Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

6
“A Narrow Squeak”
The First Contested
Presidential Election, 1796

UNTIL EARLY IN 1796, when he signaled to Madison that he might after all be willing to seek the presidency, Jefferson had insisted that he would never return to public life. Madison was unlikely to have been surprised by Jefferson's about-face. He knew Jefferson's horror of being seen as lusting after office, but he also knew his friend had changed his mind before about coming out of retirement. Furthermore, since the Jay Treaty, Jefferson's correspondence had evinced a rekindling of his old partisan fervor. But until Washington officially announced his intention to retire, Jefferson said nothing about the presidency, even though in the spring the congressional Republicans had already agreed to “push” him and Burr, while the Federalists in Congress caucused and endorsed Adams and Thomas Pinckney. 1

Adams was just as careful not to reveal an interest in the presidency, and for a time he struck a posture of indecision even while writing to Abigail. His family had claims on him, but so did the nation, he anguished. He found the prospect of becoming “the Butt of Party Malevolence” to be “bitter nauseous and unwholesome.” 2 Yet he must consider his character. His reputation would be destroyed if it was thought he had turned his back on the presidency at this critical juncture. Could he meet the physical challenges of the job? His health was better than it had been at any time during the past fifteen years, and he felt strong and

-83-

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Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Adams Vs. Jefferson *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Editors' Note xi
  • Illustrations and Maps xiii
  • Preface xvii
  • Adams Vs. Jefferson *
  • 1 - Election Eve, 1800 1
  • 2 - “an Affection That Can Never Die” 18
  • 3 - Creating the New National System, 1786–1792 36
  • 4 - Partisanship, 1793–1796 57
  • 5 - Jefferson and Adams on the Eve of the Battle in 1796 69
  • 6 - The First Contested Presidential Election, 1796 83
  • 7 - The Partisan Inferno, 1797–1798 99
  • 8 - Summer 1798 to Autumn 1799 113
  • 9 - Winter and Spring, 1800 126
  • 10 - The Campaign of 1800 135
  • 11 - The Election of 1800 162
  • 12 - The House Decides the Election 175
  • 13 - Jefferson's Inauguration 197
  • Epilogue - “the Revolution of 1800” 207
  • Abbreviations 217
  • Notes 221
  • Index 251
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