Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History)

Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History)

John Ferling

Language: English

Pages: 283


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

It was a contest of titans: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two heroes of the Revolutionary era, once intimate friends, now icy antagonists locked in a fierce battle for the future of the United States. The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College and led to a crisis in which the young republic teetered on the edge of collapse.

Adams vs. Jefferson is the gripping account of a turning point in American history, a dramatic struggle between two parties with profoundly different visions of how the nation should be governed. The Federalists, led by Adams, were conservatives who favored a strong central government. The Republicans, led by Jefferson, were more egalitarian and believed that the Federalists had betrayed the Revolution of 1776 and were backsliding toward monarchy. The campaign itself was a barroom brawl every bit as ruthless as any modern contest, with mud-slinging, scare tactics, and backstabbing. The low point came when Alexander Hamilton printed a devastating attack on Adams, the head of his own party, in "fifty-four pages of unremitting vilification." The stalemate in the Electoral College dragged on through dozens of ballots. Tensions ran so high that the Republicans threatened civil war if the Federalists denied Jefferson the presidency. Finally a secret deal that changed a single vote gave Jefferson the White House. A devastated Adams left Washington before dawn on Inauguration Day, too embittered even to shake his rival's hand.

With magisterial command, Ferling brings to life both the outsize personalities and the hotly contested political questions at stake. He shows not just why this moment was a milestone in U.S. history, but how strongly the issues--and the passions--of 1800 resonate with our own time.

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won thus far by capitalizing on the lack of organized opposition; some who were Nationalists were not committed Hamiltonians; some in Congress would have opposed Hamilton in 1790–91 had they better understood the ramifications of his schemes; and many who had been in the Anti-Federalist camp during ratification were eager to resist the further consolidation of power in the national government that was part and parcel of Hamiltonianism. Believing that most Americans yet abhorred a powerful

and he enjoyed daily hikes of three or four miles, but he spent most of each day in his dark study, where he read and reflected. Adams devoted as much time as was necessary to the presidency, reading every report sent to Quincy, but, truth be told, there was not much to do that summer and fall, as Congress was not in session and the members of his cabinet were in the capital tending to their respective departments. Adams’ mood that morning was bittersweet. He was delighted that his wife, Abigail,

all too aware of that place. Many were convinced that the average Federalist wished an America modeled on a British society that featured a genteel tradition and a citizenry reduced to demeaning displays of deference. Many had overheard Federalists proclaim that the “people are without virtue” or that they were a “herd” that walked on “their hind legs.” Many knew of Federalists who had opposed expanding suffrage and who had suggested that a broader electorate would ensure that the “mediocrity

Republicans scored lopsided wins in the Sixth and Seventh Wards, newly settled neighborhoods on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, respectively. Each contained the city’s heaviest concentrations of the poor. In the Seventh Ward, often called the “cartmen’s ward” by contemporaries, the propertyless totaled approximately 65 percent of the population; 85 percent of the residents of the Sixth Ward were propertyless. The Federalists captured 52 percent of the vote in the First through Fifth

inveterate conniver, “a man devoid of every moral principle—a Bastard.” As if he could think of nothing worse to say to one of the satellites of the inspector general, Adams told McHenry that “Jefferson is an infinitely better man; a wiser one, I am sure.” If he lost the election, Adams threatened, he would return to Quincy and draft for posterity an account revealing both Hamilton’s venality and the perfidy of his minions in the cabinet. When at last he ran out of steam, Adams curtly concluded:

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