The Election of 1800
The election of 1800, or the revolution of 1800 as termed by Thomas Jefferson, was the fourth election presidential election in the United States and the first election to pose the possibility of power shifting from one political party to another. The two main parties within the United States at the time were the federalists and the democratic-republicans. The federalist had offered up John Adams, the incumbent president, as their candidate for president with Charles Pickney as his running mate. Adams had lost popularity among both members of his party and most of the public with his Alien and Sedation acts and his handling of the XYZ Affair in France. On the other side of the political line, the democratic-republicans named Thomas Jefferson, the incumbent vice-president, as their candidate for president and Aaron Burr was named this running mate. Jefferson had been in this same situation four years ago but had lost the presidency to Adams by three votes. The election of 1800 also brought about a new style of campaigning for president. One change that occurred in the election of 1800 was that campaigning was started before the incumbent president announced whether or not he was going to run for reelection. The election also highlighted the fact that the American electoral system was not prepared for a two-party system of politics, an issue that had been encountered during the previous election but became crystal clear during the election of 1800.
To understand what happened during the Election of 1800 we need to go back and look at the public image of the candidates. John Adams had a tumultuous presidency, with the Alien and Sedation acts being one of the least popular aspects of his acts as the president. The acts limited the number of immigrants that could enter the country and made it illegal to speak ill of the president, which resulted in many democratic-republican ran newspapers to stop production. Adams’s dislike wasn’t only limited to those of the opposing party though, when Adams returned to D.C. after having taken leave in Boston he was greeted with a letter from Alexander Hamilton, a fellow federalist leader, that had been published by newspapers in the D.C. area and described Adams’s lack of presidential qualities including “that he has furnished deadly weapons to America’s enemies by unfounded accusations, and has weakened the force of America’s friends by decrying some of the most influential of them to the utmost of his power; and let it be added, as the necessary effect of such conduct, that he has made great progress in undermining the ground which was gained for the government by his predecessor, and that there is real cause to apprehend, it might totter, if not fall, under his future auspices” along with remarking on Adams failed interactions with France and endorcing Pickeny as a better candidate. Thomas Jefferson was much more likable than Adams in the public view. He had penned the Declaration of Independence along with haven proven his political prowess through “roughly a decade of service in the Virginia assembly, nearly three years spent in Congress, two terms as Virginia’s wartime governor, five years in France as America’s envoy, almost four years as secretary of state in President George Washington’s cabinet, and since 1797 a term as vice president” , though there was some disagreement over Jefferson’s view on religion that will get brought up during the campaigning season. The Federalists had issues with Jefferson’s view of government and his belief that government should be limited and of a more agrarian based society.
While there still were no publicly held debates as we see in modern elections, voters used newspapers and pamphlets to learn about their candidates. Each party had their own papers that would promote their candidate while dismissing the opposition’s choice. Though Aaron Burr did turn the Tammany Society into a political group to assist in his campaigning. There were also public figures that voiced their opinions about the candidates in either pamphlets or as also shown public letters. One of these figures was William Linn who published a report on the multiple reasons why Jefferson should not be the public’s choice of president many of which revolve around Jefferson’s lack of faith and brings up concerns the Jefferson would “destroy religion, introduce morality, and loosen all bonds of society” . While newspapers were trying to encourage the public to vote for one party or another, the states and political parties were busy ensuring the Electoral College would work to their advantage. Many state legislators tried to ensure that the party they aligned with had as many delegates in the Electoral College as possible, some even changed rules to select delegates and “before the year was out, seven of the sixteen states had changed their procedures for electing delegates to the Electoral College” . The change that occurred was getting rid of the popular vote to elect delegates and instead shifting the responsibility to law enforcement or state legislators. The Federalists and Democratic-Republicans were also busy preparing for the Electoral College, though instead of trying to stack the votes in their parties favor, they were trying to make sure that what happened in 1896 did not occur again. The Federalist delegates gathered and came to the consensus that every delegate would cast one of their ballots toward John Adams and all but one delegate would cast their second vote to Charles Pickeny, this way there would not be a tie within the college. The Democratic-Republicans all came up with the same approach, although with less savory results.
The Election of 1800