The Election That Changed the World
Roy A. Erickson, Jr.
John Adams was called the voice of the revolution and the main driver of the new country. Because it was oral, it has been lost to the ages as the last of his listeners died off. On the other hand, Jefferson was the writer of the Revolution and guiding hand of the United States. The election of 1800 would be one that would cast two titans of the creation of the new Republic against each other in a war of words that would rend asunder a friendship fostered in creation for a quarter century.
The new Republic was in a far more tumultuous state then people 200 years removed tend to believe. There were factions that were pro France and some were adamantly against the centralization that Jefferson represented. Adams was the sitting President and Thomas Jefferson was the challenger. In the final count it would be Jefferson winning the popular and electoral votes, but because of a flaw in the original Constitution; in that electors each gave two votes for President, not stating which was President and which would be Vice President; at the end of the day, Jefferson and Burr would have 73 electoral votes and Adams 65, so all three men went to the House as viable candidates.
Adams never played a factor in the House vote, but running mates Jefferson and Burr would face 35 votes in the house before Jefferson would be elected on the 36th vote. In today’s view, the constitutional mandate for three- fifths person clause for slaves is seen as a derogatory thing. It played a huge part in this election. Had that not been in play, Adams would have walked away with the election with half the popular votes and not one slave having cast a vote. It also would have limited or eliminated the path that lead to Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves.
The admonition that slaves would be counted as three- fifths was the first time a government ever acknowledged the humanity of the slaves without allowing someone to, literally, buy an election result. Under Adams and Washington there was a push to keep the de-centralized philosophy of government. The Navy had been sold off and the standing army could best be described as sitting. In spite of the problems presented by the Barbary Pirates taking U.S. ships, crew and cargo, Adams was pushing for total neutrality and authorizing payment of Tribute to the Muslim pirates.
The election of 1800 was a rematch of 1796 and was filled with slander, libel, and outright lies that would come close to tearing the country apart. It was also the first real test of the new nation’s ability to transfer power peacefully at the will of the people. To see a transfer of power without bloodshed was rare in human history, if it had ever occurred at all. This election, in human terms, would lead to the duel between Burr and Hamilton that would bring death to Hamilton and exile a hero of the revolution, Burr.
It would also fracture a friendship between Jefferson and Adams that had been essential to the Independence and creation of the new nation. Unlike the elections all living Americans are used to; a specific day; the election of 1800 went from October 31 to December 3rd. It was the 4th election in our history, the first two being little more than coronations; the process began to become more personal in 1796 and went for bore mean in 1800. No longer was there a consensus, the arguments, alliances and various philosophies being pushed for public agreement. Some were in favor of total neutrality, some favored the British and, with war in Europe getting more attention, France had many people who supported it.
In 1798, the Alien and Sedition act was passed and seen as a Federalist broadside against Democrat-Republican newspapers. The Democrat-Republicans led by Jefferson were very organized and vociferous in their calls for more international interaction. The federalists led by Adams were far more cautious and wanting to get the fledgling nation more organized and stable before venturing beyond it’s shores. But even within the disorganized Federalist Party there were conflicts, between John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. That split would lead to the dissolution of the Federalist Party in that it would never again be a factor in American politics after 1800.
It may not ring as problematic, but Jefferson’s many opponents labeled him as atheist in religion and fanatic in politics. They said that he was a drunkard and an agent against religion. Jefferson was, according to the naysayers, the father of numerous mulatto offspring, a person totally unworthy of public interaction. Jefferson’s side called Adams a warmonger who wanted to cede the nation back to the British, something that was not even in the realm of reality, but there was no way to counter it as well at that time. By their account Adams was also a tax and spend person who would gut the nation’s ability to thrive.
All of these charges, and more, were bandied about without any connection to reality. No personal affront was off limits. No connection to truth was even considered. The ironic part is that each claimed that the tendencies that they themselves exhibited were the sole property of the other party. Adams tried to be thrifty and paid numerous tributes to keep us out of war while Jefferson would take us to war with the Barbary Coast. As to how this election changed the world, the United States was the ugly step child of the European powers and was constantly having it’s commerce raided by Barbary pirates with a navy that was modest to say the least.
In order to purchase peace, Adams ordered Tribute paid to the Pirates. It would be Jefferson who ordered the creation of the navy and expeditionary force that would bring the pirates to their knees and respect to the fledgling nation. Those actions would also lead to the competition with Britain that would make the war of 1812 certain. Jefferson would work through back channels, something Adams abhorred, to make the Louisiana Purchase, a grand gamble that Adams would not even consider because of the huge debt it would incur, an action that would give the nation control from ocean to ocean and ownership of the resources that would be essential in making victory in World War II possible.
Jefferson had no idea what was there, but the serendipity of the purchase was that everything that would make America a world power and allow huge influxes of European refuges and give them a place to live and thrive was embodied in that unimaginable gamble. If you have an Irish or Scandinavian surname, your ability to be in this country, and maybe even your life, is due to the results of this election. If you live in Europe and enjoy the freedom to express yourself, look back in awe at the fortuitous foresight of Jefferson. So many of the things we take for granted today are a result of the election of 1800 and the difference in philosophy and vision it brought to the country. It can be argued and shown to be a pivot point in world history.
In 1824, no candidate ran under the Federalist banner. Like the Whigs 30 years later, they would just disappear from the political arena in America. There was no functioning “two party system” in play, but not to worry; five distinct and credible candidates ran under The Democrat Republican auspices. A plethora of wealthy in a way, there was a hero, Andrew Jackson, a Presidents son, John Quincy Adams as well as such stalwarts as William Crawford and Henry Clay. William Crawford was the handpicked replacement for Monroe, but, as anyone today can understand, being the “ establishment candidate” was a severe liability in 1824. He was selected by a special committee and the others called for popular vote to find the candidate. Jackson was fiery and passionate, a man given to harsh language and even carried a bullet in him from a long past duel. He was the hero of the War of 1812 and not used to losing. Adams was the thoughtful and learned son of a founding father and former President. He carried on his father’s oratory abilities and had become quite famous on his own in a Supreme Court dealing with a minor slave revolt on the ship Amistad. Henry Clay was also eloquent and quite powerful as the speaker of the House. His bargaining abilities would later become renown in legislative compromises, but the ever demure Jackson and his supporters would call this election…
The Corrupt Bargain
Adams’ father would lose the 1800 election in a battle between Burr and Jefferson. Now it was 24 years later and the son saw his election go to the House of Representatives, not a usual state of affairs. Once again peaceful passage of power would be challenged and the staid Adams claim was in the tempest core. Once again it would be contentious well beyond the decision on the Presidency.
Clay detested Jackson, for numerous personal reasons including Jackson’s tendency toward loud discourse and less than polite language. There was no way that Crawford could win. Jackson and Adams had a huge majority of the electoral votes between them, but Clay had a few, the right amount as it would turn out. The only thing that Clay truly wanted was to prevent Jackson from ascending to the Presidency, but no bargainer wants to come away from a bargain empty handed, so he secured from Adams the promise of being Secretary of State, the historical stepping stone to the Presidency of the young nation. The promise secured Clay formed a Ohio River New England alliance that would win the day for Adams, but would have the people up in arms, stirred vigorously by Jackson and lead Jackson to win the 1828 election.
In a way, Adams election was “ payback”for the election lost by his father, a kind of “the House taketh and the House giveth back”situation that made these two men, John and John Quincy Adams a unique pair in American History. John Quincy Adams would be the last President who was present in most of the critical negotiations of the founding of the nation. He would also be the last President who knew all of the founders and their struggles and would have known the reality of the revolution.
He was a teenager when he accompanied his father to Europe to secure funds for the struggling colonies. Midway the ship sprang a leak and John Quincy was one of those manning the bailing pump all the way to harbor. The men did it to exhaustion, traded shifts, slept and went back at it. John Quincy never claimed status, but was a part of the team and the safe arrival. They reached port, stopped bailing and the ship promptly sank in the harbor.
John Adams’ negotiations helped spur the European Monarchies to aid the Americans. John Quincy helped make that assistance a reality with the work he did on the boat, being something of a celebrity. Perhaps Karma was in vogue in this instance. He won in much the same way his father lost, providing some vindication, and if not for attaining the Presidency, much of his effort would be little more than a footnote in history.
Election 2016: A Ying Yang World
As we wander through the world in the year 2016, we are presented with dichotomies and juxtapositions that are normal today but would have brought an incredulous grunt just four years ago. A “reality TV show personality” being a serious contender for President was dismissed as impossible only a few months ago and yet, today, it is our reality. Before you shake your head in disbelief, consider the “B Movie Actor” that accomplished the same feat 36 years ago. In each case the prophets of punditry missed a minor point. It is not “credentials” people vote for, but the message, and the one that can communicate that message best.
The pundits also misunderstood the message. The Pundits labeled Trump’s message as “hate” and that was half true. There is an underlying hatred in the response to the message presented with the subtlety of a bulldozer, but it is not a hatred for people or religion, at least in most cases. The hatred is, indeed, for an incompetent government that can do none of the functions that our social contract demands of it.
Can it defend its borders? The answer is an un-categorical no! Can it have a reasonable and sure form of immigration control that allows us to bring in the best and brightest and who wish to be an interlocking part of the society that they seek to join? The answer is uh… no! The government has doubled the national debt of 220 years in a mere 7 ½ with nothing tangible to show for it. The nation’s ability to deal with future needs and projects has been hobbled in a blatant disregard for anything America has stood for.
That is what the people are mad about and all of the talking points are doing nothing to redirect the anger that the populous feels. Jeb Bush likes to say that Trump supporters are rightfully scared and fearful. It would be more accurate to be so righteously pissed off. Few are actually fearful, because they believe that there is a way to right the course of the ship of State and they will man the mail sail, the rudder or even scrape the barnacles off to accomplish the turn.
Focused and determined is the most appropriate term, it would seem. All of the severe focus on “The Donald” has left unscathed a verifiable criminal, Hillary Clinton. Yes she is best known as hilLAIRy and Killary in some circles, but for the most part, she gets a free pass in the court of media inaction and justification. Her e-mail fiasco has been legend, but down played by the media by them saying her intent was pure enough. Others have done less and been convicted under the auspices of “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
That being said, there is the Clinton Foundation and the massive donations it received almost simultaneously with the approval of a positive nod by the Clinton State Department. Some will say that nothing has been proved, but nothing has been allowed to be checked in full. There have been curtains raised to obscure the activities of the Clinton foundation that would make the Wizard of Oz jealous. And then there are the charges that she ran cover for her husband and destroyed the lives of her husband’s victims.
That she took an active part has been verified by people who were there. This, from a woman who claims to be a champion of woman’s issues. “The Donald” has been labeled misogynist, but he has given women positions of great responsibility for decades, long before it was fashionable. Hilary Clinton barely pays women over 70% of a man’s salary in similar positions.
“The Donald” openly criticizes women and describes many in unflattering terms, in much the same way that he has described men. Hillary says that you cannot say mean things about a woman and to do so disqualifies you to be President. But she is the one credited with the term “Bimbo eruptions”, referring to the women accusing her husband, but all women who accuse males of rape should be believed, with a few exceptions, of course.
In the period from June to December of 2016, we will make decisions for our world that will set in stone the path America will take. It will be, either to reinforce regulatory strangulation and politically correct doublespeak, or take a flyer.
Take a calculated risk on an unproven man who, in the course of his life has held nearly every imaginable position, as many of us have, but who speaks to the reality we see and says he wants to change it. That will be the Ying and Yang we face this year, the male and the female that will truly change the world.