United States presidential election, 1800 explained

Election Name:United States presidential election, 1800
Country:United States
Flag Year:1795
Type:Presidential
Ongoing:no
Previous Election:United States presidential election, 1796
Previous Year:1796
Next Election:United States presidential election, 1804
Next Year:1804
Election Date:1800
Nominee1:Thomas Jefferson
Party1:Democratic-Republican Party
Running Mate1:Aaron Burr
Home State1:Virginia
Electoral Vote1:73
States Carried1:8
Popular Vote1:41,330
Percentage1:61.4%
Nominee2:John Adams
Party2:Federalist Party (United States)
Running Mate2:Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Home State2:Massachusetts
Electoral Vote2:65
States Carried2:7
Popular Vote2:25,952
Percentage2:38.6%
Map Size:350px
President
Before Election:John Adams
Before Party:Federalist Party (United States)
After Election:Thomas Jefferson
After Party:Democratic-Republican Party

In the United States Presidential election of 1800, sometimes referred to as the "Revolution of 1800", Vice President Thomas Jefferson defeated President John Adams. The election was a realigning election that ushered in a generation of Democratic-Republican Party rule and the eventual demise of the Federalist Party in the First Party System. It was a long, bitter re-match of the 1796 election between the pro-French and pro-decentralization Republicans under Jefferson and Aaron Burr, against incumbent Adams and Charles Pinckney's pro-British and pro-centralization Federalists. The chief political issues included opposition to the tax imposed by Congress to pay for the mobilization of the new army and the navy in the Quasi-War against France in 1798, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, by which Federalists were trying to stifle dissent, especially by Republican newspaper editors. While the Republicans were well organized at the state and local levels, the Federalists were disorganized, and suffered a bitter split between their two major leaders, President Adams and Alexander Hamilton. The jockeying for electoral votes, regional divisions, and the propaganda smear campaigns created by both parties made the election recognizably modern.

The election exposed one of the flaws in the original Constitution. Members of the Electoral College could only vote for president; each elector could vote for two candidates, and the person who received the second largest number of votes during the balloting became vice-president. The Republicans had planned for one of the electors to abstain from casting his second vote for Aaron Burr, which would have led to Jefferson receiving one electoral vote more than Burr. The plan, however, was bungled, resulting in a tied electoral vote between Jefferson and Burr. The election was then put into the hands of the outgoing House of Representatives, which elected Jefferson.

To rectify the flaw in the original presidential election mechanism, the Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, was added to the United States Constitution, stipulating that electors make a discrete choice between their selections for president and vice-president.

General election

Candidates

Democratic-Republican Candidates gallery

Campaign

The 1800 election was a re-match of the 1796 election. The campaign was bitter and characterized by slander and personal attacks on both sides. Federalists spread rumors that the Republicans were radicals who would ruin the country (based on the Republican support for the French Revolution). In 1798, George Washington had complained "that you could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country".[1] Meanwhile, the Republicans accused Federalists of destroying republican values, not to mention political support from immigrants, with the Alien and Sedition Acts, some of which were later declared unconstitutional after their expiration by the Supreme Court; they also accused Federalists of favoring Britain in order to promote aristocratic, anti-republican values.[2]

Adams was attacked by both the opposition Republicans and a group of so called "High Federalists" aligned with Alexander Hamilton. The Republicans felt that the Adams foreign policy was too favorable toward Britain; feared that the new army called up for the Quasi-War would oppress the people; opposed new taxes to pay for war; and attacked the Alien and Sedition Acts as violations of states' rights and the Constitution. "High Federalists" considered Adams too moderate and would have preferred the leadership of Alexander Hamilton instead. Hamilton, in his third sabotage attempt towards Adams,[3] schemed to elect vice-presidential candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to the presidency. One of Hamilton's letters, a scathing criticism of Adams that was fifty-four pages long,[4] became public when it came into the hands of a Republican. It embarrassed Adams and damaged Hamilton's efforts on behalf of Pinckney,[5] not to mention speeding Hamilton's own political decline.[4]

Hamilton had apparently grown impatient with Adams and wanted a new president who was more receptive to his pro-federal goals. During Washington's presidency, Hamilton had been able to influence the federal response to the Whiskey Rebellion (which threatened the government's power to tax citizens). When Washington announced that he would not seek a third term, Adams was widely recognized by the Federalists as next-in-line.

Hamilton appears to have hoped in 1796 that his influence within an Adams administration would be as great or greater than in Washington's. By 1800, Hamilton had come to realize that Adams was too independent and chose to support Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina. Given Pinckney's lack of political experience, he would have been expected to be open to Hamilton's influence. However, Hamilton's plan backfired and hurt the Federalist party.

Selection method changes

Partisans on both sides sought any advantage they could find. In several states, this included changing the process of selecting electors to ensure the desired result. In Georgia, Republican legislators replaced the popular vote with selection by the state legislature. Federalist legislators did the same in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This may have had some unintended consequences in Massachusetts, where the makeup of the delegation to the House of Representatives changed from 12 Federalists and 2 Republicans to 8 Federalists and 6 Republicans, perhaps the result of backlash on the part of the electorate. Pennsylvania also switched to legislative choice, but this resulted in an almost evenly split set of electors. Virginia switched from electoral districts to winner-take-all, a move that probably switched one or two votes out of the Federalist column.

Voting

Because each state could choose its own election day, voting lasted from April to October. In April, Burr's successful mobilization of the vote in New York City succeeded in reversing the Federalist majority in the state legislature. With the two parties tied 65 - 65 in the Electoral College, the last state to vote, South Carolina, chose eight Republicans, giving the election to Jefferson and Burr. However the Republicans neglected to have one of their electors abstain from voting for Burr.

Under the United States Constitution as it then stood, each elector cast two votes and the candidate with a majority of the votes was elected president, with the vice-presidency going to the runner-up. The Federalists, therefore, arranged for one of their electors to vote for John Jay rather than for vice-presidential candidate Pinckney. The Republicans had a similar plan to have one of their electors cast a vote for another candidate instead of Burr, but failed to execute it.[6] By a misadventure, all of the Republican electors cast their votes for both Jefferson and Burr, giving them each 73 votes. The tie thus had to be resolved by the House of Representatives, with each state casting one vote. Although the election of 1800 had given majority control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans by 103 seats to 39, the presidential election would be decided by the outgoing House, which had been elected in the Federalist landslide of 1798 and was controlled by the Federalists, 60 seats to 46.[5]

Disputes

Defective certificates

When the electoral ballots were opened and counted on February 11, 1801, it turned out that the certificate of election from Georgia was defective; while it was clear that the electors had cast their votes for Jefferson and Burr, the certificate did not take the constitutionally-mandated form of a "List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each". Vice-President Jefferson, who was counting the votes in his role as President of the Senate, immediately counted the votes from Georgia as votes for Jefferson and Burr. No objections were raised. The total number of votes for Jefferson and Burr was 73, a majority of the total, but a tie between them.

Results

Jefferson and Burr tied for first place, so the election was thrown into the House of Representatives.

Source (Popular Vote): U.S. President National Vote. Our Campaigns. (February 10, 2006).
Source (Electoral Vote):

(a) Votes for Federalist electors have been assigned to John Adams and votes for Republican electors have been assigned to Thomas Jefferson.
(b) Only 6 of the 16 states chose electors by any form of popular vote.
(c) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.
(d) A faithless elector in New York voted twice for Aaron Burr, but this violated electoral college rules and so the second vote was re-assigned to Thomas Jefferson.

Breakdown by ticket

Contingent election of 1801

The members of the House of Representatives balloted as states to determine whether Jefferson or Burr would become president. There were sixteen states, and an absolute majority—in this case, nine—was required for victory. It was the outgoing House of Representatives, controlled by the Federalist Party, that was charged with electing the new president.

While it was common knowledge that Jefferson was the candidate for president and Burr for vice-president, many Federalists were unwilling to support Jefferson, their partisan nemesis (with one important exception, Alexander Hamilton[4]). After all, Jefferson had been the principal opponent of Federalists since 1789. Seizing an opportunity to deny Jefferson the presidency, most Federalists voted for Burr, giving Burr six of the eight states controlled by Federalists. The seven delegations controlled by Republicans all voted for Jefferson, and Georgia's sole Federalist representative also voted for him, giving him eight states. Vermont was evenly split, and cast a blank ballot. The remaining state, Maryland, had five Federalist representatives to three Republicans; one of its Federalist representatives voted for Jefferson, forcing that state delegation also to cast a blank ballot.

Over the course of seven days, from February 11 to February 17, the House cast a total of 35 ballots, with Jefferson receiving the votes of eight state delegations each time—one short of the necessary majority of nine. During the contest, Hamilton recommended to Federalists that they support Jefferson because he was "by far not so dangerous a man" as Burr; in short, he would much rather have someone with wrong principles than someone devoid of any.[4] Hamilton embarked on a frenzied letter-writing campaign to get delegates to switch votes.[7]

On February 17, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected. Federalist James A. Bayard of Delaware and his allies in Maryland and Vermont all cast blank ballots. This resulted in the Maryland and Vermont votes changing from no selection to Jefferson, giving him the votes of 10 states and the presidency. Bayard, as the sole representative from Delaware, changed his vote from Burr to no selection.[5] The four present representatives from South Carolina, all Federalists, also changed their 3-1 selection of Burr to four abstentions. The final tally was Jefferson with ten votes to Burr's four.

Results

JeffersonBurrno result
1st through 35th ballots862
36th ballot1042

In the following table, results for the state delegation are expressed as (<votes for Jefferson>-<votes for Burr>-<abstentions>).

1st ballot2nd–35th ballots(a)36th ballot
Georgia(b)Jefferson
(1-0-0)
Jefferson
(1-0-0)
Jefferson
(1-0-0)
KentuckyJefferson
(2-0-0)
Jefferson
(2-0-0)
Jefferson
(2-0-0)
New JerseyJefferson
(3-2-0)
Jefferson
(3-2-0)
Jefferson
(3-2-0)
New YorkJefferson
(6-4-0)
Jefferson
(6-4-0)
Jefferson
(6-4-0)
North CarolinaJefferson
(9-1-0)
Jefferson
(6-4-0)
Jefferson
(6-4-0)
PennsylvaniaJefferson
(9-4-0)
Jefferson
(9-4-0)
Jefferson
(9-4-0)
TennesseeJefferson
(1-0-0)
Jefferson
(1-0-0)
Jefferson
(1-0-0)
VirginiaJefferson
(16-3-0)
Jefferson
(14-5-0)
Jefferson
(14-5-0)
Marylandno result
(4-4-0)
no result
(4-4-0)
Jefferson
(4-0-4)
Vermontno result
(1-1-0)
no result
(1-1-0)
Jefferson
(1-0-1)
DelawareBurr
(0-1-0)
Burr
(0-1-0)
no result
(0-0-1)
South Carolina(c)Burr
(0-5-0)
Burr
(1-3-0)
no result
(0-0-4)
ConnecticutBurr
(0-7-0)
Burr
(0-7-0)
Burr
(0-7-0)
MassachusettsBurr
(3-11-0)
Burr
(3-11-0)
Burr
(3-11-0)
New HampshireBurr
(0-4-0)
Burr
(0-4-0)
Burr
(0-4-0)
Rhode IslandBurr
(0-2-0)
Burr
(0-2-0)
Burr
(0-2-0)

(a) The votes of the representatives is typical and may have fluctuated from ballot to ballot, but the result for each state did not change.
(b) Even though Georgia had two representatives apportioned, one seat was vacant due to the death of James Jones.
(c) Even though South Carolina had six representatives apportioned, Thomas Sumter was absent due to illness, and Abraham Nott departed for South Carolina between the first and final ballots.

Revolution of 1800

The transfer of power from the Federalists to the Democratic-Republicans in a peaceful manner was the most significant and surprising change in the election. It was singled out as a break from European precedent, in which power transfers were often violent and bloody. Another departure from standard politics up to the election was the greater appearance of popular democracy. The vote was ultimately decided upon by the House of Representatives, where members are directly chosen by the people.

See also

References

Bibliography

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Gilder Lehrman Document Number: GLC 581. 2006-09-20. Mintz. S.. 2003. Digital History.
  2. Buel (1972)
  3. McCullough (2001)
  4. Chernow (2004)
  5. Ferling (2004)
  6. In fact, their plan was almost reversed by a faithless elector in New York who cast both of his votes for Burr. This would have been enough to give him the presidency, but the state re-assigned the second vote to Jefferson since Article 2, Section 3, of the Constitution prohibited an elector from casting both his votes for an inhabitant of the same state as the elector; Burr was a resident of New York.
  7. Roberts (2008)