Thomas Jefferson's Presidency

Start Free Trial

What is the "Revolution of 1800" in US history?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Presidential election of 1800 was revolutionary in that it heralded the arrival of partisan politics in America. When George Washington was alive, it was possible to maintain some degree of bipartisanship in addressing the country's problems. Washington himself warned against the dangers of "factions" (i.e., parties and self-interested groups)...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Presidential election of 1800 was revolutionary in that it heralded the arrival of partisan politics in America. When George Washington was alive, it was possible to maintain some degree of bipartisanship in addressing the country's problems. Washington himself warned against the dangers of "factions" (i.e., parties and self-interested groups) in his famous Farewell Address. But with Washington's death, all realistic hopes of preventing the formation of political parties died with him.

It soon became clear that the rival parties—the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans—had completely different ideas about how to run the country. Federalists favored a strong central government, whereas Democratic-Republicans emphasized the importance of states' rights. Federalists tended to advocate closer relations with Great Britain, whereas their opponents were more sympathetic to France. And the Federalist vision of the economy was one of the United States as a major commercial and industrialized power. Democratic-Republicans, on the other hand, were champions of farmers and small business owners.

In the election of 1800, the huge gulf between the parties' rival visions was reflected in the style and tenor of the campaign. Each side showered the other in the most outrageous personal abuse. President Adams, the Federalist candidate, was portrayed by the Democratic-Republicans as a would-be tyrant who wanted to make himself king. For his part, Vice President Jefferson, the Democratic-Republican candidate, was accused by his opponents of being a traitor who was prepared to sell out American national interests to the French.

The bitter mudslinging that took place during the campaign ensured that American politics would be deeply riven by factionalism from then on. The two-party system had been born, forged in the crucible of mutual hatred and recrimination. Neither the country nor its political system would ever be quite the same again.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The presidential election of 1800 is often called the "Revolution of 1800."  It was one of the most important elections in our history.  The reason for this is that this election led to a transfer of power from one party (the Federalists) to another (the Democratic-Republicans) for the first time ever.  This was extremely important because it meant that one party would not try to keep power for itself indefinitely.  In many new countries, the party or the people who first get power try to keep it forever and only give it up through violence.  In the US this did not happen.  "The Revolution of 1800," then, was the first presidential election in which one party replaced the other in power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team