On March 4, 1801, Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office to Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. This marked the first transfer of power to a new political power base in the early Republic.
That day, Marshall wrote a letter to a friend, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. He started the letter before swearing in Jefferson and ended it after. Here’s what he wrote:
Washington March 4th. 1801
I had the pleasure of receiving a few days past your letter of the 11th. Feb.
For your friendly expressions on my late appointment I am infinitely obligd to you. Of the importance of the judiciary at all times, but more especially the present I am very fully impressd & I shall endeavor in the new office to which I am calld not to disappoint my friends.
Before I receivd your letter Judge Bay had left us with the intention of visiting the Mississipi territory. It was not in my power to be otherwise useful to him than by giving him letters to the governor & secretary of that country who will I hope facilitate his enquiries concerning his property.
To day the new political year commences—The new order of things begins. Mr. Adams I believe left the city at 4 OClock in the morning & Mr. Jefferson will be inaugurated at 12. There are some appearances which surprize me. I wish however more than I hope that the public prosperity & happiness may sustain no diminution under democratic guidance. The democrats are divided into speculative theorists & absolute terrorists: With the latter I am not disposd to class Mr. Jefferson. If he arranges himself with them it is not difficult to foresee that much calamity is in store for our country—if he does not they will soon become his enemies & calumniators.
I have administerd the oath to the President. You will before this reaches you see his inauguration speech. It is in the general well judgd & conciliatory. It is in direct terms giving the lie to the violent party declamation which has elected him; but it is strongly characteristic of the general cast of his political theory.
With great & sincere esteem, I am dear Sir your Obedt