A Review of Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800

Paper Type:  Book review
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1929 Words
Date:  2022-05-09


The latest book that I have read in the era of John Adams is; Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800.To many Americans, the 2016 election could be the most hotly contested and controversial election of all time in the history of the United States that they know. However, they could all be wrong! The fourth presidential election can only be described as being crazy. The result of the election resulted in Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence to become the president by the legislative congress. I would wager that there are very few Americans who are not aware that the legislative branch had to take 36 separate votes to arrive at a decision.

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The book Adam vs. Jefferson was authored by John Ferling, who was among the most significant historians, whose works revolve around the American Revolution. According to Ferling on the twelfth page of his book, the presidential elections held in 1800 proved to be "a collision of three Republican ideas." The key players during the critical time were Thomas Jefferson, John Adam and Alexander Hamilton, who effected change in leadership of the young republic. A superb background has been developed by John Ferling, upon which tempestuous present-day elections can be viewed. Thus it meets the goals for the book as disclosed in the preface, where he writes the single thing that pulled him toward writing the book; "The prevailing sense for some time has been that politics in the eighteenth century was substantively different than modern politics. Supposedly, public officials were different as well tending to be more detached and disinterested, more above the fray. That was not what I found when working on several previous books about early America, but I wanted to look again, this time through a more in-depth study. What I saw once again, and what I hope comes through to the readers of this book, is my sense of the similarity between politics and politicians then and now." (p. xviii)


To begin the exposition, Ferling starts with a precise and clear description of the return of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to Washington, which had become the capital city during the fall of the year 1800. In this way, Ferling is presenting a moment of calmness before the storm rages. Diverting from Adam and Jefferson, I learned that Ferling also shows a brief narrative about Charles Pinckney and Aaron Burr. Even though Pinckney is not very well not to many, he was a patriot who participated in the politics of South Carolina as and also took part in the Revolutionary War. I also learned that Burr was actively involved in the colonial politics and thus he played a significant role in the early history of America. Ferling also writes about the demographic as well as the sociological situation at the moment, all in a bid to develop the context for the presidential election that is upcoming.

While writing about Adams and Jefferson, it is clear that Ferling endeavors to present as much information about them as he can. Thus, he draws on some of the previous works that he has done, as well as a considerable number of other historical sources, the Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson and several other sources to paint a vivid portrait of the lives of the men before the election. It also brings out the personal relationships of the men, while maintaining a balance with historical occurrences around the men's lives. The author efficiently portrays a contrast between the lives of the two men, regarding the political opinions that they held the American Revolution, as well as the very First Continental Congress. The author also brings out the friendship that existed between the men.

After introducing the reader to the personality of John Adam and Thomas Jefferson as well as their personality, the author also writes about James Madison and Alexander Hamilton who whose presence could not be overlooked in the evens that followed. Both men significantly advocated for ideals that were Republican and Federalist. Ferling is also of the argument that the critical contrasts among the leaders who were Federalists were as a result of the role of Hamilton as well as the opinions that Adam had, concerning the establishment of a national bank, the federal government assuming the state debt and the foreign policy that was Federalist. The republican considered all the activities as a threat to their freedom.

The author also endeavors to provide more information about the events before 1800. Thus he takes us back to the 1796 election and also describes the political as well as personal activities of Jefferson. He also switches back to Adam and argues that communication with Jefferson could have led to Jefferson's acceptance of being nominated to run against Adam in the presidential contest. Ferling goes ahead to explain the law that governed voting in different states and the rules observed while choosing electors. The writer also narrates the three main factions that shaped the electioneering period. The divisions included the Republicans, Federalists, and the ultra-federalist. With the leadership of Hamilton, the election was tilted and resulted in the presidency of Federalist Adams and the vice president being Jefferson who was a Republican.

Having belabored on the events before the election, Ferling writes about the period of the election campaigns. He narrates a vivid description of the efforts put by Aaron Burr in New York. Compellingly, Ferling argues makes his argument that the Republican wins that were unexpected led to the success of the campaign. He further alludes that the criticism meted on Adams turned upon in the initiatives that were started by Hamilton. Thus when Adam realized how much Hamilton had manipulated the cabinet members, he forced several members to resign and thus shattered the dreams of power that Hamilton had. That also led to negatively affecting the Federalist Party that was in its infancy. Ferling supports all his assertions using points that enable the reader to identify with the political events at that time quickly.

One of the things that can be clearly observed of the thirteen chapters that the book is comprised of, it is in the last four chapters that Ferling writes directly about the election in 1800 in the United States. The chapters delve into the election after Ferling describes how the national politics had evolved before 1796. He writes in brief about the task of the Constitutional convention of 1787, George Washington's election as well as the formation of the first national government. A description is made on the plans of Alexander Hamilton of organizing the new nation's finances and the well-known compromise of Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton and Mardison, to accept the financial program of Hamilton and have the national capitol located in the South.


I believe that Ferling wrote the book having been exposed to the presidential election that was disputed back in 2000. In the book, it is evident that the author describes a narrative that is rich and exciting while making arguments and analysis that is reasoned. In so doing, Ferling can explicitly show the effects of both political as well as governmental decisions on individual ordinary American citizens. Had the writer of the book not made clear analysis and meaningful bibliography, Ferling could be easily criticized as just a good storyteller. However, while Ferling is good at telling the story, he also demonstrates his ability to skillfully analyze and judge critically varied sources while telling the truth as it is despite the events. Thus it is evident that Ferling was successful in contravening the view "that politics in the eighteenth century was substantively different than modern politics" (p.xviii) some of the strongest features that are evident in the book include its fairness to all the major candidates in the electoral process and a clear description of the individual's motivations. Hints are evident about Ferling's preferences among the critical players. It seems that Ferling likes the political policies of Jefferson compared to those of Adams. He also appears to as well have some liking for Adam, possibly as a human. It can also be observed that the author admires Alexander Hamilton's intellect.

Based on the fact that "Jefferson and Adams harbored different dreams for the American Revolution" (p 49) America is still agonized by the message as the country makes attempts in charting a course between a country with many representative states, and a Federal national government that is strong. Ferling was successful in bringing the 1800 election clearly to the current generation in America. The country has not been able to permanently balance the vision of Adam where the government could foster a greater good, against Jefferson's ideology that was liberating individuals from the government. In the hard-contested election of 1800, there was a shift in the balance of power. The election of Jefferson can be said to have brought "a new tone, a new style, and a new ideology that enabled the nation to move piecemeal from the habits of 1800...towards egalitarianism and democratization." (p 232) With time, it shall be clear whether future elections will effectuate the American Revolution, "resolving what had not been settled in the initial upheaval and fulfilling the dreams of those who, like Paine, long had yearned for the 'birthday of a new world.'" (p 233)

Though the book represents a chronological follow up of events in the fourth presidential election of the United States, Ferling wants to communicate vital issues regarding politics. He believes that politics is not about to change even when civilization has spread immensely. He writes, "Politicians then, as now, were driven by personal ambition." (p 252)The weight of his statement may not be apparent to most of his audience, yet it is geared towards informing them that politicians are led by personal desires and not the common good as they imply. Ferling's book is therefore highly informative. He pleads with supporters of politicians to not be deceived as is currently the case. The book is, therefore, an entirely informed book which issues political literacy to the audience such that they are aware of the traits of politicians in general.

Ferling is objective and evaluates the fourth election and the politics of the day in a manner that the audience sees him as a man who was in the actual scene. He explores the intrigue tricks that every side of the political divide played on the other, sometimes harming the other group. The book thus teaches the audience that even when they are sidelined to the ruling party or the opposition, none of them stands assured that their party is right or wrong. In his book, Ferling highlights various instances where the antagonizing parties launched vicious attacks on the members of either party (p 241). Lives were lost due to political competition yet none was candid enough to condemn the attacks even when they tabled appealing agendas. The book, therefore, creates political awareness instrumentally.

Even when Ferling shows many corrupt politicians in early America, he avoids bias and shows that among the evil group of politicians, there lies some who are pure at heart. However, they are remarkably few and their impact always ends up unnoticed. Stressing on this point, he observes the life of George Washington, a man he considers an icon whose desire for self-governance never changed even when others who worked alongside him turned into covetous personalities. Washington wanted to create a unified nation when some spread racist ideologies. He was the epitome of mature politics who never had an audience. The book thus strikes a balance by showing two extreme divides and thus proves not biased.

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A Review of Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/a-review-of-adams-vs-jefferson-the-tumultuous-election-of-1800

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