1796: The First Real Election

  • Category: American History
  • Words: 726
  • Grade: 90

1796: The First Real Election

        In April 1789 George Washington took the oath of office at the Federal Hall in New York City to become the first president of the United States of America. Washington was unopposed in his election and had been given the unanimous vote of the new nation's electors. He participated in no campaigning and did not promote himself as a candidate for presidency. Washington also did not encounter many problems with the government and it's people except for the Whiskey Rebellion and occasional personal attacks to his character. But this was not the first real election. An election where the American people had to chose from more than one political party and where they were bombarded with propaganda, slandering, and political campaigning was about to take place.
        The candidates of the 1796 election were faced with a new plan for choosing a president. Eight years prior to 1796 the delegates of the Constitutional Convention agreed upon an electoral college scheme. This meant that each state would have a number of electors equal to that of the number of Senators and Representatives that each state was entitled by congress. The plan called for each Elector to cast two votes: one for the office of President and the other for the office of Vice-President. Indeed this plan worked for the 1788 and 1792 elections but something new and unanticipated occurred by the 1796 election. The American population had begun to form themselves into political parties based upon different ideas and points of view.
        One party of the United States was the Federalists lead by John Adams. The Federalists questioned the idea of growing democratization for the new nation. They wanted to shape the United States from the model of the British Government. On the opposing side were the Democratic-Republicans lead by Thomas Jefferson. This party was devoted to giving property-owning citizens more control over their lives and dreamt of a weak central government.
        Not only were political ideas used as leverage in the election but attacks upon the candidates integrity and character. The Republicans referred to Adams as a pro-British monarchist who longed to establish a titled nobility in America. This didn't boast well with the Federalists. They responded by portraying Jefferson as a French puppet and charged him as being as indecisive and a visionary. The French minister to the United States, Pierre Adet, replied claiming that a victory from Jefferson would improve America's relations with France.
        Sixteen States were to take part in the election. 138 electors were chosen and a majority of 70 was required to win. Everyone knew that to win the election the middle colonies must vote in your favor. Adams expected all of New England's 39 votes but still required 12 votes from New York and 19 from the middle and southern colonies Electoral colleges. Jefferson was, simply put, not expected to win. Even though 63 electors were southerners not all 63 were expected to vote in his favor. Also the Federalists controlled the legislatures in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware and Jefferson was presumed to be shut out in these states.
        On February 8, 1797 the sealed ballots were opened and counted before the joint congress session. It was shown that Adams had indeed received 71 votes making him the next President of the United States of America. Jefferson had unfortunately only received 68 and became the next Vice-President. On March 4, 1797, the first orderly transfer of power occurred in the nation's capitol Philadelphia, where George Washington stepped down and John Adams took the oath as the second President of the United States of America.
        This article goes into great detail about the different nuances of the 1796 election. Compared to the textbook more information is given and a better understanding of the 1796 election can be derived. I personally have acquired a better grasp upon the politics of the late 18th century and knowing this has helped me derive new insights to America's Historical development. The article has made me realize that not only does a presidential election elect a president but the process in which this occurs shows what ideals America was looking for in that period of time.
ad 4
Copyright 2011 EssayTrader.net All Rights Reserved