The Election of 1800: Adams vs. Jefferson

Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Lace ‘Em Up’s Presidential Election series. Today we will be going over the Election of 1800 as the Federalists and reigning president, John Adams takes on his Vice President and member of the Democratic-Republicans, Thomas Jefferson in one of the most important elections in early United States History.

A Rough Four Years

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When we last saw John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as part of this series they were competing in the election of 1796. This is where Adams narrowly won the election to become the second President of the United States while Jefferson (Adams’ former friend turned enemy) came in second place in the electoral vote. This meant under the rules of the U.S. Constitution whoever came in second place in the election became the Vice President.

Since that election, it’s been a very awkward four years for both men. Their political differences and personal hatred for each other have only further divided the nation and shown how things have changed since George Washington left office.

President John Adams has been dealing with major issue after major issue starting with America’s loyalties overseas as Adams much like the rest of the Federalist Party seem to be favouring Great Britain as an ally. This annoyed Jefferson and the rest of the Democratic-Republicans who are in favour of supporting the French especially in ‘The Quasi-War’. This was a naval conflict between the Americans and the Republic of France over U.S. ships trading supplies with Great Britain who were enemies of the French.

In addition to that war, the Republic of France was starting to seize U.S. shipping vessels whilst negotiations between both sides failed to go anywhere until a treaty was signed in September of 1800.

When it comes to domestic policies, Adams’ issue with fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton continues to drive a wedge within the Federalist Party. On top of that, Adams also signed into law the ‘Alien and Sedition Act’ which not only restricted those in the U.S. from questioning or making insensitive comments about the government (which could lead to you spending time in jail), but it also made a lot harder for immigrants to become U.S. citizens. This law even had the power of sending those same immigrants back to where they came from if they were perceived as dangerous. 

So, John Adams has a few things working against him heading into this election and the fact that his VP and rival, Thomas Jefferson has had a front room seat to all of this for the last four years will make it even harder.

Nasty Campaigning

The Election of 1800

Throughout much of his time as VP and now President, many detractors of John Adams would go on to call the Massachusetts native a variety of names like ‘His Rotundity’ due to the founding father’s rather husky appearance.

The Democratic-Republicans would also refer to Adams as someone with a hermaphroditical personality which lacked the firmness of a man or the sensibilities of a woman, which by 1800 talk was one heck of an insult, especially towards the President of the United States.

The Federalists also did some mudslinging of their own referring to Vice President, Thomas Jefferson as an atheist while also mentioning that he was the lovechild of Indian and Mulatto parents. They also criticised him and his support of France especially after the events of the Quasi-War…Needless to say that the country was more divided than it had ever been before.

Both Adams and Jefferson were given running mates in the form of South Carolina Senator, Charles C. Pinckney and New York Senator, Aaron Burr with both parties choosing Pinckney and Burr respectively with the hopes that one of them will get the needed votes to become Vice President alongside their respective candidates. This was in order to prevent the unusual result of the election of 1796 from happening again as the Constitution still made it clear that the top two people who had the most electoral votes would then become President and Vice President.

But who would come out on top in this election? For that answer, let’s take a look at the results.

The Election of 1800: Results

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Much like the previous election, the electoral results seemed pretty close as you need 70 or more electoral votes to win. The outcome was much different from 1796 as Thomas Jefferson won with 73 electoral votes to John Adams’ 65 electoral votes and Charles Pinckney’s 64 electoral votes.

With this loss, John Adams became the first one-term President in American history and it also became the closest presidential election since 1796 from the electoral standpoint, but in terms of the popular vote it was more one-sided with Jefferson getting 60.5% compared to Adams getting 39.4%.

Many historians have credited Jefferson’s win in the 1800 election not just because of the failures of the Adams administration both at home and abroad but for a number of other reasons. One was Senator Aaron Burr using a political machine centred in New York to discredit John Adams which helped the Democratic-Republicans get the state of New York, a state that many believed would’ve gone to Adams.

Another key factor in this election was the three-fifths compromise which gave more power to states that supported slavery. John Adams was the only founding father to become President who disliked the practice resulting in many southern states using that three-fifths compromise to vote for the slave-holding Jefferson. Had it not been for this compromise John Adams would’ve won the election but would’ve lost still lost the popular vote making him the first person to do so.

So, the Democratic-Republicans have done it they’ve won the Presidency and Thomas Jefferson is going to the White House as the next President of the United States…except there’s a problem.

See, the problem is Aaron Burr, the VP pick, also got 73 electoral votes which means that both Jefferson and Burr are tied. If this happens the results have to be sent to the House of Representatives in order to pick the winner and much like everything else about this election things are going to be controversial. 

Deciding The New President

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So, now we have a contingent election where the House of Representatives has to figure out who will become the new president out of Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson but it’s not as easy as you could imagine.

The big issue is that neither Jefferson nor Burr is able to get enough votes from the House of Representatives to become the President. This is down to some Federalists supporting Aaron Burr while many Democratic-Republicans are supporting Thomas Jefferson, but even after 35 ballots, neither man can be able to the necessary votes needed. 

Ultimately, the person who comes in to influence the outcome of this contingent election is none other than George Washington’s former Sectary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton who is more than happy over Adams being denied an opportunity to become a two-term President, now has another opportunity much like the 1796 election to be the kingmaker and put either Jefferson or Burr as the next commander and chief.

Hamilton decides to convince the representatives that Jefferson seems like a safer bet for President compared to Burr and after much deliberation, Thomas Jefferson gets the votes he needs from the House of Representatives to become the third President and the second Vice President to become Commander in Chief in U.S. history.

With Thomas Jefferson finally the new President, the Democratic-Republicans are looking to spread their influence on the United States for the next four years. While Hamilton may have gotten the outcome he wanted when it came to John Adams losing, a certain New York Senator who was screwed out of the presidency is looking for some payback and I think you all know how that is going turn out.

Be sure to come back in two weeks for the next Presidential Election, but if you are interested in learning more about U.S. political history on this site, be sure to check the links below to read more about that:

The Election of 1796: The Federalists vs, Democratic-Republicans:

The Election Of 1796: The Federalists Vs. Democratic-Republicans | Lace ‘Em Up (

The Election of 1792: Washington Wins A Second Term:

The Election Of 1792: Washington Gets A Second Term | Lace ‘Em Up (

The Election of 1788-89: The Election That Started It All:

The Election Of 1788-89: The Election That Started It All | Lace ‘Em Up (

If you like this kind of content, be sure to leave your thoughts down below in the comment section and be sure to follow Lace ‘Em Up on Twitter @laceemupoffice you can follow me also on Twitter @hakeemfullerton and I’ll see you in the next article

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