Adams Vs. Jefferson Review
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Think the last two presidential elections have been nail biters? Then you should take a look at the presidential election of 1800. That election ended in an Electoral College tie and took 36 votes by the House of Representatives to pick a president. Today’s elections are nothing compared to what it took to decide the winner back then.

John Ferling gives readers a fresh and contemporaneous look at the election of 1800 and the events that led up to it in Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800. He shows how this election was really the final battle of the war for American Independence. The book covers the moves made by all the major players of the day, including men like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

It was a titanic battle between the most powerful politicians of the era. It was a time when political parties were just beginning to form, and there were more than just two candidates for the office. In fact, most politicians felt that the office of president should seek out the man instead of the man actively running for the office. I know—that’s a radical thought today.

Adams was the sitting president, and, like so many modern presidents, he started his term in a flurry of success, only to stumble down the stretch. Jefferson was retired from political life on his Virginia plantation, Monticello, when his supporters began to push him to run. Because of a flaw in the Constitution, the Electoral College locked in a tie between Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, with Adams eliminated from the race entirely.

Adams and Jefferson were both heroes of the American Revolution, but both men also had issues with their reputations. The parties exploited the flaws of the opposition in ways that make more modern elections seem tame and civilized—complete with name-calling, back room deals for votes, and outright voter fraud in many places. The two men had been the best of friends during the Revolution, but this race caused a bitterness that kept them from speaking to each other for nearly twenty years.

Adams Vs. Jefferson is worth reading to get a better understanding of how many problems our nation had in the early part of its history. It’s an important story that never seems to be taught in our schools. This election led to the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it laid the groundwork for the Civil War, it was first time that a member of the opposition party had ousted the sitting president without bloodshed, and it killed the political career of Alexander Hamilton—confidant to George Washington, the founder of the national bank, and architect of our monetary system.

This book should be required reading for anyone who’s registered to vote.

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