The United States presidential election of 1796 was the third quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Friday, November 4 to Wednesday, December 7, 1796. It was the first contested American presidential election, the first presidential election in which political parties played a dominant role, and the only presidential election in which a president and vice president were elected from opposing tickets. Incumbent Vice President John Adams of the Federalist Party defeated former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party.
With incumbent President George Washington having refused a third term in office, the 1796 election became the first U.S. presidential election in which political parties competed for the presidency. The Federalists coalesced behind Adams and the Democratic-Republicans supported Jefferson, but each party ran multiple candidates. Under the electoral rules in place prior to the 1804 ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, the members of the Electoral College each cast two votes, with no distinction made between electoral votes for president and electoral votes for vice president. In order to be elected president, the winning candidate had to win the votes of a majority of electors; should no individual win a majority, the House of Representatives would hold a contingent election.
The campaign was an acrimonious one, with Federalists attempting to identify the Democratic-Republicans with the violence of the French Revolution and the Democratic-Republicans accusing the Federalists of favoring monarchism and aristocracy. Republicans sought to associate Adams with the policies developed by fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton during the Washington administration, which they declaimed were too much in favor of Great Britain and a centralized national government. In foreign policy, Republicans denounced the Federalists over the Jay Treaty, which had established a temporary peace with Great Britain. Federalists attacked Jefferson's moral character, alleging he was an atheist and that he had been a coward during the American Revolutionary War. Adams supporters also accused Jefferson of being too pro-France; the accusation was underscored when the French ambassador embarrassed the Republicans by publicly backing Jefferson and attacking the Federalists right before the election. Despite the vituperation between their respective camps, neither Adams nor Jefferson actively campaigned for the presidency.
Adams was elected president with 71 electoral votes, one more than was needed for a majority. Adams won by sweeping the electoral votes of New England and winning votes from several other swing states, especially the states of the Mid-Atlantic region. Jefferson received 68 electoral votes and was elected vice president. Former Governor Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, a Federalist, finished with 59 electoral votes, while Senator Aaron Burr, a Democratic-Republican from New York, won 30 electoral votes. The remaining 48 electoral votes were dispersed among nine other candidates. Reflecting the evolving nature of both parties, several electors cast one vote for a Federalist candidate and one vote for a Democratic-Republican candidate. The election marked the formation of the First Party System, and established a rivalry between Federalist New England and Democratic-Republican South, with the middle states holding the balance of power (New York and Maryland were the crucial swing states, and between them only voted for a loser once between 1789 and 1820).
|1796 United States presidential election|
138 electoral votes of the Electoral College
70 electoral votes needed to win
|Turnout||20.1% 13.8 pp|
Presidential electoral votes by state.
Because electors could not distinguish between their presidential and vice presidential choices until the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, the map above assumes that the presidential votes are exactly the votes for Adams or Jefferson. Green denotes states won by Jefferson, burnt orange denotes states won by Adams, and gray denotes non voting territories. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
With the retirement of Washington after two terms, both parties sought the presidency for the first time. Before the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804, each elector was to vote for two persons, but was not able to indicate which vote was for president and which was for vice president. Instead, the recipient of the most electoral votes would become president and the runner-up vice president. As a result, both parties ran multiple candidates for president, in hopes of keeping one of their opponents from being the runner-up. These candidates were the equivalent of modern-day running mates, but under the law they were all candidates for president. Thus, both Adams and Jefferson were technically opposed by several members of their own parties. The plan was for one of the electors to cast a vote for the main party nominee (Adams or Jefferson) and a candidate besides the primary running mate, thus ensuring that the main nominee would have one more vote than his running mate.
The Federalists' nominee was John Adams of Massachusetts, the incumbent vice president and a leading voice during the Revolutionary period. Most Federalist leaders viewed Adams, who had twice been elected vice president, as the natural heir to Washington. Adams's main running mate was Thomas Pinckney, a former governor of South Carolina who had negotiated the Treaty of San Lorenzo with Spain. Pinckney agreed to run after the first choice of many party leaders, former Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia, declined to enter the race. Alexander Hamilton, who competed with Adams for leadership of the party, worked behind the scenes to elect Pinckney over Adams by convincing Jefferson electors from South Carolina to cast their second votes for Pinckney. Hamilton did prefer Adams to Jefferson, and he urged Federalist electors to cast their votes for Adams and Pinckney.
The Democratic-Republicans united behind former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who had co-founded the party with James Madison and others in opposition to the policies of Hamilton. Congressional Democratic-Republicans met in an attempt to unite behind one vice presidential nominee. With Jefferson's popularity strongest in the South, many party leaders wanted a Northern candidate to serve as Jefferson's running mate. Popular choices included Senator Pierce Butler of South Carolina and three New Yorkers: Senator Aaron Burr, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, and former Governor George Clinton, the party's 1792 candidate for vice president. A group of Democratic-Republican leaders met in June 1796 and agreed to support Jefferson for president and Burr for vice president.
Under the system in place prior to the 1804 ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, electors were to cast votes for two persons. Both votes were for president; the runner-up in the presidential race was elected vice-president. If no candidate won votes from a majority of the Electoral College, the House of Representatives would a hold contingent election to select the winner. Each party intended to manipulate the results by having some of their electors cast one vote for the intended presidential candidate and one vote for somebody besides the intended vice-presidential candidate, leaving their vice-presidential candidate a few votes shy of their presidential candidate. However, all electoral votes were cast on the same day, and communications between states were extremely slow at that time, making it very difficult to coordinate which electors were to manipulate their vote for vice-president. Additionally, there were rumors that southern electors pledged to Jefferson were coerced by Hamilton to give their second vote to Pinckney in hope of electing him president instead of Adams.
Campaigning centered in the swing states of New York and Pennsylvania. Adams and Jefferson won a combined 139 electoral votes from the 138 members of the Electoral College. The Federalists swept every state north of the Mason-Dixon line, with the exception of Pennsylvania. However, one Pennsylvanian elector voted for Adams. The Democratic-Republicans won the votes of most Southern electors, but the electors of Maryland and Delaware gave a majority of their votes to Federalist candidates, while North Carolina and Virginia both gave Adams one electoral vote.
Nationwide, most electors voted for Adams and a second Federalist or for Jefferson and a second Democratic-Republican, but there were several exceptions to this rule. One elector in Maryland voted for both Adams and Jefferson, and two electors cast votes for Washington, who had not campaigned and was not formally affiliated with either party. Pinckney won the second votes from a majority of the electors who voted for Adams, but 21 electors from New England and Maryland cast their second votes for other candidates, including Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth. Those who voted for Jefferson were significantly less united in their second choice, though Burr won a plurality of the Jefferson electors. All eight electors in Pinckney's home state of South Carolina, as well as at least one elector in Pennsylvania, cast their ballots for Jefferson and Pinckney. In North Carolina, Jefferson won 11 votes, but the remaining 13 votes were spread among six different candidates from both parties. In Virginia, most electors voted for Jefferson and Governor Samuel Adams of Massachusetts.
The end result was that Adams received 71 electoral votes, one more than required to be elected president. If any two of the three Adams electors in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina had voted with the rest of their states, it would have flipped the election. Jefferson received 68 votes, nine more than Pinckney, and was elected vice president. Burr finished in a distant fourth place with 30 votes. Nine other individuals received the remaining 48 electoral votes. If Pinckney had won the second votes of all of the New England electors who voted for Adams, he would have been elected president over Adams and Jefferson.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote(a), (b), (c)||Electoral vote|
|Thomas Pinckney||Federalist||South Carolina||—||—||59|
|Aaron Burr||Democratic-Republican||New York||—||—||30|
|George Clinton||Democratic-Republican||New York||—||—||7|
|John Jay||Federalist||New York||—||—||5|
|James Iredell||Federalist||North Carolina||—||—||3|
|Samuel Johnston||Federalist||North Carolina||—||—||2|
|Charles Cotesworth Pinckney||Federalist||South Carolina||—||—||1|
|Needed to win||70|
Source (Popular Vote): U.S. President National Vote. Our Campaigns. (February 11, 2006).
Source (Popular Vote): A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825
Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 30, 2005.
(a) Votes for Federalist electors have been assigned to John Adams and votes for Democratic-Republican electors have been assigned to Thomas Jefferson.
(b) Only 9 of the 16 states used any form of popular vote.
(c) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.
|S||E||J. Adams||Jefferson||T. Pinckney||Burr||S. Adams||Ellsworth||Clinton||Jay||Iredell||Johnston||Washington||Henry||C. Pinckney|
While popular vote data is available for some states, presidential elections were vastly different in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Instead of the name of the presidential candidates, voters would see the name of an elector. Confusion over who the elector would vote for was common. Several states also elected a statewide slate of electors (for example, since Thomas Jefferson won the popular vote in Georgia, the slate of four Jefferson electors was chosen) but because of the archaic voting system, votes were tallied by elector, not candidate. The popular vote totals used are the elector from each party with the highest total of votes.
The following four years would be the only time that the president and vice-president were from different parties (John Quincy Adams and John C. Calhoun would later be elected president and vice-president as political opponents, but they were both Democratic-Republican party candidates; Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln's second vice-president, was a Democrat, but Lincoln ran on a combined National Union Party ticket in 1864, not as a strict Republican). Jefferson would leverage his position as vice-president to attack President Adams's policies, and this would help him reach the White House in the following election.
This election would provide part of the impetus for the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On January 6, 1797, Representative William L. Smith of South Carolina presented a resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives for an amendment to the Constitution by which the presidential electors would designate which candidate would be president and which would be vice-president. However, no action was taken on his proposal, setting the stage for the deadlocked election of 1800.
The Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, provided that the state legislatures should decide the manner in which their Electors were chosen. Different state legislatures chose different methods:
|Method of choosing electors||State(s)|
|Each Elector appointed by the state legislature||Connecticut|
|State is divided into electoral districts, with one Elector chosen per district by the voters of that district||Kentucky|
|Each Elector chosen by voters statewide||Georgia|
|Each Elector chosen by voters statewide; however, if no candidate wins majority, the state legislature appoints Elector from top two candidates||New Hampshire|
The 1796 United States elections elected the members of the 5th United States Congress. The election took place during the beginning stages of the First Party System, as the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party clashed over the states' rights, the financial policies of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, and the recently ratified Jay Treaty. The Federalists maintained control of the Senate, and won control of the House and the presidency.
In the first contested Presidential election and the first presidential election in which parties played a major role, Federalist Vice President John Adams narrowly defeated Democratic-Republican former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Adams won New England while Jefferson won the South, leaving the mid-Atlantic states to decide the election. As the election took place prior to the ratification of the 12th Amendment, Jefferson, who finished with the second most electoral votes, succeeded Adams as vice president. Federalist former Governor Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina finished with the third most electoral votes, while Democratic-Republican Senator Aaron Burr of New York finished in fourth place. This election marked the only time in American history that members of two different political parties were elected as president and vice president. Adams's election made him the first member of a political party to be elected president, as George Washington had remained unaffiliated with any political faction or party throughout his presidency.In the House, Federalists won moderate gains, taking majority control of the chamber.In the Senate, Federalists picked up one seat, maintaining a commanding majority in the chamber.1796 United States presidential election in Connecticut
The 1796 United States presidential election in Connecticut took place between November 4 and December 7, 1796, as part of the 1796 United States presidential election. The state legislature chose nine representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President.
During this election, Connecticut cast nine electoral votes for Vice President and New England native John Adams.1796 United States presidential election in New Jersey
The 1796 United States presidential election in New Jersey took place between November 4 and December 7, 1796, as part of the 1796 United States presidential election. The state legislature chose seven representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President.
During this election, New Jersey cast seven electoral votes for incumbent Vice President John Adams.1796 United States presidential election in New York
The 1796 United States presidential election in New York took place between November 4 and December 7, 1796, as part of the 1796 United States presidential election. The state legislature chose 12 representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President.
During this election, New York cast 12 electoral votes for Vice President John Adams.1796 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania
The 1796 United States presidential election in Pennsylvania took place as part of the 1796 United States presidential election. Voters chose 15 representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President.
Pennsylvania voted for the Democratic-Republican candidate, Thomas Jefferson, over the Federalist candidate, John Adams. Jefferson won Pennsylvania by a margin of 1.16%. Greene County's returns, which favored Jefferson, were not submitted in time to be included in the official vote totals. As a result, the two highest vote-getting Adams electors received more votes than the two lowest vote-getting Jefferson electors and the electoral vote was split, with 14 of 15 electors casting their ballots for Jefferson.1796 United States presidential election in South Carolina
The 1796 United States presidential election in South Carolina took place between November 4 and December 7, 1796, as part of the 1796 United States presidential election. The state legislature chose eight representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President.
During this election, South Carolina cast nine electoral votes for former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.1796 United States presidential election in Vermont
The 1796 United States presidential election in Vermont took place between November 4 and December 7, 1796, as part of the 1796 United States presidential election. The state legislature chose four representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President.
During this election, Vermont cast four electoral votes for Vice President and New England native John Adams.1796 and 1797 United States House of Representatives elections
Elections to the United States House of Representatives for the 5th Congress took place in the various states took place between August 12, 1796 (in North Carolina), and October 15, 1797 (in Tennessee). The first session was convened on May 15, 1797, at the proclamation of the new President of the United States, John Adams. Since Kentucky and Tennessee had not yet voted, they were unrepresented until the second session.
Gains for the Federalist Party provided the president with a reliable majority in support of his policies. Many of the Federalist pick-ups in Congress came from the former Middle Colonies (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware). New England remained heavily Federalist, whereas the South and West favored Democratic-Republican candidates. Federalist trade and infrastructure policies found widespread approval in the Mid-Atlantic states during this era. With the growth of cities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, government intervention in the interest of industrialization and mercantilism became more attractive to voting citizens in these areas.
During this period, each state fixed its own date for a congressional general election. Elections to a Congress took place both in the even-numbered year before and in the odd-numbered year when the Congress convened. In some states the congressional delegation was not elected until after the legal start of the Congress (on the 4th day of March in the odd-numbered year).1796 and 1797 United States Senate elections
The United States Senate elections of 1796 and 1797 were elections for the United States Senate which, coinciding with John Adams's election as President, had the ruling Federalist Party gain one seat.
As these elections were prior to ratification of the seventeenth amendment, Senators were chosen by State legislatures.4th United States Congress
The Fourth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met at Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from March 4, 1795, to March 4, 1797, during the last two years of George Washington's presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the First Census of the United States in 1790. The Senate had a Federalist majority, and the House had a Democratic-Republican majority.5th United States Congress
The Fifth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met at Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from March 4, 1797, to March 4, 1799, during the first two years of John Adams' presidency.
The apportionment of seats in this House of Representatives was based on the First Census of the United States in 1790. Both chambers had a Federalist majority.Bibliography of Thomas Jefferson
This Bibliography of Thomas Jefferson is a comprehensive list of published works about Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States. Biographical and political accounts for Jefferson now span across three centuries. Up until 1851, virtually all biographical accounts for Jefferson relied on general and common knowledge gained from official records and public writings and newspapers. It wasn't until Henry S. Randall, the first historian allowed to interview Jefferson's family, giving him access to family letters and records, did biographies of Jefferson take on a more intimate perspective. Randall wrote a three-volume biography which set the premise for many biographies that followed.Before Randall, George Tucker produced his two-volume 1837 account of Jefferson which offered a glint of insight into Jefferson's personal life. Following Jefferson's death he was roundly criticized by the Christian Clergy for his Bible and other writings. Tucker was the first notable historian to explore Jefferson's religious life from a biographical perspective. Though scrutinized by some historians before, during the 1960s civil rights era, historians, many of them with political and social motivations, began criticizing Jefferson for owning slaves and his racial views. While some of their accounts were unforgiving with their often selective points of view, others have noted that Jefferson, while owning slaves and reluctant to release them into freedom unprepared, was among the first of his time to advance the idea of equality and freedom for the African descendants enslaved in the new world. Many of the older biographical works are now in the public domain and often available online in their entirety in the form of e-books, while later publications whose copyrights are still valid can often be partially viewed on the internet.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a plantation on a large tract of land near present-day Charlottesville, Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson (1707/08-57), was a successful planter and surveyor and his mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson (1720–76), came from a prominent Virginia family. Thomas was their third child and eldest son; he had six sisters and one surviving brother.
In 1762, Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he reportedly enjoyed studying for 15 hours then practicing violin for several more hours on a daily basis. He went on to study law under the tutelage of a respected Virginia attorney (there were no official law schools in America at the time), and began working as a lawyer in 1767. As a member of colonial Virginia's House of Burgesses from 1769 to 1775, Jefferson, who was known for his reserved manner, gained recognition for penning a pamphlet, “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (1774), which declared that the British Parliament had no right to exercise authority over the American colonies.Elizur Goodrich
Elizur Goodrich (March 24, 1761 – November 1, 1849) was an eighteenth-century American lawyer and politician from Connecticut. He served as a United States Representative from Connecticut and Collector of Customs.Inauguration of John Adams
The inauguration of John Adams as the second President of the United States was held on Saturday, March 4, 1797, in the House of Representatives Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The inauguration marked the commencement of the only four-year term of John Adams as President and of Thomas Jefferson as Vice President. The presidential oath of office was administered to John Adams by Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth. Adams was the first president to receive the oath of office from a Chief Justice of the United States.List of 1796 United States presidential electors
This is an incomplete List of presidential electors in the United States presidential election of 1796.List of elections in 1796
The following elections occurred in the year 1796.
1796 British general electionUnited States presidential election
The election of president and vice president of the United States is an indirect election in which citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the 50 U.S. states or in Washington, D.C. cast ballots not directly for those offices, but instead for members of the U.S. Electoral College, known as electors. These electors then in turn cast direct votes, known as electoral votes, for president, and for vice president. The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (at least 270 out of a total of 538, since the Twenty-Third Amendment granted voting rights to citizens of Washington, D.C.) is then elected to that office. If no candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes for President, the House of Representatives chooses the winner; if no one receives an absolute majority of the votes for Vice President, then the Senate chooses the winner.
The Electoral College and its procedure are established in the U.S. Constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4; and the Twelfth Amendment (which replaced Clause 3 after its ratification in 1804). Under Clause 2, each of the states casts as many electoral votes as the total number of its Senators and Representatives in Congress, while, per the Twenty-third Amendment ratified in 1961, Washington, D.C. casts the same number of electoral votes as the least-represented state, which is three. Also under Clause 2, the manner for choosing electors is determined by each state legislature, not directly by the federal government. Many state legislatures previously selected their electors directly, but over time all of them switched to using the popular vote to help determine electors, which persists today. Once chosen, electors generally cast their electoral votes for the candidate who won the plurality in their state, but at least 21 states do not have provisions that specifically address this behavior; those who vote in opposition to the plurality are known as "faithless" or "unpledged electors". In modern times, faithless and unpledged electors have not affected the ultimate outcome of an election, so the results can generally be determined based on the state-by-state popular vote.
Presidential elections occur quadrennially with registered voters casting their ballots on Election Day, which since 1845 has been the first Tuesday after November 1. This date coincides with the general elections of various other federal, state, and local races; since local governments are responsible for managing elections, these races typically all appear on one ballot. The Electoral College electors then formally cast their electoral votes on the first Monday after December 12 at their respective state capitals. Congress then certifies the results in early January, and the presidential term begins on Inauguration Day, which since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment has been set at January 20.
The nomination process, consisting of the primary elections and caucuses and the nominating conventions, was not specified in the Constitution, but was developed over time by the states and political parties. These primary elections are generally held between January and June before the general election in November, while the nominating conventions are held in the summer. Though not codified by law, political parties also follow an indirect election process, where voters in the 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories, cast ballots for a slate of delegates to a political party's nominating convention, who then in turn elect their party's presidential nominee. Each party may then choose a vice presidential running mate to join the ticket, which is either determined by choice of the nominee or by a second round of voting. Because of changes to national campaign finance laws since the 1970s regarding the disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns, presidential candidates from the major political parties usually declare their intentions to run as early as the spring of the previous calendar year before the election (almost 18 months before Inauguration Day).
|Founding of the|
the United States
|Elections by year|
|Elections by state|
|Primaries and caucuses|
and Popular vote
State results of the 1796 U.S. presidential election