Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

It was a contest of titans: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two heroes of the Revolutionary era, once intimate friends, now icy antagonists locked in a fierce battle for the future of the United States. The election of 1800 was a thunderous clash of a campaign that climaxed in a deadlock in the Electoral College and led to a crisis in which the young republic teetered on...

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Title:Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800
Author:John Ferling
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Edition Language:English

Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 Reviews

  • Jim

    great book about what may have been most important election in american History which still has an affect on our country even today

    already learned more about who all the characters were in terms of their personalities, frailties, ambitions and backgrounds as well as their competing political philosophies which still are in play today.

  • Kerrie

    Anyone who is under the illusion that the Founding Fathers were awesomely awesome and perfect and that the Constitution they created is perfect "as-is" and divinely inspired (you know the crowd I'm talking about) would benefit from reading a few books on this period of history.

    is a great addition to this reading list, and shows how messed up the system was, and how at odds the Founding Fathers were with each other and their visions for the new country.

    Ferling's seeming bia

    Anyone who is under the illusion that the Founding Fathers were awesomely awesome and perfect and that the Constitution they created is perfect "as-is" and divinely inspired (you know the crowd I'm talking about) would benefit from reading a few books on this period of history.

    is a great addition to this reading list, and shows how messed up the system was, and how at odds the Founding Fathers were with each other and their visions for the new country.

    Ferling's seeming bias against Alexander Hamilton with the regular scathing adjectives put me off somewhat, mainly because Hamilton was a sexy bitch who totally deserves to display that hot visage of his on our $10 bills. I mean, he must have been total catnip to the ladies...

    ...when he wasn't trying to create a strong central government and the Federal Reserve. You know, those concepts that drive a certain party absolutely

    nowadays.

    For the 2 main protagonists, I thought Ferling was very even-handed, displaying both their faults and outstanding attributes admirably well. Neither came off as the bad guy or the white knight saving the country, and Ferling did help exonerate Adams somewhat from the big blot of his Presidency, the Alien and Sedition Acts. The final chapter, covering the finalization of the election results, when Aaron Burr could very well have been our 3rd president, was an illuminating display of how the politics in this country have been

    up from the get-go, and always tainted with corruption, unwritten agreements, and favors. It's just politics. And our deified Founding Fathers were politicians.

    I really enjoyed this book (listened as an audiobook) and will continue to explore the lives of the characters who make up the earliest years of my country's history, if they're all portrayed as engagingly as in this book.

  • Jason Koivu

    Ferling brings these two larger-than-life icons of American history back to life in a big way. Reading

    you feel as if you're actually getting to know them, not only their public personas as politicians, but also as men.

    Personally I'm not sure I'd like either of them 100% through and through. I guess that can be said about most everyone to some extent. There's always one niggling quality about a person that doesn't jell with your own outlook on life, but in this case both of

    Ferling brings these two larger-than-life icons of American history back to life in a big way. Reading

    you feel as if you're actually getting to know them, not only their public personas as politicians, but also as men.

    Personally I'm not sure I'd like either of them 100% through and through. I guess that can be said about most everyone to some extent. There's always one niggling quality about a person that doesn't jell with your own outlook on life, but in this case both of these guys rubbed me the wrong way in a sizable manner.

    Jefferson's soft-spoken, intellectual approach is fantastic. His passive-aggressive way of getting what he wanted is not.

    Adams moralistic way of life set him up admirably upon a fine high horse. But high horses shit just like any other horse and frankly it all smells like bullshit.

    If only the best parts of Jefferson and Adams could've been combined they would have made Superman incarnate, the sort of superhuman needed to endure revolution and creation. They are truly incredible men, living through incredible times. It takes the best of an individual to do what these two accomplished in their lifetimes. Sometimes the worst comes out in an individual forced into such trying times. My hat's off to John Ferling for the fact that I'm now able to consider either of these dusty old men in such a here-and-now lively light.

  • Eric_W

    Read this with

    . Both books document the campaign of 1800 that resulted in the election being thrown into the House of Representatives. The campaign was ugly. War service of the candidates was an issue then as now, with opponents reminding the electorate (white property owners only then) that Thomas Jefferson had sat out the revolution at home in Monticello.

    Thomas Jefferson had hired James Callender, a British immigrant to wr

    Read this with

    . Both books document the campaign of 1800 that resulted in the election being thrown into the House of Representatives. The campaign was ugly. War service of the candidates was an issue then as now, with opponents reminding the electorate (white property owners only then) that Thomas Jefferson had sat out the revolution at home in Monticello.

    Thomas Jefferson had hired James Callender, a British immigrant to write anti-Adams essays. "Calumny dripped from Callender's pen." Jefferson bankrolled many anti-Adams journalists. He unsparingly "flayed Washington," who, he claimed, had wanted to be a dictator, called Hamilton the "Judas Iscariot of our country," and called Adams a war monger and "poor old man who is in his dotage." The Federalists under Adams were no better. Callender was arrested and charged under the Alien and Sedition Acts -- and we thought the USA Patriot Act was bad -- passed during the Adams' administration. Callender later turned on Jefferson when he was not awarded a plum political post in addition to his monetary rewards. He then went on the dig up the story of Jefferson's affair with Sally Hemmings, a charge that seems now not to have been true, the DNA evidence being somewhat inconclusive given the number of other Jefferson males in the area, although I suppose the jury is still out in some minds. But I digress, the only point being that campaigns in the early 18th century were often more bitter than those today.

    Hamilton doesn't come off as well as he did in Ferling's earlier books; Jefferson and Adams better. Hamilton is portrayed as power hungry and responsible for the ostensible sins of the Adams administration such as the Alien and Sedition Acts. Personally, I admire Adams for his peacefully relinquishing power -- I believe the first instance in history a leader stepped down from power without some kind of violence -- but Hamilton is getting a bad rap. His emphasis on honoring the debts and fiscal stability was very important. You have to feel sorry for Adams, sandwiched between Hamilton and Jefferson.

    Revised 6/13/09

  • Steve

    ”Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800″ was written by John Ferling (the author of biographies I’ve already read and reviewed on both George Washington and John Adams). Though “Adams vs. Jefferson” is is not really a presidential biography, I nevertheless decided to read it as part of this journey, wondering if it might serve as a nice bridge between our second and third presidents (it does), and looking forward to reading something a bit “d

    ”Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800″ was written by John Ferling (the author of biographies I’ve already read and reviewed on both George Washington and John Adams). Though “Adams vs. Jefferson” is is not really a presidential biography, I nevertheless decided to read it as part of this journey, wondering if it might serve as a nice bridge between our second and third presidents (it does), and looking forward to reading something a bit “different”.

    History well recalls that the presidential election of 1800 was a contentious affair and led to an early test of our electoral process. But despite the book’s premise (the title itself suggests a rather sharp focus on the election), neither the campaign nor the election are discussed in earnest until the last one-third of the book.

    The majority of the book is spent, instead, laying groundwork and setting the stage. Ferling efficiently reviews both Washington’s and Adams’ presidencies, the mood of the United States populace and the state of the electoral system as it then existed. In addition, the author devotes significant care to introducing the other key characters in the campaign and election: Aaron Burr and Charles C. Pinckney (the VP nominees) and Alexander Hamilton (the Federalist antagonist). Happily, these major players received fairly balanced, and interesting, assessments

    Discussion of both the campaign and the election is eventually completed in just two chapters before the author moves on to review the protracted resolution of the election in the House of Representatives. That the final decision was thrown into the House was due, of course, to the fact there was an electoral vote tie between Jefferson and his running mate Burr, and that the mechanics of the electoral process at that time made it possible a Vice Presidential candidate could actually win the presidency.

    The fact that the author took so long to get to the campaign and the election initially bothered me – until I realized that I actually enjoyed the first part of the book more than the section alluded to by the book’s title. Ferling’s review of Washington’s and Adams’ presidencies was nicely and efficiently consummated, and resulted in an excellent summary of our nation’s history up through the Adams presidency.

    But in the end, although the election of 1800 was remarkably antagonistic (and interesting as a consequence), this book feels a bit like two-hundred pages of history in search of a premise, rather than a premise that found the right book.

    Nonetheless, for a reader with a passing familiarity with the Washington and Adams presidencies and an appreciation for the caustic political environment of the times, “Adams vs. Jefferson” is a relatively easy and fun read, filling in any major holes in one’s knowledge quite nicely. Without a doubt, this book cannot, and does not attempt, to substitute for more complete studies of Washington, Adams or Jefferson. But for someone with a passing interest and a little free time (perhaps during a long ground delay at O’Hare), “Adams vs. Jefferson” is almost certainly worth the effort.

    Overall rating: 4 stars

  • Emily Ross

    Very easy book to read, very informative and a lot more understandable than other historical books concerning the same topic. Ferling is a good writer, and an easy-ish read in general, but his bias towards Adams can be felt in the reading.

  • Brad Hart

    Very good book. The author did a good job caturing the punch and counter punch campaigning style of Adams and Jefferson. If you think politics are dirty today, then give this book a chance! You will quickly see that it is nothing new.

  • Colleen Martin

    Someone needs to tell John Ferling that a history book is supposed to stick to the facts and be free of both bias and conjecture, because evidently he wasn't aware of that. This wasn't so much a lesson in early American political history as it was a fawning love sonnet to Thomas Jefferson and his ideological beliefs, as well as a character assassination of John Adams. The further I got into the book, the angrier I became - Ferling casts aspersions left and right about Adams, from his political d

    Someone needs to tell John Ferling that a history book is supposed to stick to the facts and be free of both bias and conjecture, because evidently he wasn't aware of that. This wasn't so much a lesson in early American political history as it was a fawning love sonnet to Thomas Jefferson and his ideological beliefs, as well as a character assassination of John Adams. The further I got into the book, the angrier I became - Ferling casts aspersions left and right about Adams, from his political decisions to his parenting techniques, yet paints Jefferson, who was arguably the biggest hypocrite of all the Founders, in a saintly, infallible light. At the very end of the book, he finally comes out and says what he had alluded to the entire time, that Jefferson was a better man than Adams. Pretty lofty of him, making a judgement call like that of men who have been dead for almost 200 years. Statements like this about Adams are incredibly disingenuous - the man gave his entire life in service to the country that he helped create, and this yahoo relegates him to second-class status behind Jefferson, Washington and Franklin because he didn't like the way he treated his alcoholic son.

    Not recommended - you'll find much better histories about Adams and Jefferson elsewhere.

  • Gary Hoggatt

    The United States presidential election of 1800 was a bitterly-contested and wild affair. In historian John Ferling's 2004 book Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, Ferling attempts to chronicle this story, but unfortunately he gets frequently sidetracked and spends much more time setting the scene for the election of 1800 than he does actually discussing it.

    The main players in this drama are, naturally, John Adams, second President of the United States after being elected in 17

    The United States presidential election of 1800 was a bitterly-contested and wild affair. In historian John Ferling's 2004 book Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, Ferling attempts to chronicle this story, but unfortunately he gets frequently sidetracked and spends much more time setting the scene for the election of 1800 than he does actually discussing it.

    The main players in this drama are, naturally, John Adams, second President of the United States after being elected in 1796 and candidate for 1800 for the Federalist party, and Thomas Jefferson, Vice-President of the U.S. after coming in second in 1796 and candidate for 1800 for the Democratic-Republican party. Three others also feature prominently in the narrative. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney is Adams' Federalist running mate, Aaron Burr is Jefferson's Democratic-Republican running mate, and Alexander Hamilton is the leader of the extreme wing of the Federalist party who has his own ambitions heading into 1800.

    The trouble Ferling stumbles into is that he spends half the book giving brief biographies of these five politicians up through 1796. That, simply put, is excessive. Yes, Ferling needed to give some background for those less familiar with the cast, but his editor should have cut the first half of the manuscript in half, at least. The 1796 contest between Adams and Jefferson and the events of Adams' term as president are very relevant to the 1800 election, but knowing the childhood origins of each of these five and their political and personal chronicle is just going back too far. I kept waiting and waiting for Ferling to get to the actual story promised in the title.

    When Ferling does get to 1796, the narrative suffers quite a bit from jumping around between the threads of the five different players and the various states, with little concern for chronology or theme. You just move from one political ploy to another, without getting much sense of how it all fits together. Ferling also on several occasions repeats the same point with no additional information, as if he had forgotten he'd already mentioned that in another thread.

    When covering 1800 itself, Ferling spends a lot of time repeatedly citing the vicious attempts to influence the election by the various party-affiliated newspapers. While some of that is needed to give the reader an idea of what was going on, eventually it gets tiresome. How many times does he need to cite a Federalist paper calling Jefferson a France-loving anarchist or a Democratic-Republican paper calling Adam's a pro-British monarchist before we can assume the reader gets it?

    The last part of the story of the election, when the House of Representatives had to settle between Jefferson and Burr, who tied in electoral votes, bogs down in the number of times the House voted. Ferling does an adequate job of describing the various maneuvers in the Federalist-dominated House to control the outcome. But, despite the extensive earlier biographical sketch, Ferling never really answers why Burr decided to try to make a play for the presidency. There are a few guesses, but nothing concrete.

    I listened to Adams vs. Jefferson on audio, as narrated by Jack Garrett. Garrett does little to make the reading lively. The pacing of the book, already problematic in and of itself as outlined above, is seriously hampered by frequent and extended pauses. Either Garrett didn't prepare much, the producer didn't do enough work editing the reading, or both. In any case, it wasn't very satisfying.

    The presidential election of 1800 was an interesting contest, and I did learn some things from Ferling's book. But overall, Ferling failed to capture the drama inherent in the story, instead allowing himself to be sidetracked and lose control of the narrative as he spends much of the book on biographies, then hops around the dates and states so much that neither Ferling nor the reader can really keep the threads of the story straight. I can't especially recommend this book. There are just too many problems with it, despite the promising premise.

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