Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling

By John Ferling

It used to be a competition of titans: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, heroes of the innovative period, as soon as intimate associates, now icy antagonists locked in a fierce conflict for the way forward for the U.S.. The election of 1800 was once a thunderous conflict of a crusade that climaxed in a impasse within the Electoral collage and resulted in a hindrance within which the younger republic teetered at the fringe of cave in.

Adams vs. Jefferson is the gripping account of a turning element in American historical past, a dramatic fight among events with profoundly diverse visions of the way the kingdom can be ruled. The Federalists, led through Adams, have been conservatives who favorite a powerful vital govt. The Republicans, led through Jefferson, have been extra egalitarian and believed that the Federalists had betrayed the Revolution of 1776 and have been backsliding towards monarchy. The crusade itself was once a barroom brawl every piece as ruthless as any smooth contest, with mud-slinging, scare strategies, and backstabbing. The low element got here while Alexander Hamilton published a devastating assault on Adams, the top of his personal get together, in "fifty-four pages of unremitting vilification." The stalemate within the Electoral collage dragged on via dozens of ballots. Tensions ran so excessive that the Republicans threatened civil battle if the Federalists denied Jefferson the presidency. ultimately a mystery deal that modified a unmarried vote gave Jefferson the White condominium. A devastated Adams left Washington earlier than sunrise on Inauguration Day, too embittered even to shake his rival's hand.

With magisterial command, Ferling brings to existence either the outsize personalities and the hotly contested political questions at stake. He indicates not only why this second used to be a milestone in U.S. heritage, yet how strongly the issues--and the passions--of 1800 resonate with our personal time.

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21 Jefferson appeared to possess abundant leadership qualities, but he was not interested in playing such a role. He planned to serve only briefly in Congress before returning to Virginia, to be near his family and, after independence, to reshape his state as it escaped British control. In addition, Jefferson lacked the temperament for legislative leadership. He thought it repugnant to cajole some colleagues, truckle to others, and daily importune and pester those about him. 23 Jefferson functioned well in small groups and found his niche in committee work, where with three or four colleagues he could discuss problems and set his trenchant mind to pondering thorny matters.

If this representation is correct, farm animals and even hunters roamed the unpaved streets of the new capital. e l e c t i o n eve , 1 8 0 0 17 was littered with piles of sand, lumber, brick, barrels, and boxes. Inside, the not-quite-completed mansion was redolent with the fullness of a score or more of scents, from dried lumber to wet plaster, bricks and mortar, fresh paint, and fusty insulation. Yet what Adams confronted was not untypical. This capital city, which had not even been imagined ten years before, was being constructed from scratch even as its initial federal occupants arrived.

Adams presented Jefferson to George III, who snubbed him, a gesture that only stoked the Virginian’s enmity toward Great Britain. 42 For both Adams and Jefferson, residency abroad was pivotal. By late in the 1780s Adams had been away from the United States for nearly a decade, but through a voluminous correspondence he had managed to keep abreast of the state of affairs at home. He knew that the war had nearly been lost through the weaknesses of a powerless central government. He was also aware that in the postwar period powerful interests had grown ever more a da m s a n d j e f f er s o n 29 restless with a central government that lacked the power to tax and regulate commerce, to open the trans-Appalachian West, to find new channels of trade, and to cope with domestic unrest.

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