Nasty from the Start: The Election of 1800

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams via Wikimedia Commons, Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, Adams by John Trumbull

Both candidates suffered personal attacks; Adams, for his perceived lack of masculine virtues, Jefferson for rumors that he had fathered children with one of his slaves.

By Dr. Peter Feuerherd / 07.04.2016
Professor of Journalism
St. John’s University

This year’s election season has been called personal, vitriolic, and angry in an unprecedented way. Candidates are called out for personal insults. Distrust of government is at an all-time high. How we long for learned, dispassionate discourses on the issues of the day, the way the Founding Fathers would have wanted it.

Take the election of 1800, which featured a cast of characters willing to take on the mantle left by the death of George Washington, who was able to unify a young, rambunctious nation. It was America’s first contested presidential election campaign, and one of its most important, influencing the way elections and government have been established ever since.