United States presidential election, 1800

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ElectoralCollege1800.svg

John Adams
Federalist

Thomas Jefferson
Democratic-Republican

In the United States Presidential election of 1800, sometimes referred to as the "Revolution of 1800," Vice President Thomas Jefferson defeated incumbent 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 lengthy, bitter rematch 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 central 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.[1]

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 Vice President was the person who received the second largest number of votes during the election. 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 controlled by the Federalist Party. Many Federalists voted for Burr, and the result was a week of deadlock. Federalist Alexander Hamilton, who detested both but preferred Jefferson to Burr, was one of those who vigorously lobbied against Burr. Burr remained in New York during the debates and votes, as his only daughter was married there on February 1, 1801. No evidence exists to prove that he did anything to sway the vote his way[2]. Hamilton's actions were one episode of the ill-fated relationship between Hamilton and Burr, which ended in Hamilton's fatal duel with Burr in 1804. In the absence of efforts on Burr's behalf, lobbying by Jefferson's supporters and Hamilton allowed Jefferson to ascend to the Presidency.

To rectify this 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.

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