By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS


Election Year: 1792

Election Day Date: November 2 – December 5, 1792

Prior to 1845, elections days were held in the 34 days prior to when the electors would vote on the first Wednesday in December.

Winning Ticket: George Washington (61, Episcopalian) Virginia, Federalist, 132 97.8%

Vice President John Adams (57, Unitarian) Massachusetts, Federalist, 77 57.0%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • John Adams(57, Unitarian) Massachusetts, Federalist 77 57.0%
  • George Clinton (54, Presbyterian), New York, Democratic-Republican 50 37.0%
  • Thomas Jefferson(49, no denomination) Virginia, Democratic-Republican 4 3.0%
  • Aaron Burr (37, Presbyterian) New York, Democratic-Republican 1 0.7%
  • Electoral votes not cast – 6 4.4%

Electoral Vote:

  • Winner: 132
  • Main Opponent: 77
  • Total Number of Electors 132
  • Total Electoral Votes Cast 264
  • Number of Votes for a Majority 67

Central Forums/Campaign Methods for Addressing Voters: Partisanship taking root.

War of pamphlets; newspaper clashes: the National Gazette versus the Gazette of the United States

Election Law/Campaign Finance Changes:

  • Law of March 1792: Defining voting procedures and mandating the electoral vote on first Wednesday in December

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day:

George Washington, John Adams, No Party Designation, 1789-1797

Population: 1792: 4,172,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $0.22 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $4.58
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 4.86 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $53 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $1,09

Number of Daily Newspapers:

1790: 70 weeklies; 10 semi- weeklies; 3 tri-weeklies; 8 dailies.

Method of Choosing Electors:

Legislature appointed electors (All electors from the original 13 states and newly admitted Kentucky and Vermont)

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 showed citizen restiveness and anti-tax sentiments.
  • United States caught between French and British machinations.

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Washington was unopposed for the Presidency

Vice-Presidency (Second Presidential ballot)

  • John Adams, Vice President of the United States from Massachusetts
  • Aaron Burr, U.S. senator from New York
  • George Clinton, Governor of New York
  • Thomas Jefferson, United States Secretary of State from Virginia
  • George Washington, President of the United States from Virginia

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Opposition to John Adams for the Vice President; Anti-Administration leaders substitute Aaron Burr for the ticket and then decide on George Clinton

Campaign Innovations (Nomination/Primaries):

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):

Philip Freneau of the National Gazette  (Republican); John Fenno of the Gazette of the United States (Federalist); James Madison; John Jay; Thomas Jefferson; Alexander Hamilton

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • “Spirit of party”: The rift between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, and the rise of parties, made George Washington anxious to retire after one term – and Washington’s supporters especially anxious to keep him in office. Eventually, both Federalists and Democratic-Republicans supported Washington.
  • October 16, 1792: Anti-administration leaders met in Philadelphia with delegates from NY, PA, VA, and SC., they supported both Washington and Clinton for the ticket
  • Republicans in New York tried to get Governor George Clinton on the ticket, rather than Aaron Burr; they proposed this to the anti-administration leaders in Virginia, who did not want Burr on the ticket or Clinton that much, but they wanted New York’s 12 Electoral votes and agreed to Clinton

General Election Controversies/Issues:

The emergence of a two-party system

  • Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was an economic nationalist who was the favorite of commercial interests. His supporters were the Federalists. The Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson championed the agrarian way of life and condemned Hamilton’s blueprints for a strong central government. Jefferson’s supporters were the Democratic-Republicans.
  • Democratic-Republicans: Unable to criticize Washington; the party criticized Vice-President Adams for aligning with the Federalists by voting for Alexander Hamilton’s legislation in the Senate.

Turning Points (General Election):

  • Washington was elected unanimously

Popular Campaign Slogans: Federalists: “Long Live the President”

Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):

  • “How unfortunate and how much it is to be regretted . . . that internal dissensions should be harrowing and tearing our vitals.” George Washington

Important Quotation:

  • “At an election in a certain State a bystander observing the particular situation of a great number of the electors, who had been regaled at the expense of one of the candidates, remarked on the occasion, That the Voice of the People, was the Voice of Grog.” The Gazette of the United States, November 1792
  • “I cannot but hope that you can resolve to add one or two more years to the many years you have already sacrificed to the good of mankind.” Thomas Jefferson begging George Washington not to retire.
  • The opposition “has been as busy as the Devil in a gale of wind.” Theodore Sedgwick, a Federalist
  • “Our elections are unanimous for the old King and his second.” David Cobb, a Federalist

Further Reading: Stanley M. Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 1995.

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • Only Presidential election not held exactly four years from the previous election.
  • George Washington received one vote from each elector who cast a ballot and was the unanimous choice for President.



  • April 30, 1789: “George Washington inaugurated as the first President of the United States in New York City, the nation’s capital.”
  • July 4, 1789: “Congress, led by Representative James Madison, enacts the first protective tariff. Madison consulted with President Washington about the need for the measure.”
  • July 16, 1790: “President Washington signs a bill into law that permanently places the nation’s capital along the Potomac River, in an area to be called the District of Columbia.”
  • June 20, 1790: Assumption Act passes. The federal government takes over responsibility for each state’s revolutionary debts.
  • August 4, 1790: “President Washington signs a bill into law that directed the federal government to assume the Revolutionary War debts of the states.”
  • December 6, 1790: “The United States Capital officially moves from New York to Philadelphia, where it remains until the completion of the District of Columbia in 1800.”
  • December 13, 1790: “Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, with President Washington’s support, sends Congress a controversial message (The Report on a National Bank) calling for the creation of an official Bank of the United States. After a hard-won approval by Congress, Washington signs the bill on February 25, 1791.”
  • September 9, 1791: “Commissioners name the territory within the District of Columbia (and the future seat of the Federal Government) the city of Washington in honor of the nation’s first President.”
  • December 15, 1791: “The states officially ratify the first ten amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights. President Washington had called for their ratification in his first inaugural address.”
  • February 21, 1792: Congress passes Presidential Succession Act of 1792; President, Vice President, President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, and then Speaker of the U.S. House.
  • March 1792: Law of March 1792 goes into law, it defines voting procedures and mandates the electoral vote on first Wednesday in December.
  • October 13, 1792: “The cornerstone for the President’s mansion is laid in Washington D.C.”
  • October 16, 1792: Anti-administration leaders meet in Philadelphia with delegates from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina, they support both Washington and Clinton for the ticket.
  • October 16, 1792: Republicans in New York tried to get Governor George Clinton on the ticket, rather than Aaron Burr; they propose this to the anti-administration leaders in Virginia, who did not want Burr on the ticket or Clinton that much, but they wanted New York’s 12 Electoral votes, and agree to Clinton.
  • Early November 1792: Six states with popular election of the Presidential Electors vote.
  • December 5, 1792: Presidential Electors cast their votes in their state capitals.
  • February 13, 1793: A joint session of Congress meets and counts the Electoral votes Washington reelected President, John Adams reelected Vice President.
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