JEFFERSON OR BURR
THE Republicans had won. But an unprecedented situation had arisen. Jefferson and Burr were tied in the number of votes received. Owing to the peculiarities of the Constitution, the electors of the various States had cast their ballots for two men, without differentiating between them as to which was to be designated President and which Vice-President.
As early as November, Madison had perceived the possibilities, but refused to believe that any danger could arise out of the anomalous situation.1 Jefferson had correctly gauged the situation also, and seemed to have taken certain precautions, which, however, did not prove effective. On December 2nd, Peter Freneau was writing him that one South Carolinian elector had been expected to vote for George Clinton instead of Burr, to insure the Presidency to Jefferson, but that he had failed to do so.2
Jefferson himself was still confident on December 12th that his plans had not wholly gone astray, notwithstanding South Carolina's defection. He had other strings to his bow. On that date he was informing Thomas Mann Randolph that "it was intended that one vote should be thrown away [in South Carolina] from Colo. Burr. It is believed Georgia will withhold from him one or two. The votes will stand probably T. J. 73, Burr about 70, Mr. Adams 65."3
Nevertheless, to dispel certain small doubts, he wrote a very canny and carefully worded congratulatory letter to his runningmate on December 15th. "It was badly managed," he told Burr, "not to have arranged with certainty what seems to have been left to hazard. It was the more material, because I understand several of the high-flying federalists have expressed their hope that the two republican tickets may be equal, and their determination in that case to prevent a choice by the House of Representatives (which they are strong enough to do), and let the government devolve on a president of the Senate." Under the Constitution, in case of a tie, the choice of a President was to be decided by a majority of the House of Representatives, voting as States, from the two highest candidates.
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Publication information: Book title: Aaron Burr: A Biography. Contributors: Nathan Schachner - Author. Publisher: A.S. Barnes. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1961. Page number: 188.
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