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Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History)

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Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History) Cover

ISBN13: 9780195189063
ISBN10: 019518906x
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Publisher Comments:

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 a gripping account of a true turning point in American history, a dramatic struggle between two parties with profoundly different visions of how the nation should be governed. Adams led the Federalists, conservatives who favored a strong central government, and Jefferson led the Republicans, egalitarians who felt 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--Federalists called Jefferson "a howling atheist"--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 election ended in a stalemate in the Electoral College that dragged on for days and nights and 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.

Jefferson's election, John Ferling concludes, consummated the American Revolution, assuring the democratization of the United States and its true separation from Britain. 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.

Synopsis:

The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College. This 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.

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

John Ferling is Professor of History at the State University of West Georgia. A leading authority on American Revolutionary history, he has appeared in many documentaries and has written numerous books, including John Adams: A Life, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, and Jefferson in the American Revolution, and the award-winning A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic.

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OneMansView, December 6, 2008 (view all comments by OneMansView)
The United States gets back on the republican track in 1800 (4.5*s)

While the particulars and the intrigues surrounding the election of 1800 made it the most raucous election held to that point in US history, it was, more importantly, according to Thomas Jefferson, the culmination of the American Revolution begun twenty-five years prior. It was, in his mind, no less than the repudiation of the elitist Federalist era that had lasted the long decade dating from the Constitutional Convention in 1787. More so than the election, the author focuses on the events and decisions of that decade that gave rise to a political party, the Republicans, who opposed the entrenched party of government, the Federalists, all of which did lead to the first Presidential election with identifiable political parties. Some of the most capable political figures in American history were players in the 1790s. While John Adams held the offices of both Vice President and President in the 90s, it was Alexander Hamilton who was the driving force behind the Federalists and their policies of nationalism and commercialism. Both Jefferson and James Madison were greatly disturbed by the power and size of the federal government, the militarism of the Federalists, and their rejection of republicanism, or average citizen empowerment.

Most of the leading figures in colonial society in the decade after the Revolutionary War came to understand that the Articles of Confederation left the United States in a helpless state, almost on the edge of collapse. When those elites met in Philadelphia in 1787, they had no intention of constructing a true democratic republic; in fact, they feared the democratic initiatives of recent years in various states. The design of the US Constitution, with its roadblocks at every turn, virtually guaranteed that popular initiatives could not be realized. However, it was not fully appreciated at the time just how much power some, namely Hamilton, wanted to exert through the central government.

Early on in the Washington administration, both Madison and Jefferson knew that Treasury secretary Hamilton’s initiatives to fully fund US war debts (a boon to speculators in War bonds), to assume the wartime debts of the states, and to establish a central US bank were designed to enhance the interests of commercial elites. However, it was the US involvement in European affairs that engendered the strongest opposition throughout the decade. The official neutrality position of the US towards British-French hostilities in 1793 merely confirmed to many that US elites had far too much respect for aristocratic British society. Democratic-Republican societies (the forerunner to the Republican Party) emerged at this time to denounce the failure of the US to support the French in their efforts to establish a republican order.

When the French began preying upon US shipping in 1796, largely as a result of the US pro-British stance, the Federalist reaction was militaristic. The French refusal to accept US envoys in 1798 caused the Quasi-War with France to reach a fever pitch. Both Hamilton and Adams had to exert a moderating influence to keep ultra-Federalists from forcing a war with France. However, they did ram the Alien and Sedition Acts through Congress which were designed to curtail critical commentary of the policies of the US and its officials. Numerous newspaper writers and editors were jailed under the Sedition Act. It is the black spot on Adams’ presidency that will not go away.

As the author points out, the republican political societies and the partisan opposition press did profoundly impact the perceptions among average Americans who now saw Federalists as social elites and who were increasingly alarmed at their militarism, policies favoring elite commercial interests, including tight-money monetary policies, pro-British and anti-French stances, and their ignoring of First Amendment rights to a free press. The first significant evidence of a shift among voters was the takeover of the New York assembly by the Republicans in 1800, virtually guaranteeing Jefferson all of New York’s electoral votes, since that body selected the electors.

The author describes well the peculiar electoral system of that era whereby the two Congressional caucuses actually nominated two candidates for President, reflecting the fact that electors actually cast two votes for President, one vote of which could not be for a candidate from his state. The top two vote getters became President and Vice President regardless of party. If no candidate received a majority of votes in the Electoral College or the top two tied, then the House of Representatives decided the election with each state getting one vote. In 1800, the vote of nine states out of sixteen was required to win the election. Another variable in the election process was the manner in which electors were selected. In some states the legislature chose, in others popular voting by district or statewide selected electors, with states frequently changing the system between elections.

Into this novel electoral system stepped the candidates for President in 1800: John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina were nominated by the Federalists and Jefferson and Aaron Burr of New York by the Republicans. As the author points out, there was far more politicking in the election of 1800 than ever before. In the first place, the Republican press had greatly expanded. If anything, the Republicans were more organized with pamphlets, parades, dinners, picnics, etc. The Federalists, sensing their cause as being lost, mounted scurrilous on Jefferson concerning his alleged atheism and radicalism. And there are the intrigues of Hamilton before the election and of Burr once the election moved to the House of Representatives because of the tie between Burr and Jefferson. Wiser heads did finally prevail in the Congressional contest, averting a potentially dire political crisis. As it was, the election represented the first peaceful transfer of power from one faction to another in US history.

The author captures well the fact that the 1790s and the election of 1800 were very pivotal times in US history. The promise of the American Revolution was slowing ebbing away. Perhaps there are those believe that the direction of US history was firmly cast by the Revolution. This book makes clear that is not the case. The thinking and efforts of Jefferson, Madison, republican societies and newspapers were instrumental in changing the course that the Federalists had set for the US and the greater society. Jefferson was overjoyed that the US had finally been able to cast off the Toryism of the Federalists and hopefully begin anew on the path promised by the Revolution.

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Product Details

ISBN:
9780195189063
Author:
Ferling, John E.
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Author:
Ferling, John
Author:
null, John
Subject:
United States - Antebellum Era
Subject:
United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Subject:
Political Process - Elections
Subject:
Government - Executive Branch
Subject:
History, American | Early National
Subject:
Jefferson, Thomas
Subject:
United States Politics and government.
Subject:
US History-1800 to Civil War
Subject:
US History-19th Century
Series:
Pivotal Moments in American History
Series Volume:
16
Publication Date:
20051031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
4 maps, 25 halftones
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
9.31x6.11x.72 in. .93 lbs.

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Related Subjects

» Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
» History and Social Science » Politics » General
» History and Social Science » US History » 1800 to Civil War
» History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
» History and Social Science » US History » Revolution and Constitution Era
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Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History) Used Trade Paper
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Product details 288 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780195189063 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College. This 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.

"Synopsis" by , 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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