had all this time been growing richer and
richer. The people were spreading out over the western
country, towns were being built, and great tracts of
land were being made into thrifty farms. Several new
States had already been added to the
Union—Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee;—and
now Ohio even, which so short a time before had been
but an Indian hunting ground, was added, a new star, to
those already upon the Flag.
You remember that Spain had at one time refused the
Americans the use of the Mississippi River. Spain
owned the land from the mouth of the river up to the
Falls of St. Anthony; and, although agreements had been
made with Spain regarding the use of the river, still
the United States much preferred to own the land
bordering upon the river, and so be sure of their
control of its navigation.
 Spain had
recently ceded all this country, then called
Louisiana, to the French. Jefferson now offered
$15,000,000 to France for this country, and, as France
was greatly in need of money, the offer was accepted at
once. When asked why he did it, Jefferson said, "There
is no trouble threatened at present, I know; but I
believe in having a good big country, with no
troublesome neighbors at the back door, as there might
have been had the Spaniards or the French held that
Meantime the pirates of the Barbary States were alive
again. They began capturing our vessels, taking our
men prisoners, and selling them as slaves.
It is wonderful how these pirates had frightened the
European nations even, and had kept them in terror for
years. Italy was as afraid of them as a mouse is of a
cat; Holland and Sweden trembled at the very sound of
their name; Denmark every year paid them a large sum of
money to keep them at peace; even England preferred to
keep out of their way rather than run the risk of
meeting them on the ocean.
An unlucky ship, which found itself near the Atlantic
coast of Africa, might see at any moment an odd-looking
boat with long lateen sails, swooping down upon her
from some sheltered inlet or harbor, where she had lain
at watch for her prey. In a twinkling she would sail
 vessel, grapple her, drop her long sails over the
vessel's side, and a host of swarthy Moors, with bare,
sharp sabres held between their teeth, belts stuck
thick with knives and pistols, would come swarming
over, boarding their prizes from all sides at once.
Exasperated with these pirates, the United States sent
a fleet to attack them. Decatur, a young officer,
steered boldly into their harbor one night; burned one
of their vessels, and, before the pirates could get
themselves together, sailed coolly out, and was soon
beyond their reach. Many other brilliant attacks were
made upon them, until the pirates began to understand
they had a new sort of foe to deal with. Peace was
declared, and there was no more trouble with pirates
for a time.
Another important event in Jefferson's administration
was the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr,
in which duel Hamilton was killed.
DUEL BETWEEN HAMILTON AND BURR.
Hamilton, you remember, had been Secretary of the
Treasury; Aaron Burr had been a brave soldier in the
Revolutionary times, and was now Vice-president with
Washington had always been suspicious of Burr, even
during the war; and Hamilton had always distrusted him
fully. These two had been opposed to each other many
times in political schemes, but never had quarreled
In those days duels were common. If a man felt that he
had been insulted, he would challenge his enemy to meet
 him in fight. Then these two would stand face to face
and shoot at each other.
Notwithstanding that duelling
was fashionable among men
at this time, the death of Alexander Hamilton, a man so
well known, and so much respected, seemed to awaken the
whole country to the horror of the deed. Burr was
looked upon as no less than a murderer, and from that
time he sank in public opinion.
Finding himself now looked upon with such contempt and
 anger, he left the State, and for a long time wandered
about through the western part of the country.
All at once, like a bomb, came the report that Aaron
Burr had been detected in a plot against the
government. He had been secretly plotting to invade
Louisiana, seize the city of New Orleans, stir up a
rebellion in these Western States, and so break up the
The country was wild with excitement. Burr was
arrested and tried for treason, but nothing could
really be proved against him.
The once brilliant Aaron Burr was from thenceforth a
disgraced and ruined man; and his name ranked next to
that of Benedict Arnold in the opinion of many people.
But the greatest event of these days was the invention
of the steam-boat by Robert Fulton. For a long time it
had been known that Fulton was trying to make a boat
that would go without oars and without sails. Of
course people would not believe such a thing could be
done, and I am afraid the poor man, like more
inventors, had to endure a great amount of ridicule.
At last the boat was ready. At a certain hour it was
promised that it should start on its first trip up the
Hudson River to Albany. The docks were crowded with
people jeering and mocking, ready almost to mob the
brave Fulton in case the boat proved a failure.
At last the signal was given. Imagine the anxiety in
 the heart of Fulton! I fancy his heart almost stopped
its beating as he listened for the first thud of the
But see! the piston rises! now it falls! now a
splashing of the water against the pier! and the boat
is certainly moving away! On, on, she went, steadily
though slowly, scaring all the other vessels from her
track. The people on the dock stood with eyes and
mouths wide open, staring at the moving boat. Not a
jeer nor a laugh; they were too surprised even to
THE CLERMONT, 1807.
Up the river it passed, sending forth its puffs of
 smoke, and bringing the people down to the river-side
as it passed along. When darkness had fallen, and the
boat went puffing up the river, sending out its showers
of sparks, the people who had heard nothing of this
wonderful invention ran to their houses in fright.
Some thought it a sign from heaven; others thought it
surely must be the very Evil One himself.
JEFFERSON had been elected by the Republicans; that is,
by the party who hated all form and ceremony, and who
were determined to have no government that was at all
like a kingdom.
Jefferson was a man after their own hearts. Although
he had been brought up in wealth as Washington had
been, his ideas were very different. In Washington's
time there had been brilliant social gatherings at the
capitol, and Washington himself always rode about in
his elegant family coach.
Jefferson at once put a stop to all displays at the
capitol, saying that the simple living there should be
a lesson to the country. It is said that when he went
to the capitol to be made President, he rode on
horseback, dressed in his plain every-day clothes; that
he leaped from his horse, hitched it near the entrance,
and walked in unattended to the hall in which he was to
take the President's oath and make his speech.
 Of course such a man as this made strong friends and
equally strong enemies. His friends could find no
language strong enough to express their admiration of
him, and even his enemies could not but respect him.
As I told you in the story of the administration of
John Adams, Jefferson died on the Fourth of July, 1826.
Just as he was passing away, he heard the clanging of
the bells. Listening for a second, he said, "This is
the Fourth of July." These were the last words of this
brave, steadfast soul; this man who had stood so firmly
by his country in just that way which had seemed to him
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