He does not regret Napoleon’s taking power in France.
The evolution of the American political system into parties was not initially recognized as inevitable and was decried by many as antithetical to the interests of the people. George Washington was particularly outspoken in opposition to parties, and many of his strongest supporters, such as John Jay, agreed. By the presidential election...
The evolution of the American political system into parties was not initially recognized as inevitable and was decried by many as antithetical to the interests of the people. George Washington was particularly outspoken in opposition to parties, and many of his strongest supporters, such as John Jay, agreed. By the presidential election of 1800, the restraining hand of Washington was silenced and the nation saw the first election in which defined political parties locked horns in bitter combat. President John Adams was the choice of the Federalist Party, and he was challenged by his nemesis, Vice President Thomas Jefferson, leader of the Democratic-Republican Party. However, Adams found himself attacked not merely by the opposition but by members of his own party who were aligned with Alexander Hamilton. This faction of “High Federalists” considered Adams too moderate, and encouraged by Hamilton, schemed to elect their party’s vice presidential candidate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, to the Presidency instead. The Democratic-Republican vice presidential candidate was Aaron Burr, who was quite willing to supplant Jefferson if the opportunity presented itself. So chaos was on the menu as the campaign of 1800 got underway.
At the same time, word reached the United States from Europe that in February 1800 Napoleon had seized power in France, and that a new constitution had been approved by the French people in a plebiscite. The evolution of the French Revolution, which had initially generated such high hopes, then degenerated into the reign of terror, had now clearly taken another unexpected turn. In June, word arrived that France had invaded Austrian-held Italy so there was major warfare on the Continent.
Autograph Letter Signed, two pages, New York, June 6, 1800, to noted artist of the Revolution Col. John Trumbull (who had been his private secretary during the negotiation of Jay’s Treaty), discussing the effect of parties on the election of 1800, and claiming that they rabble-rouse but have no discernable goals. “From not having received any letters from you for a considerable time past, I suspect that mine to you have miscarried. You last being at Albany, I cannot mention their dates, but I think that the last was the one which accompanied the report you sent over and which I read with pleasure. Since that period, affairs both in Europe and in this country have undergone great changes, and the most sagacious are at a loss to divine what will probably be the issue of them in either. For my own part, I do not regret the late Revolution and new government in France, but I suspect that all the expectations of the allied powers from a continuance of the war will not be realized. The session of Congress at Philadelphia has terminated in a different manner from what was expected. You have doubtless heard the details. The ensuing election for President will probably be very interesting. What system or policy will afterwards take place cannot as yet be conjectured. Such is the present state of parties, and so singular are some of their operations, that their ultimate objects if they have any present ones, cannot be discerned. Perhaps some of their objects are to be found only in the chapter of accidents. The public mind is far from being composed, and although we enjoy great and general prosperity, yet the contentions of popular leaders and demagogues create agitations and apprehensions which alarm and perplex. Being at Albany I had no opportunity of seeing Mr. Gore with whom it would have given me pleasure to converse about our friends in England and talk over a variety of matters…”
The election, which was won by the Democratic-Republicans, exposed one of the flaws in the original Constitution. Members of the Electoral College could only vote for president; each elector could vote for two candidates, and the vice president was the person who received the second largest number of votes during the election. The Democratic-Republicans had planned for one of the electors to abstain from casting his second vote for Aaron Burr, leading to Jefferson receiving one vote more than Burr. The plan, however, was bungled, resulting in a tied electoral vote between Jefferson and Burr at 73 each. Adams’ supporters had the same idea but made it work, with Adams receiving 64 electoral votes and Pinckney 63, one elector casting his ballot for Jay himself. In the end, Hamilton used his influence to ensure that Jefferson emerged victorious over Burr, and was ultimately to be killed by Burr in a duel generated by their mutual animosity. As for Napoleon, he would rise and fall over the course of another 15 years, and all that time have to be dealt with by U.S. diplomats.
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