We dive into the election of 1804 as President Thomas Jefferson is looking to become a two termer, but the Federalists is sending in a war hero in Charles Pinckney to try and stop him… So with that, all said, let’s get into it.
Before we get into the election itself, let’s first talk about some of the things that are going on in the country with Thomas Jefferson as the president.
So, Thomas Jefferson was able to squeak out a narrow victory in the election of 1800 against his on and off friend, John Adams and since his ascension to the highest office in the land, Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans have begun to dismantle every bit of policy and legislation that the Federalist Party accomplished while at the same token looking to reduce the amount of spending within the government and the size of the military.
Jefferson had also managed to reduce the amount of debt within the country which helped to improve the economy and his ability to continue trading with foreign nations, however, Jefferson ended breaking one of his biggest promises during his presidency which was to limit executive power in the government, and he broke this promise as a result of the Louisiana Purchase.
The Louisiana Purchase as most of you know was the Jefferson Administrations idea of acquiring land which was under the control of France and after striking a deal with Napolean Bonaparte to get this new territory in exchange for billions of dollars and sending Lewis and Clark to explore the new land, the United States now had territories that would eventually become the states of Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and of course Louisiana.
So needless to say, President Jefferson was hugely popular with many Americans, and he had little opposition when it came to getting the re-nomination by his party but there is one major change when it comes to the Democratic-Republican ticket and that’s Jefferson’s VP pick.
Alexander Hamilton’s Death
Since the controversial conclusion to the contingent election between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson, Burr has reluctantly been working with Jefferson while at the same time having a deep-seated hatred for Alexander Hamilton, the man who cost him the presidency due to Hamilton’s persuasion with the House of Representatives.
Hamilton’s life, meanwhile hasn’t been so good either with his constant meddling in the previous presidential elections, his affair with Maria Reynolds who was a married woman and the revelation that this affair led to extortion and blackmailing on Maria and her husband’s part, badly damaged his reputation in politics… Not to mention his son, Philip Hamilton being killed ny George Eacker in a duel in 1801 soon after (George would die in 1804 due to consumption, or tuberculosis)
Ultimately on July 11th, 1804, Aaron Burr duelled and fatally killed Alexander Hamilton which not only ended the life of the Federalist Party Founder, but it also ended the political career of Aaron Burr who would go to trial for his shooting of Hamilton, but the charges were dropped.
Understandably, Jefferson tried to distance himself from his vice president who he never was fond of anyway and when it came time for the 1804 election, Jefferson chose the former Governor of New York, George Clinton as his new pick for vice president.
The Federalist Party Ticket
With John Adams retiring from politics soon after the election of 1800, the increasing influence the Democratic-Republicans had over the country during Jefferson’s first term and the death of Alexander Hamilton made the Federalist Party’s chances of winning look very bleak.
The party nevertheless nominates Charles Pinckney as their candidate for president with former New York Senator, Rufus King as his running mate; Pinckney had run for president in the previous elections and even was John Adams’ running mate in the election of 1800 in addition to being a former a U.S. Ambassador to France and hero in the Revolutionary War, while Rufus King was a founding father, lawyer and the U.S. Ambassador of Great Britain.
The strategy of the Federalist Party in this election is to see if they can get some Southern votes with Charles Pinckney as the head of the ticket while at the same time keeping the majority of states, they had won in 1800 which were hardcore Federalist states. On top of that, they’re also criticizing Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territories as unconstitutional and bringing up the claims that Jefferson was having an affair with a female slave, he owned by the name of Sally Hemings.
One other thing to mention is that this is the first presidential election to occur after the ratification of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution meaning that the old rule of the person coming in second place in a presidential election becomes the vice president is now null and void.
Going forward in future elections, when people head out to vote they’re casting their ballots for both the president and vice president on the same ticket.
So, with all of that said let’s take a look at the results.
Despite the Federalist Party’s best efforts at the time, Thomas Jefferson easily gets re-elected to another term as president receiving 162 electoral votes and 72.8% of the popular vote which is not only the highest amount of the popular vote for a re-elected president but also the highest for a presidential candidate since the two-party system began.
Charles Pinckney only received 14 electoral votes and 27.2% of the popular vote with Pinckney picking up two states (Connecticut and Delaware); while Jefferson was able to pick up 15 states even the Federalist stronghold state of New England went to Jefferson in this election.
Jefferson’s 45.6% margin in the popular vote remains the most lopsided in U.S. election history, not only that but he would become the first of two vice presidents to be elected and re-elected as president.
So that is the election of 1804, a landslide victory for Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans; The Federalist… better luck next time as we head into the election of 1808.