January 1, 1801 – John Marshall Writes Alexander Hamilton About Jefferson and Burr

On this day in history, John Marshall, who became the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of the same month, on January 31, 1801, wrote to Alexander Hamilton about his opinions of the two candidates for the next president of the United States.

John Marshall

John Marshall

He averred (spelling kept as in original):

…my own mind had scarcely determind to which of these gentlemen the preference was due. To Mr. Jefferson whose political character is better known than that of Mr. Burr, I have felt almost insuperable objections. His foreign prejudices seem to me totally to unfit him for the chief magistracy of a nation which cannot indulge those prejudices without sustaining debt & permanent injury. In addition to this solid & immovable objection Mr. Jefferson appears to me to be a man who will embody himself with the house of representatives. By weakening the office of President he will increase his personal power. He will diminish his responsability, sap the fundamental principles of the government & become the leader of that party which is about to constitute the majority of the legislature.”

But then again, he gathered Burr wasn’t so great either:

Your representation of Mr. Burr with whom I am totally unacquainted shows that from him still greater danger than even from Mr. Jefferson may be apprehended. Such a man as you describe is more to be feard & may do more immediate if not greater mischief. Believing that you know him well & are impartial my preference woud certainly not be for him—but I can take no part in this business. I cannot bring my self to aid Mr. Jefferson. Perhaps respect of myself shoud in my present situation deter me from using any influence (if indeed I possessd any) in support of either gentleman.”

You can read the complete letter here.


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