The Election of 1800
Revolution to the Sequel

The following is an opinion piece meant to entertain and educate students in U.S. History 201. This topic will be an essay choice in the next test.

As Americans, we seem to take many luxuries for granted (like the ability to watch Chuck Norris take criminals, terrorists, and all around haters to task anytime anywhere with the push of a button thanks to the invention of the iPod). We were the first country to have restaurants where you didn’t have to step out of your car in order to get your meal. We are also the first country in modern times where dramatic changes of powers have been facilitated without massive bloodshed.

Not all of us appreciate the change of political powers that may occur every two to four years; but back in the beginning of our country, such concepts were revolutionary (just like the Nintendo Wii when it first came out).

In the election of 1800, Americans finally realized that the great experiment that was the United States Constitution would actually work, or rather, was working better than what people thought.

Put the plutonium in the flux capacitor and accelerate to 88 miles per hour, Doc, because we’re going to take a little trip into the past.

The year is 1800, and it’s election time. Two political parties are operating. The Federalists, who have been in power ever since Washington was inaugurated President, believed in giving power in government to the more educated people because giving power to the common man would create the same effect as Black Friday at Wal-Mart or Macy’s: sheer chaos and utter destruction (especially if you’re pushing a cart). If you don’t give the crazed shopper (whose lifetime ambition is to obtain the latest Miley Cyrus album) a cart, there won’t be as much pandemonium as there would be if you did give the person a cart, just like if you don’t give the common man a lot of power, etc. etc. That’s what the Federalist believed.

The Federalists were running their candidate, the incumbent John Adams, with his running mate Thomas Pickney. However, because of almost starting a war with France and passing controversial laws, the Federalists were becoming less and less popular.

Then there’s the Jeffersonian Republicans. These are not the same Republicans that exist today; these Republicans were formed under Thomas Jefferson’s concept of a weak central government, strong state governments and his idea that common man should have more power in government because giving power to the common man is beneficial for all. (just look at You Tube-- millions of people can watch hours of free entertainment because someone give Mountain Dew to their already hyper Chihuahua and recorded it.)

The Republicans were running two candidates, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. The election of 1800 was the first election where smear tactics were used against candidates. People bashed Adams for his record as President; people bashed Thomas Jefferson for his Deist religious beliefs, criticizing him for not having a pure Christian belief. Bashers often said if Jefferson would be elected, all Americans would have to bury their Bibles. People bashed Burr’s character for being a power hungry megalomaniac. Well at least these people weren’t talking about putting lipstick on a pig and making regular appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”

In the 1800s, a person voted for president and vice president separately, regardless of party. The twelfth amendment was later passed changing to the rules that exist today: people vote for both President and Vice President as one choice. The votes were counted and the incumbent John Adams and his running mate Thomas Pickney were clearly voted out of office. Unfortunately, Burr and Jefferson were so close in the number of votes that it was considered a tie.

According to the Constitution, if a tie is reached, the House of Representatives must vote for the president. This is good, because I guess the alternative would be forcing Jefferson and Burr to fight each other to the death with spears and whips (like when Captain Kirk had to fight Mr. Spock in that one episode of “Star Trek”).

The House of Representatives voted, but there was still a tie. In fact, the House of Representatives voted 35 times for a decision but the vote was deadlocked; both Jefferson and Burr had an equal number of votes. Then Alexander Hamilton, a leading member of the Federalist Party, persuaded other members of the Federalist Party to either withhold or change their vote to Jefferson. Hamilton had worked with both Jefferson and Burr often over the years.

Between Jefferson’s differing political views and Burr’s excessive ambition and between the two Hamilton thought Jefferson would do a better job as President. So, congressmen in the House of Representatives voted for Jefferson for the same reason men watch the movie “Pretty Woman” with their wives and girlfriends on Super Bowl Sunday: for the greater good.

John Adams, the Federalist incumbent, was voted out of office, and Thomas Jefferson, the Republican, was voted into office. Now while that seems as anticlimactic as the ending of “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” there is so much more to be said about this transfer of power.

During this election, most of the Federalists were replaced with Republicans changing the ideological direction of the country. A dramatic change of ideas occurred without violence. Wow, the Federalists who had taken control of our government ever since the creation of our country were now stepping down from power peacefully.

Previous to this election, a change of a nation’s powers and ideologies often occurred as a result of violence and massive bloody revolutions. This is pretty cool if your name is Mel Gibson because it enables you to make Oscar-worthy movies that are also action packed, but it’s no good if you’re the person at the end of Gibson’s sword.

This election proved that power and ideas can change hands peacefully, a concept to the survival of our nation. This is the beginning of our nation’s heritage, aside from baseball, freedom of speech, double dates and the “Rocky” film franchise, of course.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.