[Activity: Make a Campaign Button]
By Brandon Marie Miller
Four men ran for president in 1800. Except back then it looked bad for a gentleman to really "run" for president. Candidates "stood" for office. They didn't debate one another or make speeches. Instead, friends and newspapers fought on their behalf.
President John Adams, a Federalist, hoped he'd be re-elected. Another Federalist, Charles Pinckney was also in the race. Adams's main foe was Thomas Jefferson, a Republican (a different political party from today's modern one). New Yorker Aaron Burr also ran as a Republican. But it was a man not running for president who'd affect the election: Alexander Hamilton.
The Federalist party had splintered between those who supported Adams and those who followed Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton urged his supporters to abandon Adams after the two men quarreled. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Jefferson had been bitter enemies for years. Their clashing views for the future of the United States left no room for compromise.
|President John Adams|
Republicans claimed a Federalist win equaled monarchy and corruption. They spread scandal about Hamilton's affair with a married woman. Federalists in turn attacked Jefferson's luxurious lifestyle, his expensive tastes, and warned against his French connection. Did Americans want guillotines lopping off heads like in France? Jefferson's election, claimed Federalists, meant the end to churches and the burning of Bibles.
On December 3, 1800, electors met in each state and voted for the next president. Jefferson and Burr finished in a tie, 73 votes each. Adams finished third with 65 votes, a deep humiliation for the president. Now, the House of Representatives had to decide the outcome.
House members would sleep and eat in the unfinished Capitol building until they named a winner. Jefferson's supporters expected Burr to declare he was unfit, step aside, and throw his votes to Jefferson. But Burr refused. The House began voting on February 11, 1801. Rounds of voting took place; no man gained an advantage.
On February 17th House members voted for the 36th time. But this round, several Federalists threw in blank ballots, as did one Burr supporter, giving Jefferson the election. In those days, the man earning the second highest vote--Aaron Burr-- became the vice president.
Jefferson saw his election as a new and bloodless American Revolution. The Federalist party never regained its former power after the election. In July, 1804 Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Jefferson and Burr remained enemies. In 1807 President Jefferson had Burr arrested for treason, but there was not enough evidence to condemn him.
Activity: Presidential election materials, like buttons, are rare from the early 1800s. But you can make your own using Kerrie Hollihan's activity from her book, THEODORE ROOSEVELT FOR KIDS.