Jefferson was sworn into office on March 4, 1801; his was the first presidential inauguration held in Washington, D.C. (George Washington was inaugurated in New York in 1789; in 1793, he was sworn into office in Philadelphia, as was his successor, John Adams, in 1797.) Instead of riding in a horse-drawn carriage, Jefferson broke with tradition and walked to and from the ceremony.
One of the most significant achievements of Jefferson’s first administration was the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million in 1803. At more than 820,000 square miles, the acquisition (which included lands extending between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico to present-day Canada) effectively doubled the size of the United States. Jefferson then commissioned Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) to explore the uncharted land, plus the area beyond, out to the Pacific Ocean. (At the time, most Americans lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean). The expedition, known today as the Corps of Discovery, lasted from 1804 to 1806 and provided valuable information about the geography, American Indian tribes and animal and plant life of the western part of the continent.
In 1804, Jefferson ran for re-election and defeated Federalist candidate Charles Pinckney (1746-1825) of South Carolina with more than 70 percent of the popular vote and an electoral count of 162-14. During his second term, Jefferson focused on trying to keep America out of Europe’s Napoleonic Wars (1803-15). However, after Great Britain and France, who were at war, both began harassing American merchant ships, Jefferson implemented the Embargo of 1807. The act, which closed U.S. ports to foreign trade, proved unpopular with Americans and hurt the U.S. economy. It was repealed in 1809 and, despite the president’s attempts to maintain neutrality, the U.S. ended up going to war against Britain in 1812.
Jefferson chose not to run for a third term in 1808 and was succeeded in office by James Madison (1751-1836), a fellow Virginian and former U.S. secretary of state.