Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

11
“The Intention of Our Fellow Citizens”
The Election of 1800

ON ELECTION DAY—December 3—the presidential electors, according to the Constitution, were to “meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves.” While the electors traveled to their respective capitals at the beginning of December, politicians everywhere devoured rumors and crunched numbers. No one was better at this than Jefferson. Each day a combination of news and scuttlebutt reached the common table at Conrad and McMunn's, where Jefferson lived in Washington, and he gleaned further information in the Senate cloakroom on Capitol Hill. Jefferson was savvy enough to separate the legitimate reports from the bogus, and by early December he knew that he had been disappointed in Rhode Island, which would give him nothing in the electoral college. However, by then he also knew that Pennsylvania would participate. A last-minute compromise had been reached between the state's House and Senate that gave the Republicans eight electors and the Federalists seven. It was less than he had hoped for and less than he had won there in 1796, but more than he would have gotten had the deadlock persisted. As Election Day dawned, Jefferson was back where he had been a couple of months earlier: the outcome was too close to call, and South Carolina remained the key. Adams, meanwhile, believed that Pinckney would receive all eight votes from his home state, making

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