The Quasi-War with France, the XYZ Affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts were all on people’s minds as the year 1800 dawned. And, very soon, people focused their concerns about these issues in the political arena, as the election of 1800 approached.
The year 1800 seemed to be a landmark year for Americans in many ways. Many hoped that the approaching new century would be one of development and growth for the young United States. George Washington’s death in December 1799 seemed to mark the end of an era and just added to the sense of the dawn of a new age. As people considered what the future would bring, they worried about the divisions that existed in the United States.
The major candidates in 1800 were the same as in 1796: John Adams for the Federalists and Thomas Jefferson for the Republicans. The electoral college still worked as it had in 1796—the person with the most votes became president and the person with the second highest number of votes became vice president. This time, rather than people from different political parties being chosen, the Republican candidates (Thomas Jefferson for president and Aaron Burr of New York for vice president) came out of the electoral college in a tie. The tie had to be broken by the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives was still controlled by the Federalists, and so, in one of the greatest ironies in American history, the Federalists got to choose which Republican candidate would be the next president of the United States. After several months of debate, Alexander Hamilton threw his support to Thomas Jefferson, who was elected.
By 1800, most Americans had generally accepted the idea of political parties. They no longer assumed that the opposition was evil. Instead, they increasingly discussed and debated what the future would be like, depending on which party won the 1800 election. The newspapers led this discus-