PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS
OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1800
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Election Year: 1800
Election Day Date: December 3, 1800 (Electoral College Vote)
Prior to 1845, 34 day before the first Wednesday of December
Winning Ticket: Thomas Jefferson (57, no denomination) Virginia, Dem.-Rep. Electoral 73 52.9% House 10 62.5%
Vice President: Aaron Burr (45, Presbyterian) New York, Dem.-Rep. 73 52.9% 4 25.0%
- John Adams (65, Unitarian), Massachusetts, Federalist 65 47.1% 0 0.0%
- Charles Pinckney (54, Episcopalian) South Carolina Federalist 64 46.4% 0 0.0%
- John Jay (55, Episcopalian) New York Federalist 1 0.7% 0 0.0%
- Blank – – – – 2 12.5%
- Winner: 73
- Main Opponent: 73
- Total Number of Electors 138
- Total Electoral Votes Cast 276
- No. of Votes for a Majority 70
Central Forums/Campaign Methods for Addressing Voters:
- handbills, pamphlets, party newspapers/articles, letters,
Election Law/Campaign Finance Changes:
- Before 12th Amendment ratified in 1804, votes for President and Vice President not listed on separate ballots, there were two ballots each for the Presidency, the runner-up became Vice-President.
Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day:
John Adams (Federalist), Thomas Jefferson 1797-1801
Population: 1800 5,297,000 +33.3%
Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $0.48 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $7.40
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 6.43 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $90 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $1,397
Number of Daily Newspapers: 1800: 178 weeklies; 10 semi-weeklies; 3 tri-weeklies; 24 dailies
Method of Choosing Electors:
- Appointed by state legislature
- Popular vote, one elector per electoral district: Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina
- General ticket system (Statewide popular vote/winner takes all): Rhode Island, Virginia
- Statewide popular vote, however if there is no majority the state legislature appoints the elector from the top two candidates: New Hampshire
- One elector per district, popular vote in each county to choose electoral delegate, the states electoral delegates from a district choose the elector: Tennessee
Method of Choosing Nominees: Congressional Caucus (informal nominations)
Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):
- Alien and Sedition Acts; New army; Taxes, States’ rights
John Adams Presidency:
- Republicans doubted his commitment to republican institutions,
- Republicans criticized deteriorating relations with France;
- Alien and Sedition Acts (stopped criticism of his administration)
- “XYZ Affair” French agents tried to bribe American diplomats in Paris
- High Federalists (or Hamiltonians): Adams an appeaser; peace mission to France in 1799, instead of war
- Federalist party: strong federal government, commerce, relations with Great Britain
- Jefferson-Republican or Democratic-Republican Party: agricultural-based society/relations with France
Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):
- John Adams, President of the United States (Massachusetts)
- John Jay, Governor of New York (New York)
- Charles Cotesworth Pinckney former U.S. Minister to France (South Carolina)
Jefferson-Republican or Democratic-Republican Party:
- Thomas Jefferson Vice President of the United States (Virginia)
- Aaron Burr, former U.S. Senator (New York)
Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):
- Avoiding a split election as in 1796 resulting in a President and Vice President from different parties
- Federalist party divided between Adams and Alexander Hamilton (High Federalists or Hamiltonians)
- Hamilton broke with Adams over reconciling with France after “XYZ Affair” of 1797. Adams would not cede the Federalist Party leadership to Hamilton
Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries): Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, James Madison, John Jay, James Monroe, Gouverneur Morris, George Clinton, John Marshall, Horatio Gates, George Washington
Conventions (Dates & Locations):
- Federalist caucus (1st) May 3, 1800 U.S. Senate chamber, U.S. Capitol building, Washington DC
- Democratic Republican caucus (1st), May 11, 1800, Marache’s Boarding House in Philadelphia (secret meeting)
Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:
- Presidential: Thomas Jefferson
- Vice Presidential: Aaron Burr
Federalist Party Nomination:
- Presidential: John Adams was nominated for a second term
- Vice Presidential: Charles C. Pinckney of the XYZ mission
Convention/Caucus Turning Points:
Democratic Republican caucus (1st)
- Chose Aaron Burr as running mate because of his victory in acquiring the New York State Legislature and 12 electoral votes for the Democratic-Republicans
Federalist caucus: first official caucus
- The caucus agreed to prevent the same scattering of votes for President and Vice President as in 1796
General Election Controversies/Issues:
- Federalist split; Adams and Hamilton
- Jefferson’s religion as a Deist, (although both Adams and Jefferson were Deists)
Major Personalities (General Election): Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Charles Pinckney; James Gunn (Senator, Georgia)
- Avoid “self-serving electioneering”; Party workers were in charge of the campaigning worked with partisan presses; work on the campaign through letter writing from behind the scenes
- Mudslinging (slander, personal attacks)
- Jefferson wrote letters addressing pressing issues including; national debt reduction, military reduction, peaceful commerce, freedom of religion and press
- Accused Federalists of destroying republican values by favoring the British and immigrants
- Character attacks; Adams a monarchist, President for Life, “fool, hypocrite, criminal, and tyrant”
- Character attacks: Called the Adams Presidency “one continued tempest of malignant passions”
- Rumor that Adams was arranging that one of his sons marry one of King George III’s daughters and create an American dynasty, reunion with Britain. Added to the story of George Washington pleading with Adams to abandon his plans to show a comparison of virtues and republican ideals
- Attack on position on the issues: Federalists “hawkish policy towards France,” “suppression of domestic dissent”
- Character Attacks on Jefferson, “Jacobin”; accused of cheating British creditors, swindling a widow, being a coward as Governor of Virginia during the Revolution
- Attack on position on the issues: dismantling Hamilton’s financial system; French influence on commerce;
- Attack Democratic-Republican orientation toward France rather than Britain by accusing Jeffersonians of mimicking the French revolutionaries: murdering opponents, burning churches, destroying the country.
- “High Federalists”: Aligned with Alexander Hamilton, deemed Adams too moderate. Hamilton schemed to get Charles Cotesworth Pinckney elected President
Turning Points (General Election):
- New York State Elections (April 29 to May 1, 1800)
- State Election days varied and could be held between April and December
- New York’s election day was in April
- Burr turned a Federalist majority in New York into a Democratic-Republican majority
- Adams distanced from the High Federalists to unite the Federalists
- Adams discovered after the Federalist caucus that Hamilton was planning to have Secretary of State Charles Pickering, Adams’s running mate, elected President and Secretary of War James McHenry elected Vice President, Adams dismissed both from his cabinet, firing Pickering on May 12, 1800. Adams replaced them with Virginia Federalists to lure votes away from Jefferson
- States changed the method of choosing Electors in attempts to manipulate the outcome of the election:
- Virginia switched to General Ticket (Winner Take All) (Prevent votes for Adams)
- Massachusetts changed to legislative appointment (Ensure votes for Adams)
- New Hampshire and Georgia from General Ticket to legislative appointment
- Rhode Island only state to change from legislative appointment to General Ticket
- Pennsylvania, deeply divided, agreed on Legislative appointment
- After New York’s election switched the crucial 12 Electoral Votes away from the Federalists to the Democratic Republicans, Hamilton asked Governor John Jay to reconvene the Federalist legislature and adopt the popular vote General Ticket. Jay ignored Hamilton’s request
- Battleground states: Electors by popular vote (MD, NC, and RI); Legislative appointment (GA, PA, and SC)
- September 30, 1800: Resumption of normal diplomatic relations with France
- Letter from Alexander Hamilton Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams (fifty-four page criticism of Adams) Hamilton’s plan backfired and the split in the Federalist Party allowed the Democratic-Republicans to win in 1800. Printed in the Press a week before the election
- Hamilton/Adams split so severe, that Hamilton decided that Jefferson would be better as President than Adams
- Hamilton most preferred the Federalist Vice Presidential candidate, General Charles Pinckney.
- Hamilton believed Pinckney could draw more votes in his native South than Adams, and if the New England electors voted equally for both Adams and Pinckney; than Pinckney could triumph.
- Noah Webster and other Federalists came to Adams’ defense
Popular Campaign Slogans:
- “With Jefferson we shall have peace, therefore the friends of peace will vote for Jefferson – the friends of war will vote for Adams or for Pinckney
- “Is it not high time for a CHANGE?
- The election will determine “Whether the present system of war, debt and encreasing taxation shall continue to be pursued, or a new line of conduct shall be adopted?”
- Jefferson’s election will “destroy religion, introduce immorality, and loosen all the bonds of society.”
Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads:
- Fisher Ames: “sound the tocsin about Jefferson” and display “the dread evils to be apprehended from a Jacobin President.”
- Reverend William Linn: “The voice of the nation in calling a deist to the first office must be construed into no less than rebellion against God.”
- Federalist: “Can serious and reflecting men look about them and doubt that if Jefferson is elected, and the Jacobins get into authority, that those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin — which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence — defend our property from plunder and devastation, and shield our religion from contempt and profanation, will not be trampled upon and exploded?”
- “Look at your houses, your parents, your wives, and your children. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, hoary hairs bathed in blood, female chastity violated, or children writhing on the pike and the halbert? . . . Look at every leading Jacobin as at a ravening wolf, preparing to enter your peaceful fold, and glut his deadly appetite on the vitals of your country. . . . GREAT GOD OF COMPASSION AND JUSTICE, SHIELD MY COUNTRY FROM DESTRUCTION.” Writer for the Connecticut Courant, September 29, 1800
Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):
- “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its Republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it”. Thomas Jefferson, Inaugural Address, 1801
Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):
- “Hamilton is an intriguant … a man devoid of every moral principle–a Bastard, and as much a foreigner as Gallatin. Mr. Jefferson is an infinitely better man, a wiser one, I am sure, and, if President, will act wisely.” John Adams about Alexander Hamilton
- “I know it, and would rather be Vice President under him, or even Minister Resident at the Hague, than indebted to such a being as Hamilton for the Presidency.” John Adams to his Secretary of War James McHenry
- “If we must have an enemy at the head of the Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures.” Alexander Hamilton
- “. . . I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate.” Alexander Hamilton about John Adams
- “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will all be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.” Connecticut Courant
- ‘‘I do not believe that the Most High will permit a howling atheist [Jefferson] to sit at the head of this nation…. In the morning we had news of the death of Mr. Jefferson. It is to be hoped that it is true.’’ Thomas Robbins, Federalist minister, in his diary
- The Democratic-Republicans planned for one elector to abstain from voting for Burr instead, there was an electoral tie.
- Burr however, refused to step aside so Jefferson could be President. Therefore the election was thrown to the Federalist House of Representatives.
- Contingent election of 1801: February 11, 1801, the House of Representatives met to decide the election, in the unfinished Capitol building, Washington.
- Each state was allowed one vote per delegation, if there was a tie the state would cast a blank ballot
- With a deadlock the Congressional Federalists saw the opportunity to place Burr in the Presidency rather Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton preferred Jefferson to Burr. Hamilton convinced several Federalist Congressman to cast blank ballots and end the deadlock.
- On the 36th ballot with 10 State delegations voting for Jefferson, 4 voting for Burr and 2 making no choice.
- 1st 35 ballots Jefferson 8 Burr 6 abstentions 2
- 36th ballot Jefferson 10 Burr 4 abstentions 2
Significant Books from the Campaign:
- John Mason, The Voice of Warning to Christians on the Ensuing Election (1800).
- William Linn, Serious Considerations on the Election of a President (1800). Further Reading:
- Larson, Edward John. A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign. New York: Free Press, 2007.
Lasting Legacy of Campaign:
- Most significant election in terms of impact on the electoral process
- Prompted the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, requiring electors to cast votes separate ballots for President and Vice-President
- The 1800 revolution empowered Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans
- The first time the opposition won the Presidency.
- Jefferson’s 22.8% victory margin in the popular vote is a challenger’s largest victory margin over an incumbent President.
- May 15, 1797: “Adams calls the first special session of Congress to debate the mounting crisis in French-American relations. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the American envoy in France, had left France after being insulted by the French foreign minister.”
- May 19, 1797: “Adams appoints a three man commission, composed of Charles C. Pinckney, Elbridge Gerry, and John Marshall, to negotiate a settlement with France.”
- June 24, 1797: “President Adams is authorized by Congress to raise a militia of 80,000 men for defensive purposes in case of war with France.:
- October 18, 1797: “XYZ Affair” French agents tried to bribe American diplomats in Paris. “The three man American peace commission is received coolly and then asked to pay a bribe in order to speak with French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice Talleyrand. This episode becomes known as the “XYZ Affair.””
- April 3, 1798: “President Adams exposes the XYZ affair, providing Congress with letters from the peace commission indicating French efforts to bribe and intimidate U.S. officials seeking to speak with French diplomat, Charles Maurice Talleyrand. The reaction was one of outrage and intimidation.”
- 1798: Hamilton broke with Adams over reconciling with France after “XYZ Affair.” Adams would not cede the Federalist Party leadership to Hamilton
- May 28, 1798: “Congress empowers Adams to enlist 10,000 men for service in case of a declaration of war or invasion of the country’s domain. It also authorizes Adams to instruct commanders of ships-of-war to seize armed French vessels praying upon or attacking American merchantmen about the coast.”
- June 18, 1798: Alien and Sedition Acts (to stop criticism of the Adams administration) Naturalization Act is adopted. “The first of four acts known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts is adopted. The Alien and Sedition acts aimed to curb criticism of administration policies and prevent internal subversion. The first act, stipulating requirements for naturalized citizenship, demanded residence in the United States for period of fourteen years and a declaration of intention for five years.”
- June 25, 1798: Alien Act: “Congress passes the Alien Act, granting President Adams the power to deport any alien he deemed potentially dangerous to the country’s safety.”
- July 6, 1798: Alien Enemies Act: “Congress passes the third of the Alien and Sedition acts, the Alien Enemies Act. The act provides for the apprehension and deportation of male aliens who were subjects or citizens of a hostile country.”
- July 7, 1798: “Adams appoints George Washington to serve as commander in chief of the United States Army. All French treaties between the United States and France are declared null and void by vote in Congress, most notably the 1778 Treaty of Alliance.”
- July 14, 1798: Sedition Act: “Congress adopts the Sedition Act, the fourth and last of the Alien and Sedition acts. The bill subjects any American citizen to a fine and/or imprisonment for obstructing the implementation of federal law, or for publishing malicious or false writings against Congress, the President, or the government.”
- November 16, 1798: “The Kentucky State Legislature adopts the Kentucky Resolutions, reserving states’ right to override federal powers not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Jefferson, angry at the Adams administration for the Alien and Sedition acts, authors the resolution.”
- 1798-1799: The Federalists gained seats in both houses of Congress, Senate 19-13, House 64-42. Predominately the wins came from North Carolina and Virginia.
- February 18, 1799: Adams nominates William Van Murray as Minister to France, peace mission to France instead of war. High Federalists (or Hamiltonians) consider Adams an appeaser.
- January 10, 1800: “Congress finally passes a treaty with Tunis, negotiated originally in 1797.”
- April 29 to May 1, 1800: New York States Elections. Aaron Burr plans that the Democratic-Republicans would gain control of the New York Legislature and therefore the twelve Electoral College votes from the state.
- May 1, 1800: Burr succeeds in turning a Federalist majority in New York into a Democratic-Republican majority
- May 3, 1800: Federalist caucus (1st) U.S. Senate chamber, U.S. Capitol building, Washington DC John Adams was nominated for a second term, running-mate Charles C. Pinckney of the XYZ mission. The caucus agrees to prevent the same scattering of votes for President and Vice President as in 1796
- May 11, 1800: Democratic Republican caucus (1st) Marache’s Boarding House in Philadelphia (secret meeting), the caucus nominate Thomas Jefferson for Presidential nomination; Chose Aaron Burr as running mate because of his victory in acquiring the New York State Legislature and 12 electoral votes for the Democratic-Republicans
- Adams tried to distance himself from the High Federalists, unite the Federalist in the election.
- May 7, 1800: “Congress passes an act dividing the Northwest Territory into two parts, with the border between them running north from the junction of the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers. The western part of the territory will be known as the Indiana Territory while the eastern half will retain the name Northwest Territory.”
- May 1800: Adams discovers after the Federalist caucus that Hamilton was planning to have Secretary of State Charles Pickering, and Adam’s running mate elected President instead of Adams and Secretary of War James McHenry elected Vice President, Adams dismisses both from his cabinet.
- May 12, 1800: Adams dismisses Secretary of State Charles Pickering.
- May 1800: Adams places Virginia Federalists in those positions to gain favor in the state and take away the votes from Jefferson
- Virginia switches to General Ticket (At Large) (Prevent votes for Adams)
- Massachusetts changes to legislative appointment (Ensure votes for Adams)
- New Hampshire and Georgia change from General Ticket to legislative appointment
- Rhode Island only state to change from legislative appointment to General Ticket
- Pennsylvania divided between the Federalists and Democratic Republicans, agree on Legislature appointment
- May 1800: After New York’s election, Hamilton writes a letter to Governor John Jay, asking him to reconvene the Federalist legislature and change the way electors are chosen to popular vote General Ticket.
- Jay ignores Hamilton’s request
- 1800: John Mason, a New York preacher writes The Voice of Warning to Christians on the Ensuing Election ( 1800) claiming Jefferson “writes against the truths of God’s word; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians.”
- September 29, 1800: Connecticut Courant, “Look at every leading Jacobin as at a ravening wolf, preparing to enter your peaceful fold, and glut his deadly appetite on the vitals of your country. . . . GREAT GOD OF COMPASSION AND JUSTICE, SHIELD MY COUNTRY FROM DESTRUCTION.”
- September 30, 1800: Resumption of normal diplomatic relations with Franc. The “quasi”-naval war with France effectively ends with the signing of the Treaty of Mortfontaine in Paris. France agrees to lift its embargos on American ships, cancel all letters of marque, and respect neutral ships and property. The United States agrees to return captured warships but not captured privateers.”
- Hamilton believes Federalist Vice Presidential candidate General Charles Pickney was a better choice than both Adams and Jefferson. Hamilton devises a plan than would give Pickney the majority of Electoral College votes. Being from South Carolina Hamilton believes Pickney could draw more votes in the South than Adams, and if New England Electoral College voted equally for both Adams and Pickney; than he would win the election over Adams.
- Hamilton goes to New England and writes a long letter to Federalist Party leaders, especially in the South attacking John Adams’ domestic and foreign policies.
- Letter from Alexander Hamilton Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams (fifty-four page criticism of Adams); the Press prints the letter a week before the election.
- Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr obtains a copy of the letter to be known as The Public Conduct and Character of John Adams and distributes it widely to the press. Noah Webster and other Federalists come to Adams’ defense.
- November 1800: Campaign intensifies prior to the Elector voters casting their votes.
- Federalists circulate a rumor that Jefferson has died, however, it was a slave on Jefferson’s plantation with the same name that actually died.
- November 17, 1800: Congress convenes in the new Nation’s capitol Washington for the first time.
- Late November 1800: Jefferson goes to the new national capital to await the election results and his victory.
- December 3, 1800: Presidential Electors meet in their state capitols cast the electoral vote
- December 14, 1800: Jefferson writes to Robert R. Livingston and asks him to become Secretary of Navy
- December 15, 1800: Jefferson writes and congratulates Aaron Burr on winning the Vice Presidency
- December 18, 1800 Jefferson knows he has defeated Adams.
- Late December 1800: Burr refuses to step aside so Jefferson could be President. Therefore the election was thrown to the Federalist House of Representatives.
- February 11, 1801: Vice President Thomas Jefferson presides over a Joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes in the U.S. Senate chamber, unfinished Capitol building, Washington DC.
- February 11, 1801: U.S. Senator William H. Wells and U.S. Reps. John Rutledge and John Nicholas are the tellers and they report there was an error with Georgia’s vote. The tally however, seemed to be correct and it resulted in; Jefferson 73, Burr 73, Adams 65, Pinckney 64, and John Jay 1.
- February 11, 1801: Jefferson declares the election a tie that the House of Representatives would have to decide the election
- February 11, 1801: Contingent election, Joint session of Congress in the U.S. Senate chamber, unfinished Capitol building, Washington, DC. Each state allowed one vote per delegation, and if there is tie the delegation is required to cast a blank ballot
- February 17, 1801: There is a deadlock six days after voting begins. The Congressional Federalists saw the opportunity to place Burr in the Presidency rather Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton prefers Jefferson to Burr. Hamilton convinces several Federalist Congressman to cast blank ballots and end the deadlock.
- February 17, 1801: On the 36th ballot with 10 State delegations voting for Jefferson, 4 voting for Burr and 2 making no choice. 1st 35 ballots Jefferson 8 Burr 6 abstentions 2; 36th ballot Jefferson 10 Burr 4 abstentions 2
- February 17, 1801: Jefferson is elected President, Aaron Burr is elected Vice President