Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800by John Ferling
Pub. Date: 10/20/2005
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
It was a contest of titans: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two heroes of the Revolutionary era, once intimate friends, now icy antagonists locked in a fierce battle for the future of the United States. The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College and led to a crisis in which the young republic… See more details below
It was a contest of titans: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two heroes of the Revolutionary era, once intimate friends, now icy antagonists locked in a fierce battle for the future of the United States. The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College and led to a crisis in which the young republic teetered on the edge of collapse.
Adams vs. Jefferson is the gripping account of a turning point in American history, a dramatic struggle between two parties with profoundly different visions of how the nation should be governed. The Federalists, led by Adams, were conservatives who favored a strong central government. The Republicans, led by Jefferson, were more egalitarian and believed that the Federalists had betrayed the Revolution of 1776 and were backsliding toward monarchy. The campaign itself was a barroom brawl every bit as ruthless as any modern contest, with mud-slinging, scare tactics, and backstabbing. The low point came when Alexander Hamilton printed a devastating attack on Adams, the head of his own party, in "fifty-four pages of unremitting vilification." The stalemate in the Electoral College dragged on through dozens of ballots. Tensions ran so high that the Republicans threatened civil war if the Federalists denied Jefferson the presidency. Finally a secret deal that changed a single vote gave Jefferson the White House. A devastated Adams left Washington before dawn on Inauguration Day, too embittered even to shake his rival's hand.
With magisterial command, Ferling brings to life both the outsize personalities and the hotly contested political questions at stake. He shows not just why this moment was a milestone in U.S. history, but how strongly the issuesand the passionsof 1800 resonate with our own time.
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My wife remarked that she hadn't seen me so engrossed in a book, beginning to end for a long time. (I normally have half a dozen going at once) This shortish book is an eye opener to the 1800 campaign. Read it.
I assign this book frequently, and my students like it a lot. Ferling provides an entertaining tour of the politics of the first decade under the new constitution. In the process, the reader learns much about the leaders and about their times. If you already know this period well, it may not add much, but for most people it may be something of a revelation.
A facinating book. Little do people realize now that this single election ensured the stability of the United States for generations to come. It was very well written, but I found that the numerous statistics about the population's change from Federalist to Republican 'and similar topics' got a tad boring. The chapter about each party's attacks on the other could have been shorted too, I don't know how many times the author stated that Federalists were charged as being anglophiles. Also, it seemed as though the author wrote more about Jefferson than Adams, at least to me. Although Jefferson deserves credit for his contributions, I think the author gave him way too much. Nor did the author give enough detail about Adam's personal struggle of have a close friend betray him and how at one point in his presidency he was despised by both Federalists and Republicans. However, Alexander Hamilton was portrayed in an interesting light, I never before saw him as a malicious and scheming man. Overall, I thought it was a noteworthy glimsp into a fascinating time and was very thought provoking.