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A comparison of americas first two presidents

He had done nothing to promote himself as a candidate for the presidency and had agreed to undertake the mammoth task with the utmost reluctance. Relations with the former mother country deteriorated until it seemed that another war with Great Britain might be inevitable. Rumors had it that Washington was given to gambling, reveling, horseracing and horse whipping and that he had even taken A comparison of americas first two presidents bribes while he was commanding American troops.

During the last weeks of 1795, reports spread through Philadelphia—then the national capital—that Washington planned to retire at the conclusion of his second term.

It was true that similar rumors had circulated three years before, as the end of his first term drew near, but this time it appeared that he was determined to step down. Nearing his mid-sixties—a normal life span for a man in the eighteenth century—the president longed to retire to the tranquility of Mount Vernon, his beloved home in Virginia. Although Washington said nothing to John Adams regarding his plans for retirement, his wife Martha hinted to the vice president near Christmas 1795 that her husband would be leaving office.

Ten days later, Adams learned that the president had informed his cabinet that he would step down in March 1797. The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1933, specified that henceforth Congressional terms would begin on January 3 and that an incoming president and vice president would take their oaths of office at noon on January 20 of the year following their election. Eight years earlier, in September 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had considered numerous plans for choosing a president.

They had rejected direct election by qualified voters because, as Roger Sherman of Connecticut remarked, a scattered population could never be informed of the characters of the leading candidates.

The delegates also ruled out election by Congress. Such a procedure, Gouverneur Morris stated, would inevitably be the work of intrigue, cabal and of faction. Finally, the convention agreed to an electoral college scheme, whereby Each state shall appoint in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.

Presidential selection, therefore, would be decided through a state-by-state, rather than a national, referendum. Each elector chosen by the voters or the legislature of his state would cast votes for two candidates, one of whom had to come from outside his state.

George Washington and John Adams: A Comparison of America

If no one received a majority of the votes, or if two or more individuals tied with a majority of the electoral college votes, the members of the House of Representatives would cast ballots to elect the president. In that year, John Quincy Adams gained the presidency when one more than half of the members of the House cast a comparison of americas first two presidents ballots in his favor, giving him the necessary majority. The framers of the Constitution believed that most electors would judiciously cast their two ballots for persons of real merit, as Morris put it.

Alexander Hamilton argued in Federalist 68—one of a series of essays penned by Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to encourage ratification of the Constitution in New York State—that it was a moral certainty that the electoral college scheme would result in the election of the most qualified man. Someone skilled in the art of intrigue might win a high state office, he wrote, but only a man nationally known for his ability and virtue could gain the support of electors from throughout the United States.

Indeed, the electoral college plan worked well during the first two presidential elections in 1788 and 1792, when every elector had cast one of his ballots for Washington. But by 1796, something unforeseen by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had occurred; men of different points of view had begun to form themselves into political parties.

  • Ironically, it was Vice President Adams, in his capacity as president of the Senate, who read aloud the results;
  • The movement came to naught because it did not have the support of Jefferson, who had known and liked Adams for nearly twenty years;
  • Secrecy, paranoia, and conspiracy-theorizing, to name a few;
  • He does not appear to have been highly interested in the details of government.

On one side were the Federalists who yearned for an American society and national government established on the British model. Jefferson became the acknowledged leader of the new Anti-Federalists, a group soon known as the Democratic-Republican Party because of its empathy for the struggling republic that had emerged from the French Revolution of 1789. This party looked irreverently upon the past, was devoted to republican institutions, sought to give property-owning citizens greater control over their lives, and dreamt of an agrarian nation in which government would be small and weak.

Members of both parties ran candidates in congressional and state races in 1792, but they did not challenge President Washington. Partisanship, however, did surface that year in the contest for the a comparison of americas first two presidents presidency. Some Republicans acted behind the scenes in support. The movement came to naught because it did not have the support of Jefferson, who had known and liked Adams for nearly twenty years.

The activity of the Republicans threw a scare into the Federalists. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, the acknowledged leader of the Federalists, was so worried that he urged Adams to cut short a vacation and campaign openly against those who were—as he said—ill disposed toward him. Adams, who regarded electioneering with contempt, refused to do so and remained on his farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, until after the electors had cast their ballots.

By March 1796, when Washington finally told his vice president that he would not seek reelection, Adams had decided to run for the office of president.

His decision was no light thing, he said, since he knew that as president he would be subjected to obloquy, contempt, and insult.

Reagan and Obama -- Comparing Two Presidents

He even told Abigail that he believed every chief executive was almost sure of disgrace and ruin. While she had mixed emotions about his decision, she did not discourage him from running.

In fact, she told him that the presidency would be a flattering and Glorious Reward for his long years of service. Ultimately, Adams decided to seek the office because, he asserted, I love my country too well to shrink from danger in her service. As he began his quest, Adams expected formidable opposition, especially from Jefferson. He foresaw three possible outcomes to the election: That last scenario was not one Adams was prepared to accept. He decided that he would not serve another term as vice president; if he finished second again, he declared, he would either retire or seek election to the House of Representatives.

  • Ironically, it was Vice President Adams, in his capacity as president of the Senate, who read aloud the results;
  • He seems to be working hard;
  • Reagan even won a majority of the female vote.

Furthermore, he believed that no man had made greater sacrifices for the nation during the American Revolution than he. In addition to risking his legal career to protest British policies, he sat as a member of the First Continental Congress for three years and served abroad from 1778-88, making two perilous Atlantic crossings to carry out his diplomatic assignments. During that ten years, his public service had forced him to live apart from his wife and five children nearly ninety percent of the time.

Jefferson often proclaimed his disdain for politics, even though he held political office almost continuously for forty years. As 1796 unfolded, he neither made an effort to gain the presidency nor rebuffed the Republican maneuvers to elect him to that office. When he resigned as secretary of state in 1793, Jefferson had said that he did not plan to hold public office again and would happily remain at Monticello, his Virginia estate.

19c. Two Parties Emerge

But, while he did not seek office in 1796, neither did he say that he would not accept the presidential nomination. The Constitution said nothing about how to select presidential nominees. In 1800, the Republican Party would choose its candidates in a congressional nominating caucus; in 1812, the first nominating conventions were held in several states; and the first national nominating convention took place in a comparison of americas first two presidents.

But in 1796, the nominees seemed to materialize out of thin air, as if by magic. In actuality, the party leaders decided on the candidates and attempted to herd their followers into line. Pinckney, who had recently negotiated a successful treaty with Spain that established territorial and traffic rights for the United States on the Mississippi A comparison of americas first two presidents, was chosen for the second slot on the ticket by the party moguls—without consulting Adams—in part because as a Southerner, he might siphon Southern votes from Jefferson.

On the Republican side, Madison confided to James Monroe in February that Jefferson alone can be started with hope of success, [and we] mean to push him. All this transpired quietly, for Washington did not publicly announce his intention of retiring until the very end of the summer.

During the next ten weeks, the presidential campaign of 1796 was waged, as Federalists and Republicans—with the exception, for the most part, of the candidates themselves—worked feverishly for victory. Adams, Jefferson, and Pinckney never left home. While their parties took stands on the major issues of the day, these men embraced the classical model of politics, refusing to campaign. They believed that a man should not pursue an office; rather, the office should seek out the man.

They agreed that the most talented men—what some called an aristocracy of merit—should govern, but also that ultimate power rested with the people. The qualified voters, or the elected representatives of the people, were capable of selecting the best men from among the candidates on the basis of what Adams called the pure Principles of Merit, Virtue, and public Spirit. Burr alone actively campaigned.

Although he did not make any speeches, he visited every New England state and spoke with several presidential electors. Many Federalist and Republican officeholders and supporters spoke at rallies, but most of the electioneering took place through handbills, pamphlets, and newspapers. The campaign was a rough and tumble affair. The Republicans sought to convince the electorate that their opponents longed to establish a titled nobility in America and that Adams—whom they caricatured as His Rotundity because of his small, portly stature—was a pro-British monarchist.

The Philadelphia Aurora went so far as to insist that the president was the source of all the misfortunes of our country. The Federalists responded by portraying Jefferson as an atheist and French puppet who would plunge the United States into another war with Great Britain. They also charged that he was indecisive and a visionary. A philosopher makes the worst politician, one Federalist advised, while another counseled that Jefferson was fit to be a professor in a college.

Behind-the-scenes maneuvering included a plan by Hamilton, who felt that Pinckney could be more easily manipulated than Adams, to have one or two Federalist electors withhold their votes for Adams.

Hearing rumors of the ploy, several New England electors conferred and agreed not to cast a ballot for Pinckney. Even the French minister to the United States, Pierre Adet, became involved in the election by seeking to convey the impression that a victory for Jefferson would result in improved relations with France.

As one historian has noted: Never before or since has a foreign power acted so openly in an American election. Sixteen states took part in the balloting.

  • Jackson was also thin-skinned and felt the world was against him and that the ruling elites looked down on him;
  • Today, farmers make up less than 3 percent of the population;
  • Some Republicans acted behind the scenes in support;
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  • Adams was a miserable farmer, but was a respected attorney—vital in standing for the law in spite of public opinion;
  • Someone skilled in the art of intrigue might win a high state office, he wrote, but only a man nationally known for his ability and virtue could gain the support of electors from throughout the United States.

The 138 electors were chosen by popular vote in six states and by the state legislatures of the remaining ten. Seventy votes were required to win a majority. On the eve of the electoral college vote, Adams remarked privately that Hamilton had outgeneraled all the other politicians and stolen the election for Pinckney.

The electors voted in their respective state capitals on the first Wednesday in December, but the law stipulated that the ballots could not be opened and counted until the second Wednesday in February.

And so for nearly seventy days, every conceivable rumor circulated regarding the outcome of the election. By the third week in December, however, one thing was clear, Jefferson could not get seventy votes. Although 63 electors were Southerners, the South was a two-party region, and it was known that Jefferson had not received a vote from every Southern elector. In addition, because the Federalists controlled the legislatures in A comparison of americas first two presidents York, New Jersey, and Delaware, it was presumed that Jefferson would be shut out in those states.

Beyond that, nothing was certain. A good number of Americans fully expected that no candidate would get a majority of the votes, thus sending the election to the House of Representatives. By the end of December, better information arrived in Philadelphia when Ames informed Adams that he had at least 71 electoral votes. Finally, on February 8, 1797, the sealed ballots were opened and counted before a joint session of Congress. Ironically, it was Vice President Adams, in his capacity as president of the Senate, who read aloud the results.

The tabulation showed that Adams had indeed garnered 71 votes. Every New England and New York elector had voted for him. And in a sense, Adams won the election in the South, having secured nine votes in Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Jefferson, who finished second with 68 votes, automatically became the new vice president.

To ensure that the South Carolinian did not obtain more votes than Adams, 18 Federalist electors in New England refused to give him their vote. Four years later, the two republican candidates, Jefferson and Burr, each received 73 electoral votes. Although it was clear during the election campaign that Jefferson was the presidential candidate and Burr the vice presidential, Burr refused to concede, forcing a vote in the House of Representatives that brought Jefferson into office.

To correct these defects the Twelfth Amendment, which provided for separate balloting for president and vice president, was adopted in 1804.