United States presidential election, 1800
138 electoral votes of the Electoral College
70 electoral votes needed to win
Presidential election results map. Green denotes states won by Jefferson, orange denotes states won by Adams, and gray denotes non voting territories. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
The United States presidential election of 1800 was the 4th quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Friday, October 31 to Wednesday, December 3, 1800. In what is sometimes referred to as the "Revolution of 1800," Vice President Thomas Jefferson defeated President John Adams. The election was a realigning election that ushered in a generation of Democratic-Republican Party rule and the eventual demise of the Federalist Party in the First Party System. It was a long, bitter re-match of the 1796 election between the pro-French and pro-decentralization Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson and Aaron Burr, against incumbent Adams and Charles Pinckney's pro-British and pro-centralization Federalists. The chief political issues included opposition to the tax imposed by Congress to pay for the mobilization of the new army and the navy in the Quasi-War against France in 1798, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, by which Federalists were trying to stifle dissent, especially by Democratic-Republican newspaper editors.
While the Democratic-Republicans were well organized at the state and local levels, the Federalists were disorganized, and suffered a bitter split between their two major leaders, President Adams and Alexander Hamilton. The jockeying for electoral votes, regional divisions, and the propaganda smear campaigns created by both parties made the election recognizably modern.
The election exposed one of the flaws in the original Constitution. Members of the Electoral College were authorized by the original Constitution to vote for two names for President. (The two-vote ballot was created in order to try to maximize the possibility that one candidate received votes from a majority of the electors nationwide; the drafters of the Constitution had not anticipated the rise of organized political parties, which made attaining a nationwide majority much easier.) The Democratic-Republicans had planned for one of the electors to abstain from casting his second vote for Aaron Burr, which would have led to Jefferson receiving one electoral vote more than Burr. The plan, however, was mishandled. Each elector who voted for Jefferson also voted for Burr, resulting in a tied electoral vote. The election was then put into the hands of the outgoing House of Representatives, which, after 35 votes in which neither Jefferson nor Burr obtained a majority, elected Jefferson on the 36th ballot.
To rectify the flaw in the original presidential election mechanism, the Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, was added to the United States Constitution, stipulating that electors make a discrete choice between their selections for president and vice-president.
The result of this election was affected by the three-fifths clause – had slaves not been counted as persons for purposes of Congressional apportionment, Adams would have won, albeit with a lower number of popular votes than Jefferson. Jefferson was subsequently criticised as having won "the temple of Liberty on the shoulders of slaves".
- 1 General election
- 2 Contingent election of 1801
- 3 Electoral college selection
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 External links
- John Adams, President of the United States from Massachusetts
- Aaron Burr, former U.S. Senator from New York
- Thomas Jefferson, Vice President of the United States from Virginia
- Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, former U.S. Minister to France from South Carolina
Federalist candidates gallery
Democratic-Republican candidates gallery
The 1800 election was a re-match of the 1796 election. The campaign was bitter and characterized by slander and personal attacks on both sides. Federalists spread rumors that the Democratic-Republicans were radicals who would ruin the country (based on the Democratic-Republican support for the French Revolution). In 1798, George Washington had complained "that you could as soon scrub the blackamoor white, as to change the principles of a professed Democrat; and that he will leave nothing unattempted to overturn the Government of this Country". Meanwhile, the Democratic-Republicans accused Federalists of destroying Democratic-Republican values, not to mention political support from immigrants, with the Alien and Sedition Acts, some of which were later declared unconstitutional after their expiration by the Supreme Court; they also accused Federalists of favoring Britain in order to promote aristocratic, anti-Democratic-Republican values.
Adams was attacked by both the opposition Democratic-Republicans and a group of so-called "High Federalists" aligned with Alexander Hamilton. The Democratic-Republicans felt that the Adams foreign policy was too favorable toward Britain; feared that the new army called up for the Quasi-War would oppress the people; opposed new taxes to pay for war; and attacked the Alien and Sedition Acts as violations of states' rights and the Constitution. "High Federalists" considered Adams too moderate and would have preferred the leadership of Alexander Hamilton instead. Hamilton, in his third sabotage attempt towards Adams, schemed to elect vice-presidential candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to the presidency. One of Hamilton's letters, a scathing criticism of Adams that was fifty-four pages long, became public when it came into the hands of a Democratic-Republican. It embarrassed Adams and damaged Hamilton's efforts on behalf of Pinckney, not to mention speeding Hamilton's own political decline.
Hamilton had apparently grown impatient with Adams and wanted a new president who was more receptive to his pro-federal goals. During Washington's presidency, Hamilton had been able to influence the federal response to the Whiskey Rebellion (which threatened the government's power to tax citizens). When Washington announced that he would not seek a third term, Adams was widely recognized by the Federalists as next-in-line.
Hamilton appears to have hoped in 1796 that his influence within an Adams administration would be as great or greater than in Washington's. By 1800, Hamilton had come to realize that Adams was too independent and chose to support Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina. Given Pinckney's lack of political experience, he would have been expected to be open to Hamilton's influence. However, Hamilton's plan backfired and hurt the Federalist party.
Selection method changes
Partisans on both sides sought any advantage they could find. In several states, this included changing the process of selecting electors to ensure the desired result. In Georgia, Democratic-Republican legislators replaced the popular vote with selection by the state legislature. Federalist legislators did the same in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This may have had some unintended consequences in Massachusetts, where the makeup of the delegation to the House of Representatives changed from 12 Federalists and 2 Democratic-Republicans to 8 Federalists and 6 Democratic-Republicans, perhaps the result of backlash on the part of the electorate. Pennsylvania also switched to legislative choice, but this resulted in an almost evenly split set of electors. Virginia switched from electoral districts to winner-take-all, a move that probably switched one or two votes out of the Federalist column.
Because each state could choose its own election day, voting lasted from April to October. In April, Burr's successful mobilization of the vote in New York City succeeded in reversing the Federalist majority in the state legislature. With the two parties tied 65–65 in the Electoral College, the last state to vote, South Carolina, chose eight Democratic-Republicans, giving the election to Jefferson and Burr. However the Democratic-Republicans neglected to have one of their electors abstain from voting for Burr.
Under the United States Constitution as it then stood, each elector cast two votes and the candidate with a majority of the votes was elected president, with the vice-presidency going to the runner-up. The Federalists, therefore, arranged for one of their electors to vote for John Jay rather than for vice-presidential candidate Pinckney. The Democratic-Republicans had a similar plan to have one of their electors cast a vote for another candidate instead of Burr, but failed to execute it.[Note 1] By a misadventure, all of the Democratic-Republican electors cast their votes for both Jefferson and Burr, giving them each 73 votes. The tie thus had to be resolved by the House of Representatives, with each state casting one vote. Although the election of 1800 had given majority control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic-Republicans by 68 seats to 38, the presidential election would be decided by the outgoing House, which had been elected in the Federalist landslide of 1798 and was controlled by the Federalists, 60 seats to 46. At that time, the new presidential term as well as the new Congressional terms started on March 4.
When the electoral ballots were opened and counted on February 11, 1801, it turned out that the certificate of election from Georgia was defective; while it was clear that the electors had cast their votes for Jefferson and Burr, the certificate did not take the constitutionally mandated form of a "List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each". Vice-President Jefferson, who was counting the votes in his role as President of the Senate, immediately counted the votes from Georgia as votes for Jefferson and Burr. No objections were raised. If disputed, Jefferson and Burr would have lost 4 electoral votes, leaving them with 69 electoral votes each. The counting of the votes would have failed to result in a majority of 70 votes for any of the four candidates, causing a constitutionally mandated Congressional runoff among the top five finishers. Instead, the total number of votes for Jefferson and Burr was 73, a majority of the total, but a tie between them.
Of the 155 counties/independent cities making returns, Jefferson won in 115 (74.19%) while Adams carried 40 (25.81%).
Jefferson and Burr tied for first place, so the election was thrown into the House of Representatives.
|Presidential Candidate||Party||Home State||Popular Vote(a), (b), (c)||Electoral Vote|
|Aaron Burr||Democratic-Republican||New York||—||—||73(d)|
|John Adams (incumbent)||Federalist||Massachusetts||25,952||38.6%||65|
|Charles Cotesworth Pinckney||Federalist||South Carolina||—||—||64|
|John Jay||Federalist||New York||—||—||1|
|Needed to win||70|
Source (Popular Vote): U.S. President National Vote. Our Campaigns. (February 10, 2006).
Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 30, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
(a) Votes for Federalist electors have been assigned to John Adams and votes for Democratic-Republican electors have been assigned to Thomas Jefferson.
(b) Only 6 of the 16 states chose electors by any form of popular vote.
(c) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.
(d) A faithless elector in New York voted twice for Aaron Burr, but this violated electoral college rules and so the second vote was re-assigned to Thomas Jefferson.
Breakdown by ticket
|Presidential Candidate||Running Mate||Electoral Vote|
|Thomas Jefferson||Aaron Burr||73|
|John Adams||Charles Cotesworth Pinckney||64|
|John Adams||John Jay||1|
Contingent election of 1801
The members of the House of Representatives balloted as states to determine whether Jefferson or Burr would become president. There were sixteen states, and an absolute majority—in this case, nine—was required for victory. It was the outgoing House of Representatives, controlled by the Federalist Party, that was charged with electing the new president.
While it was common knowledge that Jefferson was the candidate for president and Burr for vice-president, many Federalists were unwilling to support Jefferson, their partisan nemesis (with one important exception, Alexander Hamilton). After all, Jefferson had been the principal opponent of Federalists since 1789. Seizing an opportunity to deny Jefferson the presidency, most Federalists voted for Burr, giving Burr six of the eight states controlled by Federalists. The seven delegations controlled by Democratic-Republicans all voted for Jefferson, and Georgia's sole Federalist representative also voted for him, giving him eight states. Vermont was evenly split, and cast a blank ballot. The remaining state, Maryland, had five Federalist representatives to three Democratic-Republicans; one of its Federalist representatives voted for Jefferson, forcing that state delegation also to cast a blank ballot.
Over the course of seven days, from February 11 to 17, the House cast a total of 35 ballots, with Jefferson receiving the votes of eight state delegations each time—one short of the necessary majority of nine. During the contest, Hamilton recommended to Federalists that they support Jefferson because he was "by far not so dangerous a man" as Burr; in short, he would much rather have someone with wrong principles than someone devoid of any. Hamilton embarked on a frenzied letter-writing campaign to get delegates to switch votes.
On February 17, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected. Federalist James A. Bayard of Delaware and his allies in Maryland and Vermont all cast blank ballots. This resulted in the Maryland and Vermont votes changing from no selection to Jefferson, giving him the votes of 10 states and the presidency. Bayard, as the sole representative from Delaware, changed his vote from Burr to no selection. The four present representatives from South Carolina, all Federalists, also changed their 3-1 selection of Burr to four abstentions.
|Overall results||8 Jefferson
2 No result
2 No result
|Georgia(b)||Jefferson (1-0)||Jefferson (1-0)||Jefferson (1-0)|
|Kentucky||Jefferson (2-0)||Jefferson (2-0)||Jefferson (2-0)|
|New Jersey||Jefferson (3-2)||Jefferson (3-2)||Jefferson (3-2)|
|New York||Jefferson (6-4)||Jefferson (6-4)||Jefferson (6-4)|
|North Carolina||Jefferson (9-1)||Jefferson (6-4)||Jefferson (6-4)|
|Pennsylvania||Jefferson (9-4)||Jefferson (9-4)||Jefferson (9-4)|
|Tennessee||Jefferson (1-0)||Jefferson (1-0)||Jefferson (1-0)|
|Virginia||Jefferson (16-3)||Jefferson (14-5)||Jefferson (14-5)|
|Maryland||no result (4-4)||no result (4-4)||Jefferson (4-0-4)|
|Vermont||no result (1-1)||no result (1-1)||Jefferson (1-0-1)|
|Delaware||Burr (0-1)||Burr (0-1)||no result (0-0-1)|
|South Carolina(c)||Burr (0-5)||Burr (1-3)||no result (0-0-4)|
|Connecticut||Burr (0-7)||Burr (0-7)||Burr (0-7)|
|Massachusetts||Burr (3-11)||Burr (3-11)||Burr (3-11)|
|New Hampshire||Burr (0-4)||Burr (0-4)||Burr (0-4)|
|Rhode Island||Burr (0-2)||Burr (0-2)||Burr (0-2)|
(a) The votes of the representatives is typical and may have fluctuated from ballot to ballot, but the result for each state did not change.
(b) Even though Georgia had two representatives apportioned, one seat was vacant due to the death of James Jones.
(c) Even though South Carolina had six representatives apportioned, Thomas Sumter was absent due to illness, and Abraham Nott departed for South Carolina between the first and final ballots.
Electoral college selection
The Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, provided that the state legislatures should decide the manner in which their Electors were chosen. Different state legislatures chose different methods:
|Method of choosing Electors||State(s)|
|State is divided into electoral districts, with one Elector chosen per district by the voters of that district||Kentucky
|Each Elector chosen by voters statewide||Rhode Island
|Each Elector appointed by state legislature||(all other states)|
- History of the United States (1789-1849)
- United States House of Representatives elections, 1800
- United States House of Representatives elections, 1798
- First inauguration of Thomas Jefferson
- Stephen Simpson (writer) (editor of the Aurora, a Philadelphia newspaper Jefferson credited for his victory in 1800)
- In fact, their plan was almost reversed by a faithless elector in New York who cast both of his votes for Burr. This would have been enough to give him the presidency, but the state re-assigned the second vote to Jefferson since Article 2, Section 3, of the Constitution prohibited an elector from casting both his votes for an inhabitant of the same state as the elector; Burr was a resident of New York.
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- Sharp, James Roger. The Deadlocked Election of 1800: Jefferson, Burr, and the Union in the Balance (University Press of Kansas; 2010) 239 pages;
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- Presidential Election of 1800: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress
- Documentary Timeline Lesson plans from NEH
- A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825
- Vote Archive: Town Map of Election Results in Rhode Island
- Vote Archive: County Map of Election Results in Virginia
- Overview at Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections
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- Booknotes interview with John Ferling on Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, October 3, 2004.
- Election of 1800 in Counting the Votes