While the Presidential election was taking place in the House of Representatives, amid scenes of great excitement, strife and intrigue, which was to decide whether Jefferson or Burr should be the chief magistrate of the nation, Jefferson was stopped one day, as he was coming out of the Senate chamber, by Governor Morris, a prominent leader of the Federalists.
Mr. Morris said, "I wish to have an earnest talk with you, Mr. Jefferson, on the alarming situation of things."
"I am very glad," said Jefferson, "to talk matters over with you."
"As you well know," said Mr. Morris, "I have been strenuously opposing you, as have also the large majority of the States."
"To be frank with you," he continued, "we are very much afraid of you. We fear, first, that you will turn all the Federalists out of office; second, that you will put down the navy; third, that you will wipe off the public debt. Now, if you will declare, or authorize your friends to declare that you will not take these steps, your election will be made sure."
Mr. Jefferson replied, "Governor Morris, I naturally want to be President, and yet I cannot make any terms to obtain the position. I shall never go into the office by capitulation. I cannot have my hands tied by any conditions which would hinder me from pursuing the measures which I deem best for the public good. I must be perfectly free.The world can judge my future course by that which I have hither to follow. I am thankful to you for your interest, but I cannot make the slightest promise."