Friday, January 4, 2008

1800: The First REAL Presidential Election

Hello everyone! Sorry for being absent so long. Christmas break and moving to a new apartment have kept me very busy.

As I was watching the Iowa Caucus last night (yes, I have no life and no boyfriend, so I was relegated to watching the Iowa Caucus of all things) I started wondering about presidential elections during the colonial period. As we all know, George Washington was the unanimous choice for president in both of his terms. There was simply nobody that could match his credentials. In 1796, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the candidates. For the most part, the election was very timid. Neither candidate really got involved (which was common of 18th century politics).

In 1800, however, Jefferson and Adams clashed on virtually every issue and fiercely sought the office of the presidency. For Jefferson, the presidency was a quest to get America on the "right" track. In his mind, the Federalists had taken too much control from the people. In many ways, Jefferson's rhetoric sounds very familiar to one Barack Obama.

Adams, on the other hand, believed that the Federalists were indeed on the right track, and that he had led the nation adequately in his first term. the passage of the Alien & Sedition Acts (which many have compared to our current Patriot Act), earned Adams a negative reputation from the Democratic-Republicans.

After a very lengthy campaign, Jefferson emerged victorious. Federalists screamed foul, since Jefferson had only won the election thanks to the 3/5 Compromise. In fact, several northern leaders demanded a reelection. Jefferson himself faced a difficult challenge of surpassing Burr for the presidency (who had received just as many votes in the 1800 election since elections were done very differently in those days). Here is how the voting broke down by state:

In the end, Jefferson emerged as the candidate for change, and the election of 1800 went down as the first REAL election in American history.


Brad Hart said...

I think that this is the first time I have ever heard Barack Obama and Thomas Jefferson mentioned in the same sentence. Are you sending a subliminal message to us all Lindsey? =)

The election of 1800 is a very interesting topic of study. I actually devoted a large part of my undergrad thesis to it. It is amazing how different elections were then vs. now. Both Adams and Jefferson (though personally desirous of the office) did little campaigning. Personally campaigning for office in the 18th century was a HUGE taboo. If Clinton, Obama, Huckabee, Romney and the rest of them campaigned as much as they do today in the 18th century, people would outright reject them. Oh my how things have changed!

David Mabry said...

What I find ironic is that the greatest accomplishment of Adams' admnistration, peace with France, made him hugely unpopular costing him support in his own Federalist party. There is a book ( I own and intent to read)with an excellent reputation, "Affairs of Honor: National Politics anf the New Republic" by Dr. Joanne Freeman.
There was a fresh junior senator from Illinois who made a bid for presidency before....hmmmm. Now, that is subliminal.

Lindsey Shuman said...

Good point Mabry. I also think that John Adams was, in reality, in a no win situation. Filling the shoes of Washington, and then trying to appease both the Federalists and Dem-Republicans was impossible.

Oh, and I wasn't trying to plug Obama, though I do like the guy. I'm still undecided.

Brian Tubbs said...

Can I nit-pick? :-)

I like your article, Lindsey. I really have nothing to criticize. I just want to be difficult, so here goes...

Were the 1788, 1792, and 1796 elections UNreal? The 1796 election was contested, and Adams prevailed. And the 1788 and 1792 weren't really contested because of the universal recognition that Geore Washington was the best man for the job, BUT...did that make them unreal?

Steve Becknall said...

Of course the other elections were "real" elections. I think you make a good point though, Lindsey when you state that the election of 1800 was the first "contested" presidential race that brought out the mud-slinging and typical campaigning that we have come to appreciate (or not appreciate) in our country today.

I too like all the Obama-Jefferson-Lincoln comparisons. =)

Brian Tubbs said...

Come on, Steve, play along with me. I think my mole hill of a point has great potential to becoming a mountain. It just needs a


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