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

ISBN: B00Y2VEQTY

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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was unhappily married, he was an anguished widower. In many ways Maria resembled Jefferson’s late wife, save that she had been formally educated and was cosmopolitan in a way that no woman in eighteenth-century Virginia could hope to be. Seeing her as if through a lambent haze, Jefferson soon described himself as a “mass of happiness,” and later said that during his six weeks with Maria “every moment was filled with something agreeable.”51 Richard Cosway took his wife back to London in October,

his dream to fruition. In this vision his grandiose ambition and Nationalist passion meshed. Many shared Hamilton’s concerns. Some thought an ineffectual Congress was humiliating. Others wished for a strong central government that could spread American hegemony or, more simply, provide security from Europe’s great powers. Many of the most conservative Americans anguished at the transformative changes unleashed by the republican Revolution. Affection for Great Britain and its venerable ways had

to deliver his inaugural address, then be sworn in. A hush fell over the chamber as he stepped forward to read his brief remarks. What he said sounded like countless subsequent inaugural addresses: the Union was strong, the Constitution was a blessing, and America’s greatest danger came from abroad. Adams did hint that he wished to be what he once had called the “Father and Protector,” the president of all the people, not the advocate of one section or a small faction.52 When he finished, a

its European adversary Spain, confronting the United States with a worse predicament.23 Given the lag in communications, the Quasi-War Crisis, as scholars now call the Franco-American troubles, simmered quietly out of sight for months. As Gerry and Marshall did not sail until the summer of 1797 was half gone, Adams went home in July and did not return to Philadelphia until deep into the autumn, when that year’s siege of yellow fever— it had struck every year for five years running—finally lifted.

who were committed to Jefferson and Burr, Jefferson and Pinckney, or Pinckney and Adams?91 Much arm-twisting remained before the electors were chosen on December 2, the day before election day. In the meantime, the most likely guess—it was the one made by virtually every observer—was that the South Carolina legislature would give Jefferson eight votes and that Adams would get nothing. But would the eight remaining votes go to Pinckney or to Burr? 160 a da m s v s . j e f f e r s o n

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