Jefferson's Inauguration - History

Jefferson's Inauguration - History

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1801- Jefferson Inauguration

The inauguration of President Jefferson is considered by many to be the "Revolution of 1800". Jefferson's election to the Presidency marked the end of Federalist power in the United States.

Jefferson immediately undid some of what he considered to be abuses of the Adams Administration. The despised
Alien and Sedition Acts had already expired, but Jefferson pardoned all who were found guilty under it, and refunded many fines. He had Congress rewrite the naturalization law, reducing the minimum residency requirements from 14 years to 5 years.

The only major economic changes that Jefferson made involved the elimination of the excise taxes, reducing US government income by $1 million. Jefferson maintained the Bank of the United States and the restrictive tariffs that Hamilton had considered key to America's economic well being.


The History of Skipping a Successor's Inauguration

Michael Patrick Cullinane is Professor of U.S. History at the University of Roehampton, London. He is the author of Theodore Roosevelt&rsquos Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon and the founder of the UK Presidential History Network, which conducted scholarly rankings of the American presidents in 2018. He has written for the Washington Post and has appeared on CNN, Sky News, and the BBC.

Andrew Jackson is inaugurated in 1829. John Quincy Adams didn't see it.

Donald Trump&rsquos decision to skip Joe Biden&rsquos inauguration harkens back to the early nineteenth century when, on four occasions, presidential inaugurations went ahead without the sitting president. The circumstances seem eerily similar to 2021.

John Adams set a precedent in 1801. On the morning of Thomas Jefferson&rsquos inauguration, he vacated the White House. To avoid bumping into the next president he fled the city at 4 a.m. in the dark of night. Historians agree that the election of 1800 prompted Adams to keep away. The election took American politics to a new low as Jefferson&rsquos and Adams&rsquos surrogates bitterly smeared the founders and their rival parties. Jefferson&rsquos victory signaled the public dissatisfaction with Adams&rsquos tenure and began the permanent decline of the Federalist Party. But Adams left a lasting impact with the appointment and confirmation of John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court less than a month before his departure. Marshall became one of the most consequential decisions Adams made and maintained a degree of balance in the early Republic.

The next president to boycott the inauguration of a successor was Adams&rsquos son John Quincy. Twenty-eight years later after his father bailed on Jefferson&rsquos inauguration, John Quincy stayed away from Andrew Jackson&rsquos big day. He had lost re-election in a campaign that rivaled his father&rsquos against Jefferson. John Quincy spent the duration of his lame duck transition sulking in the White House and refused to communicate with the incoming administration. Jackson was no better. When John Quincy offered to leave the White House early, Jackson ignored the letter. Like his father, John Quincy also tried to make a late appointment to the Supreme Court, but failed when the Senate refused to seat his nominee. On his last night John Quincy mounted a horse and rode out of the city.

The Adamses had created a tradition of sorts and the next president to lose re-election followed their lead. Martin Van Buren lost the 1840 election in a landslide and would dodge his successor William Henry Harrison&rsquos inauguration. Indeed, Van Buren did not get an invitation, so it would seem the custom of losing presidents not attending was recognized by incoming and outgoing presidents alike. In an uncanny parallel, Van Buren also made a late appointment to the Supreme Court. In his last week in office, he managed to get Justice Peter V. Daniel a seat on the bench. Van Buren moved into temporary accommodation in Washington before returning to New York shortly thereafter.

The experience of the Adamses and Van Buren should sound familiar. Donald Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett shortly before the 2020 election and had attempted to thwart the smooth transition of power by refusing to communicate with Biden&rsquos team. But perhaps the greatest historical analogy is the disgraced presidency of Andrew Johnson. Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Vice President Johnson assumed the presidency. The former slave-holder from Tennessee joined Lincoln&rsquos ticket for geographical balance and to attract voters in border states, but Lincoln&rsquos contemporaries viewed the southerner as a political liability. Their worries came to pass when President Johnson advocated leniency toward former Confederates and stifled Republican efforts to reconstruct the Union. In 1867, Congress impeached Johnson for breaching federal laws designed to restrict his power. Although the Senate narrowly acquitted Johnson of eleven counts, he became the first president to be impeached. The Democratic Party refused to nominate Johnson in the 1868 election and former Union General Ulysses S. Grant won the presidency. Humiliated by impeachment and without support from his own party, Johnson refused to attend the inauguration of Grant.

The apocryphal maxim that &ldquohistory does not repeat, but it rhymes&rdquo has never seemed so apt. It&rsquos also sounds a worrying tocsin because the political strife of the early nineteenth century led directly to the nation&rsquos bloody Civil War. At the outset of Donald Trump&rsquos presidency, I told a public audience that the 45 th president was not the most divisive president the United States had elected. One of its greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln held that repute because his inauguration sparked the exodus of southern states from the Union. Yet as the days of Trump&rsquos administration wane, and the attack on the Capitol can be fully digested, the fear of further upheavals, coup attempts, convulsions, and violence jeopardize the peaceful transition of power. What&rsquos worse, it sets the United States back some one-hundred years in its political development to a time when division was the norm and harmony unusual.

What Was the Significance of Jefferson's Inaugural Address?

The significance of President Jefferson's inaugural address was that it was the first inaugural address of the 19th century and the first held in the United States Capitol Building, and it proved the system was alive and working well. The election had been hard and dirty, but the changing of the guard took place smoothly. President Jefferson sought to bring all the warring factions back together in his speech.

According to About, the 1700s had been quite a decade for the young nation, and it had ended with a very politically contentious decade. The nation, not even a quarter of a century old in 1800, had endured serious growing pains in the 1790s. The election of 1800 continued the theme. It was a hotly contested election that saw the defeat of the incumbent President and the election put into the House of Representatives for a final decision.

Nevertheless, when President Thomas Jefferson stood in the Capitol Building to be inaugurated, the first President to do so, his election was proof that the country had passed a major test and that the system put forth by the Founding Fathers had worked. President Jefferson wanted to speak healing words to the country. In an attempt to show that, despite differences of opinion, all Americans really wanted the same basic things, he stated, "We have called by different names brethren of the same principle." He asked that opposing parties come together to work for the nation as a whole. The significance of a new century, a new setting and a new administration determined to bring the country together gave Americans new hope, according to About.

United by Voice and Vision: Thomas Jefferson’s First Inauguration, March 4, 1801

Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address was delivered in “so low a tone that few heard it,” but the volume of the day proved explosive otherwise. On an early spring morning described as “mild and beautiful,” the city of Washington’s artillery cannon boomed and banged in celebration of the inauguration, scheduled for noon. Parading down the muddy, swamp grass-lined streets of a capital city still under construction, and joined by an Alexandria, Virginia group of militiamen, the unit fired again at 10:00 a.m. in front of Mr. Jefferson’s boarding house, Conrad and McMunn. Another volley bellowed after Jefferson entered the Capitol building at midday to take his oath. The Marine Band, which Jefferson affectionately nicknamed “The President’s Own,” performed for the first time at a presidential inauguration and played a new composition for the occasion entitled “Jefferson’s March.” Sixteen rounds were fired by the Alexandria unit upon Jefferson finishing the oath of office to represent the number of states comprising the Union that day, March 4, 1801. A final display of firepower ended the evening, the din of the day subsiding only as the Alexandria Company crossed the Potomac to return home.

Jefferson Models “Republican Simplicity”

Jefferson abhorred pomp and spectacle, as it intimated the arrogance of monarchy, and he believed the American president should not distinguish himself from the people. Though he could not stop the noise of the cannons, the 6’2” Jefferson did in fact wish to stand firm in his depiction of the political principles and philosophies of the American Revolution. Breaking the precedent of George Washington and John Adams, he refused to take a carriage ride to his swearing-in, instead choosing to walk up Capitol Hill via what is today known as Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, Jefferson became the only president in U.S. history who walked both to and from his own inauguration. He also refused to wear suit or ceremonial sword, as had Washington and Adams, and instead dressed as “a plain citizen, without any distinctive badge of office.” Five or six of his fellow boarders, most of whom were congressmen, joined Jefferson on his walk. In striking contrast, the Alexandria militia detachment reveled in the pageantry and chose to walk before Jefferson with swords drawn, held high in the air.

Throngs Visit the Capitol to Hear Jefferson’s Address

The turnout for Jefferson’s inauguration was described as “immense, the largest concourse of citizens ever assembled here” according to Philadelphia’s Aurora, which estimated a crowd of 1,140, including 154 ladies. The lady Margaret Bayard Smith, the author who penned The First Forty Years of Washington Society, later described the Senate chamber as “so crowded that I believe not another creature could enter.” Bystanders on the Capitol steps applauded as Jefferson entered the building, and despite tight quarters, members of the Senate and House rose to their feet as Jefferson entered the room to deliver his speech.

Jefferson Asks the Nation to Unite

Chosen by Congress to write the Declaration of Independence due to his elegant writing style, not his oratorical skills, Jefferson’s call within the Inaugural Address for a “wise and frugal Government which shall restrain men from injuring one another” resounded fervently after this particular election, which was described as “one of the ugliest in American history.” Jefferson needed to repair a fractured electorate and mend the division between the political parties of the time: the Federalists, the party of George Washington and John Adams, and the Democrat-Republicans, headed by Jefferson. During the election, Federalists had referred to Jefferson and his supporters as “dangerous radicals,” “mad men,” who, if elected, would usher in a “reign of terror.” Democrat-Republicans accused Adams of wishing to restore the monarchy and make himself king, his followers as those “plotting to subvert human liberty and impose slavery on the people.” Unequivocally, Jefferson was charged with unifying the nation, as he became the first president to be sworn into office upon a change in party.

Jefferson asked the nation to be “united with one heart and one mind.” He noted, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,” as in truth Americans were all “brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” He asserted that America’s future depended upon “the preservation of the Central Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad.”

Despite the rift in political opinion of the time, and the uncertainty as to whether the nation could withstand a change in party at so young an age, Jefferson’s first inaugural address moved both the audience and voters nationwide. Applause erupted throughout the Senate chamber as Jefferson finished, and one spectator commented that “tears bedewed many manly cheeks.” The address also touched the general citizenry, for it became the first inaugural address published in a newspaper, printed that same day in the pages of the Washington D.C. National Intelligencer. Margaret Bayard Smith described the elation: “I have this morning witnessed one of the most interesting scenes a free people can ever witness. The change of administrations, which in every government and in every age have most generally been epochs of confusion, villainy and bloodshed, in this our happy country take place without any species of distraction, or disorder. This day one of the most amiable and worthy men has taken that seat to which he was called by the voice of his country.”

Inauguration Day Ends…With the People

Jefferson did not end his day at an elaborate inaugural ball, a tradition begun by James Madison in 1809. Instead, Jefferson returned to his boarding house for dinner, taking the lowest seat at the long table, far from the fire. Offered a more distinguished seat by one Mrs. Brown, Jefferson declined with a smile. When a gentleman from Baltimore asked Jefferson’s permission to wish him joy, Jefferson replied, “I would advise you to follow my example on nuptial occasions, when I always tell the bridegroom I will wait until the end of the year before offering my congratulations.” Clearly, Jefferson’s deliberate reliance on modesty and restraint, in an attempt to reunite America’s voters, indeed her people, set the tone for our nation’s first transition of political parties, ensuring the preservation of our Union.

Read More

  • Learn more about Thomas Jefferson in the NCBLA’s “Presidential Fact Files.”
  • Read Milton Meltzer’s explanation as to the factor which “helped raise Jefferson to the presidency,” in “Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826,” found in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.
  • Discover Jefferson’s fascination with fossils within the pages of Barbara Kerley’s “Jefferson’s Monstrous Bones,” an article in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. Marvel at Brian Selznick’s accompanying illustration, “Bones on the Floor.”
  • View Mike Reagan’s illustration of the initial layout of Washington, D.C., entitled “The Capital City in 1800,” within Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out.
  • Find out more about the rise of party politics in “Choosing Sides: The Rise of Party Politics” on this website.
  • Read about the dirty tactics used in the early presidential campaigns of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in “Persuading the People: Presidential Campaigns.”
  • Read Jefferson’s ideas for the planning of the new capital city of Washington, D.C. in “Primary Sources: The New Federal City.”

Discussion Questions for Young People at Home and in the Classroom

  • Differing opinions as to the degree of power our Constitution granted to what Jefferson described as the “Central Government” led to the rise of political parties in the United States. Have you ever differed in opinion from a close family member or friend? How did the difference affect your relationship? How did you remain close despite differences?
  • Jefferson earned a great degree of respect from the populace, much needed after a contentious election, as he deliberately portrayed a modest demeanor. How do you believe 21st century leaders should balance the need to both display modesty and earn respect? How do you personally balance giving and receiving within your own life?
  • Jefferson broke with the inaugural traditions of two great leaders, Washington and Adams, for a specific purpose. Discuss a time when you broke with tradition. Did it work for the better? Did others follow your lead?
  • The viewpoints of both the Federalists and the Democrat-Republicans contributed to the growth of our early nation. Discuss how the sacrifices of both Jefferson and Adams ensured the perpetuation of democracy.

Activities for Young People at Home and in the Classroom

  • Today’s students may use digital software for the purpose of reading and interpreting maps. Visiting the Library of Congress’ “I Do Solemnly Swear…” website, specifically the page titled “Presidential Oaths of Office,” create a map which plots the settings for the oath of office since 1789. Follow the instructions for plotting Google maps on
  • Complete a K-W-L graphic organizer to show how Jefferson contributed to the establishment of our Federal Republic. Use the Library of Congress’ article “Establishing a Federal Republic” to learn about his contributions to “the strongest government on earth.” (The K-W-L organizer allows the student to discover what he or she already knows (K), what they need or want to learn (W), and what they actually learn (L) during the unit or lesson.)
  • Jefferson once said his passion was science, but his duty was politics. Using an interactive poster, discover some of Jefferson’s inventions that meet the credo: Necessity is the mother of invention. Next, look about your home and discover objects/items/mechanics which could be invented or improved upon. Create a VENN diagram that compares and contrasts Jefferson’s scientific inquiry with your own! (Within a Venn Diagram, the convergence of two circles, the student lists variable similarities within the point of convergence, and what is unique to each variable in the outside, non-converging circles).
  • Today’s media devotes an incredible amount of airtime to the fiscal concerns of our federal government. Visit the Monticello Classroom website to review resources about letter writing. Then ask the following: In your opinion, if today’s governmental leaders could ask President Jefferson just one question about running a “wise and frugal government,” what should it be and why? Write the actual letter that should be sent to President Jefferson, using correct grammar and punctuation, of course!

Reference Sources

Books and Periodicals

Brodie, Fawn M. Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History. New York: Bantam, 1974.

“Editor’s Easy Chair,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. 76.453 (1888): 473-4.

Hayes, Kevin J. The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Knudson, Jerry W. Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006.

“The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, February to 30 April 1801,” Princeton University Press. 33.17 (2006): 134-52.

Online Resources

“Address by Thomas Jefferson, 1801,” Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. U.S. Senate. 2012. 24. November 2012.

“First Inauguration,” Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. 2012. 24. November 2012.

Smith, Margaret Bayard. “The First Forty Years of Washington Society.” New York, Scribner, 1907. 12-13. Library of Congress. American Memory. 24 November 2012.

“The Inauguration of Thomas Jefferson: First Political Party Transition,” Presidential Transitions: “The Torch is Passed.” The White House Historical Association. 2012. 24. November 2012.

©2020 Reneé Critcher Lyons The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

About Clay

Clay Jenkinson grew up on the western plains of North Dakota, not far from Theodore Roosevelt’s badlands.

He attended the University of Minnesota, Oxford University, and the University of Colorado.

He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. All of his degrees are in Renaissance English literature.

Clay has won numerous awards, including the National Humanities Medal, the highest honor conferred on a public humanities scholar in the United States. He has been named Humanities Scholar of the Year in Kansas, Nevada, and North Dakota.

Clay was one of the creators of the modern Chautauqua movement. He has portrayed a dozen historical characters, including Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Meriwether Lewis, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and John Wesley Powell.

He has appeared in three Ken Burns documentary films, including the most recent film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. He has made four documentary films himself. Clay has written nine books, including the critically acclaimed The Character of Meriwether Lewis.

Clay lives in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he is a distinguished scholar of the humanities at Bismarck State College and the founder of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University.

His deepest concerns are the education of his daughter and the future of the Great Plains.

Andrew Johnson

Johnson despised Ulysses S. Grant, his successor. The two had clashed during Johnson’s term. Johnson’s racist views were offensive to Grant, who was the head of the Army, the Post reported. Grant also resisted Johnson’s efforts to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. When Johnson was impeached after firing Stanton, Grant was in favor of Johnson’s conviction.

That would not have made for a cordial trip to the Capitol in 1869 when Grant was sworn in.

Inauguration officials attempted a compromise, having Johnson and Grant ride to the Capitol in separate carriages.

The compromise, the Washington Evening Star observed on the eve of the inauguration, “was a brilliant idea worthy the genius of Talleyrand.”

However, Johnson scuttled that idea. “President Johnson, however, declined to accept this position, and accordingly the program was changed,” the Evening Star reported.

“Andrew Johnson had a Cabinet meeting while Grant’s inauguration was going on,” Quinnipiac University history professor Philip Goduti told the New Haven Register the day before Trump’s inauguration in 2017. “He was very obstinate.”

Stubbornness can be a presidential trait. It appears it will be evident again on Jan. 20.

Jefferson Vs. Trump: How Their Two Inaugurations Differed

John Boles is the William P. Hobby Professor of History at Rice University and the former editor of the Journal of Southern History. His latest book is Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty (Basic Books, 2017).

What a difference two centuries makes! Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated on March 4, 1801, 216 years ago, after an unusually bitter election campaign in which he had been portrayed as a radical French Jacobin opposed to the American system of government and an atheist as well who would destroy religion, while his chief opponent, Federalist John Adams, had been portrayed as an elitist who sought to impose British-like monarchical government. To make matters worse, Adams had been bitterly opposed by a faction within his own party. Because the Constitution did not yet allow political parties to run electoral tickets, Jefferson ended up tied with Aaron Burr with the most number of electoral votes. But some Federalists plotted to deprive Jefferson of victory and hoped to have the House of Representatives chose the unprincipled Burr, who they thought they could manipulate. After thirty-seven tie votes in the House, and in part because Alexander Hamilton had thrown his support to Jefferson, the Virginian was chosen as president on February 17, hardly more than two weeks before the March 4 inauguration.

There was no transition team, barely time to chose cabinet members, and Jefferson had to hurriedly write his inaugural address. He understood that his most important task was to cool the partisan anger and restore harmony to the nation. He betrayed no hint of us against them. Jefferson also wanted to model anti-monarchical leadership and lay out a positive vision for the future, all the while treating the political opposition with a generosity of spirit that removed any fears of his radicalism or irreligion. He did this in a brief but elegant inaugural address that both summarized his ideals of governance and suggested his style of leadership.

Intentionally downgrading the kingly pomp of the previous inaugurations, in this, the first to be held in Washington, D.C., Jefferson chose to walk from his boarding house to the capitol building, wearing relatively plain clothes and without an elaborate parade. The inauguration itself took place in the Senate chamber, and no member of his family was present—nor was the previous president and losing candidate, John Adams. After the oath was administered, Jefferson, who had a weak voice, proceeded to read his address in so low a tone that few could hear him, but he had arranged for it to be printed and distributed after the ceremony. There were no crowds, no parade to the president’s mansion (not yet called the White House), no fancy balls that evening, none of the spectacle of today’s event.

Jefferson—whose background included being a legislator in Colonial Virginia and then the new state, governor of Virginia, a member of the Articles of Confederation Congress, then U. S. minister to France, only to be appointed by George Washington as the first Secretary of State, and several years later serving as vice president during Adams’s administration—began on a note of humility, declaring that the presidential job was “above my talents.” He stated that he found comfort in the expertise and wisdom of others in the government, including the Congress. With their combined support he expected to be able to “steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.” Then to his first priority, defusing the political animosities. He stated that all would remember that the will of majority would “prevail,” but that “will to be rightful must be reasonable” the winners must recognize that the “minority possess their equal rights . . . [which] to violate would be oppression.” He emphasized that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,” pointing out that between the two parties there were different emphases on the relative importance of the executive branch and the legislative branch, in the central government and the state governments.

Having already optimistically portrayed the nation—he mentioned “the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country”—whose commerce was thriving, whose values were strong, whose prospects both moral and economic were rising, he went on to spell out his central political views concisely and persuasively. He praised “a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement. . . .” Jefferson upheld “equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political. . . peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations . . . ,” indeed, the whole panoply of principles associated with Jeffersonian democracy.

Here as elsewhere Jefferson seemed uncannily modern he was a strong proponent of free trade, for example, and by religious freedom he included the Muslim and Hindu faiths. (Though in his traditional attitudes toward women he showed himself very much a man of his times similarly, while he genuinely believed slavery wrong, for complicated reasons he never saw a way to free all his own slaves.) The even-tempered Jefferson attacked no one in his inaugural address, neither explicitly or implicitly, not even his political foes he did not describe the state of the nation he had just become the leader of in harsh, lurid terms he did not seek to exacerbate tensions between groups he did not suggest that only he possessed the skills to deliver the nation from its various problems and transform its prospects: it already was “the world’s best hope.” He chose an able cabinet team and consulted with them closely. His tone was neither angry nor, to his opponents, scary. Jefferson proceeded to govern moderately. He did not try to dismantle every aspect of Hamiltonian economics, he did not try to force all existing officeholders from their position.

He believed that by governing with moderation, by laying out a series of ideals, by appealing to the people’s best instincts, he could gradually remake the nation to better fit his idea of constitutional democracy. In his conclusion Jefferson humbly requested “may that Infinite Power which rules the destines of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.” To the surprise of many, this scholarly, polite, gentle man proved to be an exceptional politician, one whose policy successes easily won him reelection in 1804 and established the party named after him in power for four more terms.

4 unforgettable inauguration moments throughout US history

A look back on memorable inaugural addresses

Former George W. Bush speechwriter Anneke E. Green provides insight on ‘America’s News HQ.’

Joe Biden taking the oath of office as the 46th president of the United States will mark the 59th presidential inauguration in U.S. history.

As Wednesday's swearing-in of the president follows on the tails of rioting in the Capitol and the second impeachment of President Trump, past inaugurations have had their own monumental, bizarre and infamous moments.

Presidential historian Doug Wead shared with Fox News some of the most chilling and memorable.

Second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln – March 4, 1865

The crowd at President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, March 4, 1865.(Fotosearch/Getty Images)

Perhaps one of the most famous addresses in history, Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration was the first to be heavily photographed. Wead said Lincoln’s speech is believed to be the greatest ever delivered during the last brutal months of the civil war.

With malice toward none, with charity toward all

— Abraham Lincoln, second inaugural address

The most chilling detail about Lincoln’s inauguration may be that many historians believe his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was present and near the inaugural stage during his address. Booth had allegedly planned to kidnap the 16th president and "exchange him for a Union agreement to conduct a prisoner swap with the Confederacy," Wead said.

According to historians, Booth realized it would be much easier to assassinate Lincoln than to kidnap him. Forty-two days later, Lincoln was shot and killed at Ford’s Theatre.

First inauguration of Andrew Jackson – March 4, 1829

President Andrew Jackson (iStock)

On the day of his inauguration, Andrew Jackson walked to the Capitol accompanied by 15 Revolutionary War veterans with a heavy opposition already awaiting him. According to the White House Historical Association, Jackson’s supporters saw his victory as "the defeat of special privilege and corruption" in U.S. politics while his enemies considered him a "backwoods barbarian."

Jackson’s welcome to the White House as the first "outsider" president, Wead claimed, brought in a riotous crowd. After a brief swearing-in at the Capitol, supporters of the seventh president were invited to celebrate.

Alcoholic beverages in large punch bowls were served along with other refreshments, sparking an after-party so rowdy, Jackson was forced to escape from a nearby window and spend the night at a hotel.

First inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt – March 4, 1933

President Franklin D. Roosevelt watches his inaugural parade in Washington. (AP Photo, File)

FDR’s first inaugural address is arguably one of the most notable in history. Speaking to the ongoing hardship of the Great Depression, Roosevelt famously reassured the American people, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

"So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself… nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance," Roosevelt said. "In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."

Roosevelt was the only president in U.S. history to be inaugurated four times, as WWII put the country in a state of emergency and the nation motioned to maintain stability with the same commander-in-chief. FDR died nearly three months into his final term in April of 1945.

First inauguration of Thomas Jefferson – March 4, 1801

A portrait of Thomas Jefferson (iStock)

America’s third president Thomas Jefferson addressed the public in an attempt to reunite the nation, after what Wead described as a "very bitter" election campaign. His predecessor John Adams did not attend the ceremony out of anger even while Jefferson made it a point to highlight the polarization between political forces.

We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists

— Thomas Jefferson, first inaugural address

According to Wead, Jefferson also used his speech to defend the right of his opposition to speak out, stating "error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."

"If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it," he said.

What was the main statement of Jefferson's inaugural speech?

The first Thomas Jefferson inaugural address was designed to assuage the fears on both sides, that he would not impose the Sedition Acts upon his rivals and that he would not give up his allies' cause and succumb to the temptation of absolute power.

Also, what was the tone of Jefferson's inaugural address? Jefferson's speech was delivered in such a low tone that very few people could actually hear it clearly. He spoke very seriously and philosophically about new partisan concepts that he believed would better the nations changing government.

Also, what was the main message of Jefferson's inaugural address?

The major theme is overcoming differences of opinion and uniting for the common good for the preservation of the principles of Democratic government, such as equal rights, and the reinforcement of peaceful civil relations through the rule of law.

Why is Jefferson's inaugural address important?

Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address occurred at a pivotal moment: Jefferson's inauguration marked the first transfer of the presidency from one party to the other. The House of Representatives had to choose the president and did so only on the 36th ballot, choosing Jefferson over his running mate Aaron Burr.

20b. Jeffersonian Ideology

A marble mosaic of Greek goddess Minerva in the Library of Congress symbolizes the preservation of civilization as well as the promotion of the arts and sciences.

Jefferson's lasting significance in American history stems from his remarkably varied talents. He made major contributions as a politician, statesman, diplomat, intellectual, writer, scientist, and philosopher. No other figure among the Founding Fathers shared the depth and breadth of his wide-ranging intelligence.

His presidential vision impressively combined philosophic principles with pragmatic effectiveness as a politician. Jefferson's most fundamental political belief was an "absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority ." Stemming from his deep optimism in human reason, Jefferson believed that the will of the people , expressed through elections, provided the most appropriate guidance for directing the republic's course.

Jefferson also felt that the central government should be "rigorously frugal and simple." As president he reduced the size and scope of the federal government by ending internal taxes, reducing the size of the army and navy, and paying off the government's debt. Limiting the federal government flowed from his strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Finally, Jefferson also committed his presidency to the protection of civil liberties and minority rights. As he explained in his inaugural address in 1801 , "though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression." Jefferson's experience of Federalist repression in the late 1790s led him to more clearly define a central concept of American democracy.

Jefferson's stature as the most profound thinker in the American political tradition stems beyond his specific policies as president. His crucial sense of what mattered most in life grew from a deep appreciation of farming, in his mind the most virtuous and meaningful human activity. As he explained in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God." Since farmers were an overwhelming majority in the American republic, one can see how his belief in the value of agriculture reinforced his commitment to democracy.

Completed in 1943, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial stands in Washington D.C. as a testament to one of the great American political philosophers.

Jefferson's thinking, however, was not merely celebratory, for he saw two dangerous threats to his ideal agrarian democracy . To him, financial speculation and the development of urban industry both threatened to rob men of the independence that they maintained as farmers. Debt, on the one hand, and factory work, on the other, could rob men of the economic autonomy essential for republican citizens.

Jefferson's vision was not anti-modern, for he had too brilliant a scientific mind to fear technological change. He supported international commerce to benefit farmers and wanted to see new technology widely incorporated into ordinary farms and households to make them more productive.

During his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson was accused of having an adulterous affair with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves. In 1998, DNA tests revealed that Heming's son, Eston, was related to Jefferson's family.

Jefferson pinpointed a deeply troubling problem. How could republican liberty and democratic equality be reconciled with social changes that threatened to increase inequality? The awful working conditions in early industrial England loomed as a terrifying example. For Jefferson, western expansion provided an escape from the British model. As long as hard working farmers could acquire land at reasonable prices, then America could prosper as a republic of equal and independent citizens. Jefferson's ideas helped to inspire a mass political movement that achieved many key aspects of his plan.

In spite of the success and importance of Jeffersonian Democracy, dark flaws limited even Jefferson's grand vision. First, his hopes for the incorporation of technology at the household level failed to grasp how poverty often pushed women and children to the forefront of the new industrial labor. Second, an equal place for Native Americans could not be accommodated within his plans for an agrarian republic. Third, Jefferson's celebration of agriculture disturbingly ignored the fact that slaves worked the richest farm land in the United States. Slavery was obviously incompatible with true democratic values. Jefferson's explanation of slaves within the republic argued that African Americans' racial inferiority barred them from becoming full and equal citizens.

Our final assessment of Jeffersonian Democracy rests on a profound contradiction. Jefferson was the single most powerful individual leading the struggle to enhance the rights of ordinary people in the early republic. Furthermore, his Declaration of Independence had eloquently expressed America's statement of purpose "that all men are created equal." Still, he owned slaves all his life and, unlike Washington, never set them free.

For all his greatness, Jefferson did not transcend the pervasive racism of his day.

Watch the video: Jefferson First Inaugural Address - March 4, 1801 - Part II