Monday, February 17, 2014
FEBRUARY 17 = It's Jefferson in the House!!
Jefferson Prevails in the Election of 1800
On this date, February 17, 1801, after one tie vote in the Electoral College and 35 indecisive ballot votes in the House of Representatives, Vice President Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States over his running mate, Aaron Burr. This difficult and confusing election, which ended just a fortnight before a new president was to be inaugurated, exposed some serious defects in the presidential electoral machinery as set forth by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. But in the end, the principle of the peaceful transfer of power, this time from one political party to another prevailed, and our young republic survived yet another threat to her existence.
From Adams to Jefferson
To attempt making a long and confusing story short: John Adams' presidency had been controversial. While the principle of peaceful transfer of power from one LEADER to another had indeed been established with his succession of the great George Washington, that was not the last trial faced by the infant American republic. Our country's father had worried about the formation of political parties, but such things had inevitably arisen. This election of
political party to another remained an open question. Adams had faced the difficult question of how to handle the newly and violently emerged French Republic. Actual combat had in fact broken out on the high seas between ships of the Revolutionary French Navy, and the magnificent ships of the new American Navy, which John Adams had fathered (Pictured above is an action from that war... Feb. 6, 1799 the French frigate "L'Insurgente" is shot to pieces by the American frigate, "U.S.S. Constellation"). But Adams had managed to keep this undeclared Naval conflict from erupting into a full-blown war.
Nevertheless, Adams suffered the fate of all those who dare bravely to steer a middle-course between two extremes: he wound up being loathed and despised by both. But the Federalists who were nominally the party of Adams swallowed hard and nominated him against his one-time friend Thomas Jefferson, who was nominated by the Democrat-Republican Party. Far from being the blatant mockery that this has been called by some of today's more advanced political thinkers, it was actually the forerunner of the modern day Democratic
Thirty SIX Ballots later....
SO the Presidential Electors were chosen that November, and on Dec. 3 it became apparent that the improbable had happened. Hamilton had discouraged enough votes for Adams and his running mate Mr. Pinkney to land them out of the running with 64 and 63 electoral votes respectively. But this left Jefferson and his running mate, Burr with 73 votes each for the top spot. So the Federalists were definitely getting the boot, and it only remained for the House of Representatives to decide which of the top two - Jefferson or Burr would get the nod. This is where the unhappiness
Adams and Jefferson Reconcile, Burr and Hamilton Do Not
Burr wound up as Vice President, and Hamilton wound up six feet under when Burr settled the score with him, killing Hamilton in a duel in in 1804 (pictured below). Burr, for his part was dropped from the ticket, and left the Vice Presidency in 1805. He was charged and brought to a public trial for treason in 1807 for having supposedly
he authored the famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence "All men are created equal" yet he owned slaves and never freed them -- not even in his will -- this man believed in a weaker president yet strengthened the office significantly with the Louisiana Purchase. He would never regard the presidency as a high point in his career. During the strain and bitterness of his political years he had become estranged from his one time friend John Adams. But during their long retirement, he and Adams rekindled their old friendship. They conducted a long correspondence which stands as likely their greatest gift to their country. Then on July 4th, 1824 - exactly 50 years to the day that the Declaration, which Adams had talked a reluctant Jefferson into writing was adopted, John Adams died. His last full sentence was: "Thomas Jefferson survives." He was unaware that Jefferson had in fact died -- on that very same day, just a few hours earlier.
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"A History of the Democratic Party" - Gary L. Hilliard, Cincinnati, 1978, Unpublished,
"Presidential Campaigns" by Paul F. Boller Jr. , Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 1984.
John Adams =
Thomas Jefferson =
Naval war =
Alexander Hamilton =
Aaron Burr =
Burr/Hamilton Duel =