The Election of 1800 was also sometimes referred to as ‘The Revolution of 1800’ between Federalists John Adams and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson in one of the most important elections in early U.S. history… So with that, all said, let’s get into it. Welcome Folks, to the Adams Administration.
A Rough Four Years
Well let’s start by talking about the situation going on between the president, John Adams and his vice president, Thomas Jefferson; if you remember from the article I did on the election of 1796, then you know that the Federalist candidate Adams narrowly won the election to become the second president of the United States while his rival and Democratic-Republican candidate Jefferson came in second place in the electoral vote and under the rules of the Constitution whoever comes in second in a general election becomes the vice president.
So, you have a very awkward predicament as two men from two different political parties are having to work together when for the next four years and I use to word ‘work’ loosely when describing Adams & Jefferson as their hatred for each other only intensified with John Adams’ domestic and foreign policies becoming a major issue for him going into this election.
In terms of foreign policy, John Adams and much of the Federalist party (The Adams Administration) seem to be favouring Great Britain as an ally which annoys Jefferson and the rest of the Democratic-Republicans who are in favour of supporting the French especially as ‘The Quasi-War’ was occurring around this time.
The Quasi-War for those who don’t know was a naval conflict between the U.S. and the French Republic over American ships trading supplies with Great Britain (as France was an enemy of Britain at the time), so the French started to seized many U.S. ships trading with Britain and after negotiations failed to go anywhere, a series of battles ensured until the treaty of Mortefontaine was signed in September of 1800 ending the conflict.
In terms of the domestic side of things, Adams and Alexander Hamilton are having issues amongst each other which is driving a wedge within the Federalist Party and on top of that, Adams also signs into the law the ‘Alien and Sedition Act‘ which not only restricted those in the U.S. from questioning or make insensitive comments about the government which could lead to you spending time in jail, but it also made a lot harder for immigrants to become U.S. citizens and even had the power of sending those same immigrants back to where they came from if they were perceived as dangerous.
So, John Adams has a few things working against him heading into this election and the fact that his VP and rival, Thomas Jefferson has had a front room seat to all of this for the last four years are going to make it even harder, now that we’ve described what’s been going on with the president and his administration for last several years let’s get into the election.
Famous historian, Tim Naftali said it best when talking about elections in a documentary series on CNN when said “We’ve had bitter presidential campaigns for centuries”. And that certainly can best describe the election of 1800 as many of the tactics used to smear the opposite side in this election seem almost modern by today standards.
Many detractors of incumbent John Adams would call him things like ‘His Rotundity’ due to Adams being a little husky so to speak, while the supporters of the Democratic-Republicans referred to him as someone who had a hermaphroditical personality which lacked the firmness of a man or the sensibilities of a woman, which by 1800 talk was one heck of an insult, especially towards the president.
Nevertheless, Adams and his new pick for vice president, Charles C. Pinckney pressed on with the hope that the remaining Federalists who still supported the president would be able to help him get re-elected.
The Federalists also did some mudslinging of their own referring to vice president, Thomas Jefferson as an atheist while also mentioning that he was the lovechild of an Indian and Mulatto parents while also criticizing him and for his support of France especially after the events of the Quasi-War.
Jefferson ran again with New York Senator, Aaron Burr as his running mate with both parties choosing Pinckney and Burr respectively with the hopes that one of them will get the needed votes to become vice president alongside their respective candidates to prevent the unusually result of the election of 1796 from happening again as the Constitution still made it that the top two people who had the most electoral votes would then become president and vice president.
Much like the 1796 election, the electoral votes seemed pretty close but the outcome was different as Thomas Jefferson won 73 electoral votes while John Adams received 65 electoral votes and Charles Pinckney got 64; John Adams became the first one-term president in American history.
In terms of the popular vote, it’s the most one-sided presidential election up to that point with Jefferson getting 60.5% and Adams getting 39.4%. This of course would lead to the first successful transfer of power between two political parties in their bid for the presidency hence the reason while some refer to this election as ‘The Revolution of 1800’.
However, this election was filled with a few factors that were crucial to the outcome of this election: For example, Aaron Burr’s used a New York political machine that would eventually become Tammany Hall to discredit John Adams (And The Adams Administration) which helped the Democratic-Republicans get the state of New York, a state that would’ve gone to Adams. Another key factor was the three-fifths compromise which gave more power to states that supported slavery; John Adams was the only founding father to become President who didn’t own any slaves he disliked the practice, so many southern states used that three-fifths compromise to get more electoral votes and unsurprisingly they voted for the slaveholding Jefferson, had it not been for this compromise John Adams would’ve won the election but would’ve lost still lost the popular vote making him the first person to do so.
So, the Democratic-Republicans have done it. They’ve won the presidency and Thomas Jefferson is going to the White House as the next president…except there’s a problem. That problem is Aaron Burr (Sir) also got 73 electoral votes with which means that both Jefferson and Burr are tied and if this happens the results have to send to the House of Representatives to pick the winner and much like everything else about this election this is going to be controversial.
If You Had To Choose…?
So, now we have a contingent election where the House of Representatives has to figure out who will become the new president out of Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson but it’s not as easy as you could imagine.
The big issue is that neither Jefferson nor Burr can get enough votes by the House of Representatives to become the president as some Federalists are supporting Aaron Burr while many Democratic-Republicans are supporting Thomas Jefferson, but even after 35 ballots neither man can be able to the necessary votes needed.
Ultimately, the person who comes in to influence the outcome of this contingent election is none other than George Washington’s former Sectary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
Now, Hamilton has been feeling good so far when it comes to this election as John Adams was denied an opportunity to become a two-term president which in theory severely weakens The Adams Administration’ political power in the Federalist Party going forward and now he has another opportunity much like the 1796 election to be the kingmaker and put either Jefferson or Burr as the next commander and chief.
Hamilton is trying to convince the representatives that Jefferson seems like a safe bet for president compared to Burr and after much deliberation, Thomas Jefferson gets the votes he needs from the House of Representatives to become the third president and the second vice president to become president in U.S. history.
So, Thomas Jefferson is the new president, the Democratic-Republicans are looking to spread their influence on the United States for the next four years and Alexander Hamilton…to the victor goes the spoils, you got rid of John Adams (And The Adams Administration) and you became the deciding factor in who became the next president but those triumphs are going to go bad soon, as Aaron Burr is looking for some payback and I think you all know how that is going turn out… You’ve all seen the musical, right?
And with that all said, that’s the election of 1800 aka the revolution of 1800, as The Adams Administration fades away, and one of the most important and controversial elections in U.S. History; Be sure to look out for the next article I do when I talk about the election of 1804.