Election of 1800: Thomas Jefferson versus John Adams

Inside Jefferson Memorial. Getty Images

Presidential Candidates:

John AdamsFederalist and Incumbent President
Aaron Burr – Democratic-Republican
John Jay - Federalist
Thomas Jefferson – Democratic-Republican and Incumbent Vice President
Charles Pinckney - Federalist

Vice Presidential Candidates:

There were no “official” vice presidential candidates in the election of 1800. According to the US Constitution, electors made two choices for president and whoever received the most votes became president. The person with the second most votes became vice president. This would change with the passage of the 12th Amendment.

Popular Vote:

Despite there being no official vice presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson ran with Aaron Burr as his running mate. Their “ticket” received the most votes and the decision of who would be president was given to the electors. John Adams was paired with either Pinckney or Jay. However, according to the National Archives, no official record of the number of popular votes was kept.

Electoral Vote:

There was an electoral vote tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr at 73 votes each. Because of this, the House of Representatives got to decide who would be president and who would be vice president. Due to an intense campaign by Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson was selected over Aaron Burr after 35 ballots. Hamilton’s actions would be one factor that led to his death in a duel with Burr in 1804.

  • Thomas Jefferson - 73
  • Aaron Burr - 73
  • John Adams – 65
  • Charles Pinckney - 64
  • John Jay - 1

Learn more about the electoral college.

States Won:

Thomas Jefferson won eight states.
John Adams won seven. They split the electoral vote in the remaining state.

Key Campaign Issues of the Election of 1800:

Some of the key issues of the election:

  • The desire to have a closer relationship with France or with Britain. The Democratic-Republicans tended to side with France while the Federalists sided with Great Britain.
  • The legality of the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by John Adams. The Democratic-Republicans felt they violated states’ rights.
  • States’ rights versus federal power was also a central focus of the election.

Significant Outcomes:

  • The aftermath of the Election of 1800 resulted in the passage of the 12th amendment in 1804 requiring that electors vote specifically for the offices of President and Vice President.
  • This election is cited as key in proving that the United States could survive the exchange of power between opposing parties when the Democratic-Republicans took over after the Federalists had been in charge.

Interesting Facts:

  • Alexander Hamilton backed Charles Pinckney and saw Thomas Jefferson as a bitter rival because of his stance on states’ rights. However, when the election came down to Aaron Burr versus Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton put his weight behind Jefferson because he couldn’t stand Burr. They would eventually meet in a duel in 1804 in which Hamilton would be killed.
  • The final vote came down to James Bayard, a federalist, who believed that if a southerner was not elected then this would spell major problems for the union which could lead to safety concerns for his small state of Delaware.

Inaugural Address:

Read the text of Thomas Jefferson’s Inaugural Address.

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Kelly, Martin. "Election of 1800: Thomas Jefferson versus John Adams." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/thomas-jefferson-versus-john-adams-election-104621. Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). Election of 1800: Thomas Jefferson versus John Adams. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/thomas-jefferson-versus-john-adams-election-104621 Kelly, Martin. "Election of 1800: Thomas Jefferson versus John Adams." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/thomas-jefferson-versus-john-adams-election-104621 (accessed June 10, 2023).