How the Heated, Divisive Election of 1800 Was the First Real Test of American DemocracyRoundup
tags: election 2016, Jefferson, Election of 1800, Adams
On a windy afternoon in February 1959, 14-year-old Craig Wade scooped up what seemed to be a crumpled rag that was blowing, tumbleweed style, across a railroad track in his hometown, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He later told a local newspaper that he simply “likes to save things.
Wade had scavenged a one-of-a-kind relic of American political history, identified only when a younger brother, Richard, took the find to his fifth-grade teacher. The victory banner—featuring a crudely drawn cartoon of Thomas Jefferson and an American eagle, inscribed with the motto “T. Jefferson President of the United States of America/John Adams is no more”—turns out to be a precious souvenir from the pivotal 1800 American presidential contest. Designed by an anonymous Jefferson supporter, this piece of political folk art symbolizes a defining test of our fledgling democracy: the ceding of power from one political party to another.
It also speaks loudly to us today because the election demonstrates that partisan rancor was a fact of our national political life from the outset. The founding generation cautioned against the divisiveness of “factions.” But in the absence of fully developed parties, the election of 1800 quickly devolved into a cutthroat contest. The main factions were organized around personalities—John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. No small egos here: The stage was set for wide-open war.
Adams had entered the presidency in 1797 professing his “positive passion for the public good.” Yet Adams, who demanded deference to hierarchy and class, was contemptuous of new forms of political democracy. He viewed with alarm Jefferson’s affection for the early ideals of the French Revolution, seeing Jefferson and the growing Democratic-Republican societies around him as a Jacobin menace.
When the French Navy seized American ships carrying British goods, the so-called Quasi-War, which was undeclared, broke out in 1798. Adams became wildly popular. He sponsored the Alien and Sedition Acts, which allowed the president to deport immigrants suspected of disloyalty and to prosecute dissenting political opinion. Adams appeared in public in full military uniform, wearing a sword. ...
comments powered by Disqus
- Pulling Back the Curtain on Industrial Toxins
- Did Abraham Lincoln sleep here?
- University of South Carolina unveils statue of first black professor
- Inside Billy Graham's Powerful Relationship With U.S. Presidents
- Children have changed America before, braving fire hoses and police dogs for civil rights
- The next president of the OAH will be ... Yale's Joanne Meyerowitz
- Top Ten Signs the US is the most Corrupt nation in the World (2018 Edn.)
- Seven Books Named as Finalists for the 2018 George Washington Prize
- McMaster could leave WH after months of tension with Trump
- AHA President Mary Beth Norton says ending sexual harassment is a high priority