Aim: Should we expect elections to bring about [Revolutionary] Change? To what extent politicians always keep their words? Topic: Election of 1800, Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, Louisiana Purchase Document #1 The Election of 1800



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Aim: Should we expect elections to bring about [Revolutionary] Change? To what extent politicians always keep their words?

Topic: Election of 1800, Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, Louisiana Purchase
Document #1 - The Election of 1800

The election of 1800 between John Adams (running mate Charles Pinckney) and Thomas Jefferson (running mate Aaron Burr) was an emotional and hard-fought campaign. Each side believed that victory by the other would ruin the nation. This was also the first time of campaigning by candidates – not so much with visiting states and giving speeches, but with letter writing, and newspapers printing articles and political cartoons attacking the other person. Federalists attacked Jefferson as an un-Christian atheist whose sympathy for the French Revolution would bring similar bloodshed and chaos to the United States, Adams and the Federalists believed in the need for a strong central government with an army and navy to help the young nation. On the other side, the Democratic-Republicans denounced (criticized) the strong centralization of federal power under Adams's presidency, calling him a Dictator. Democratic-Republicans' specifically objected to the expansion of the U.S. army and navy, the attack on individual rights in the Alien and Sedition Acts, and new taxes and spending used to support a larger federal government. Jefferson wanted a strict reading of the Constitution (following it as it was written) and a weaker central government.



  1. What did each side want?



  1. Who would you vote for and why?


Document #2 - Results of the Election

Document #2a) A flawed voting system and its results

Our Constitution originally did not have a smooth way to elect the President. One of the compromises during the Constitutional Convention was the Electoral College. Each state has a certain number of electors (or points) which make up the Electoral College, the body of people that vote for the president and vice president. The electors vote is based on the popular vote (what the majority of people in the state voted), and then the points go to the President and his running mate (today a majority of 270 electoral votes is needed to become president). However, the Electors in the election of 1800 voted separately for President and Vice President, and the election of 1800 turned out to be a tie for President between Thomas Jefferson and his own running mate, Aaron Burr! If there is a tie for President, the House of Representatives votes for the President.

With the help of Alexander Hamilton (a representative from New York and Founding Father) who hated Burr, he helped to convince the House of Representatives to vote for Jefferson to become President in the tie-breaker. This lead to two results: first, The Twelfth Amendment which separates Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees and fixes the Electoral College and second, a deep hatred of Burr for Hamilton. After writing letters and scandals about each other in newspapers, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel at Weehawken Heights in New Jersey. Hamilton accepted. Hamilton fired his shot in the air, but Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach. (There is conflicting evidence -- later research attempts to show that Burr tried to miss but the guns at the time did not aim so well, but there is still evidence that he just wanted to kill Hamilton). Burr’s political career spiraled downhill from there and Hamilton, a visionary of the industrial power of the U.S., had his political career cut untimely short.


  1. What is the Electoral College?


  1. What was the problem with the Electoral College?


  1. How did the 12th Amendment fix the Electoral College?


  1. What was the other result of the Election of 1800? Why do you think they settled their differences in a duel? Do you think this was the right way to settle it?


Document 2b) The Revolution of 1800

The Democratic-Republicans won the election – carrying 8 out of the 15 states, for an electoral vote of 73-65. This election was significant for many reasons. First, everyone was curious if Adams would peacefully give up office or if Jefferson would have to take the office by force. However, on March 4, 1801 (the day the Presidents switch office), Adams left the White House, giving it to Jefferson with no threat of violence. Now, once in office, this was the first time in United States history that a new political ideology took office (even though Washington had no party, his ideas were mainly similar to the Federalists). Many people considered this a small revolution because the country would be run by a new political ideology.



  1. Identify two different ways why this election was significant. What makes these two things significant?


Document #3 - The Louisiana Purchase

Sometimes politicians are presented with circumstances that force them to go against their values for the good of the nation. This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson believed was the case with the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon, fighting his wars in Europe, needed money and with Congresses’ approval, Jefferson sent diplomats to try to buy New Orleans from the Emperor for 15 million dollars. However, Napoleon needed money for his many wars and he instead offered to sell all of the Louisiana Territory to Jefferson for what would come to 23 million dollars. This acquisition (gain) would more than double the size of the United States and give the United States control of the entire Mississippi River (an important trade network). However, Jefferson ran on a campaign (and was always a firm believer) in a strict reading of the Constitution, which did not give the President this power (Congress was in charge of spending). Jefferson signed the deal first, and then went to Congress for its approval (which it did, but many disagreed on how Jefferson did the deal).



  1. How did the Louisiana Purchase go against a strict interpretation of the Constitution?



  1. Do you agree or disagree with Jefferson’s handling of the situation? Why or Why not?

Jefferson’s Report Card

Here are some of Jefferson’s other Policies: Give each a grade and explanation:

Grade and explanation

Repealed the Alien and Sedition Act



Reduced Government Taxes




Reduced Spending for the Army and Navy and decreased their size




Louisiana Purchase





  1. To what extend do you believe that the Election of 1800 was a Revolution?


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