By the election of , the nation's first two parties were beginning to take shape. Because the Constitution did not distinguish between President and Vice-President in the votes cast by each state's electors in the Electoral College, both Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr received 73 votes. According to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, if two candidates each received a majority of the electoral votes but are tied, the House of Representatives would determine which one would be President. Therefore, the decision rested with the lame duck, Federalist-controlled House of Representatives. Thirty-five ballots were cast over five days but neither candidate received a majority. Many Federalists saw Jefferson as their principal foe, whose election was to be avoided at all costs. But Alexander Hamilton, a well-respected Federalist party leader, hated Burr and advised Federalists in Congress that Jefferson was the safer choice. Finally, on February 17, , on the thirty-sixth ballot, the House elected Thomas Jefferson to be President.
Politics and society in the early nineteenth century
The period of the early American republic, in particular, was a fierce and fractious time in our political history, with highly charged debates over the very foundation of self-rule and constitutional government. To conclude this brief cycle of columns, I want to take a look at the first and most consequential electoral crisis in American history: the election of On Dec. The last two years had been among the most tumultuous in the life of the young nation. Rising tensions with France brought paranoia, anti-French feeling and fears of armed conflict. It was against this backdrop, in , that President Adams and the Federalist Party turned their eyes toward their Democratic-Republican critics in the press. Faced with public contempt and slander in a society where politics were still personal and where, the historian Gordon S.
Nasty political mud-slinging. Campaign attacks and counterattacks. Personal insults. Outrageous newspaper invective. Dire predictions of warfare and national collapse. Innovative new forms of politicking capitalizing on a growing technology. As much as this seems to describe our present-day presidential contests, it actually describes an election more than two hundred years past. The deadlock in the House revealed a constitutional defect.
Writing to Judge Spencer Roane in the summer of , Thomas Jefferson recalled the tumultuous events leading up to his election to the presidency nearly two decades earlier. The "revolution of With the overwhelming support of the citizenry, Jefferson and his followers had overcome the politics of faction and intrigue, turned back the tide of counter-revolution, and restored the country to its true republican course.