THE ENCOUNTER OF JEFFERSON AND ADAMS

Excerpt from Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush

When the election between Burr and myself was kept in suspense by the Federalists, and they were meditating to place the President of the Senate at the head of the government, I called on Mr. Adams, with a view to have this desperate measure prevented by his negative. He grew warm in an instant, and said, with a vehemence he had not used toward me before,

'Sir, the event of the election is in your own power. You have only to say you will do justice to the public creditors, maintain the navy, and not disturb those holding offices, and the government will instantly be put into your hands. We know it is the wish of the people it should be so.

''Mr. Adams,' said I, 'I know not what part of my conduct, in either public or private life, can have authorized a doubt of my fidelity to the public engagements. I say, however, I will not come into the government by capitulation - I will not enter on it but in perfect freedom to follow the dictates of my own judgment.'

I had before given the same answer to the same intimation from Gouverneur Morris.

'Then,' said he, 'things must take their course.'

I turned the conversation to something else, and soon took my leave. It was the first time in our lives we had ever parted with any thing like dissatisfaction.


Quoted by J. Parton in The Life and Times of Aaron Burr, New York: Mason Brothers, 1858.


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