Presidential elections – 1796 and 1800

With the upset in the recent election, I thought it would be interesting and important to look at it with a historical perspective.

In 1796, George Washington was at the end of his second term. Beset with ill health and in-fighting in his Cabinet, he decided not to run again. The Federalist Party put up John Adams as the candidate with Thomas Pinckney as his running mate. The Federalists were a party of bankers and businessman, the money party rather like the Republicans of today. The Federalists were pro – English and for high tariffs. The Democratic-Republicans put up Thomas Jefferson with Aaron Burr as his running mate. This party was pro-French.

George Washington, by the way, did not belong to either party. He felt the President should rise above politics. He was the first, and probably the last, Independent President. But I digress.

The Constitution at that time did not make provision for a candidate and a running mate; winners were based entirely upon electoral college votes. John Adams won the Presidency, and Thomas Jefferson the Vice-Presidency. This is the only time the President and Vice-President were from opposing tickets.

The exact same thing happened in 1800 except that this time the Democratic-Republic party won and Jefferson and Burr won the same number of electoral college votes.

Both elections were characterized by vicious smears directed at the opposing party, juggling for electoral college votes and regional divisiveness.

The contested election was sent to the outgoing House of Representatives. On the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected.

To prevent this kind of thing from happening again, the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1803. It called for the electors to make a discrete choice.



One thought on “Presidential elections – 1796 and 1800

  1. Very interesting article; many divisive issues have occurred throughout American history and elections; if people were better educated on American history, they would realize this and not be having a melt down because of what happened in this year’s election.

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