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Championing liberty is all well and good--until you need someone to bottle the cider. As he writes to his son-in-law about the death of Jupiter, his slave and personal attendant for three decades, Jefferson seems as sorry for the loss of the labor as the loss of the man. For all his contradictions, it is Jefferson's views on slavery that are the most difficult to reconcile with his role as the author of the words "all men are created equal." At the time of his death, Jefferson owned about 200 slaves. Five from the Hemings family were freed, and the rest were sold.
ON THE ELECTION OF 1800
March 26, 1800 To: William Short
"No mortal can foresee in favor of which party the election will go. There is one supreme consolation. That our people have so innate a spirit of order & obedience to the law, so religious an acquiescence in the will of the majority, and deep conviction of the fundamental importance of the principle that the will of the majority ought to be submitted to the minority, that a majority of a single vote, as at the last election, produces as absolute & quiet a submission as an unanimous vote."
Feb. 12, 1801, 7 a.m. To: Thomas Mann Randolph
"The H. of R. has been in conclave ever since 2. aclock yesterday. 25. balots have been taken at intervals of from half an hour to an hour. They were invariably 8. 6. & 2. divided. I can venture nothing more by the post but my affectionate salutations, to yourself & my dear Martha."
Much like the election of 2000, the contentious race of 1800 would be a gradually unfolding drama. As the campaign was just getting under way, Jefferson wrote to a Virginian in France, William Short, that Americans would acquiesce to the will of the majority. Jefferson probably exaggerated his confidence in that fact, in hopes that Short would show the letter around Europe and bolster the perception of the U.S. as a smoothly running republic. By February 1801, when he wrote to his son-in-law, the race had taken an unexpected twist. He had bested John Adams, but now Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, were tied with 73 electoral votes apiece for President. In the House of Representatives, which was to decide the winner, there were eight states for Jefferson, six for Burr and two undecided. The body ultimately chose Jefferson, and later passed the 12th Amendment to avoid a same-party tie in the future. But the real significance of Jefferson's Inauguration three weeks later was that it was the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another. Jefferson's boast of faith in his public was in the end justified.