Thomas Jefferson's Presidency

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Why is the election of 1800 considered a turning point in American history?

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The election of 1800 was the first truly partisan contest in American political history. Washington had recently passed away, and without a galvanizing figurehead to lead the United States, the country split along party lines. President John Adams, a Federalist, was deeply unpopular. He had presided over a growing centralization of political power, one that earned him the undying enmity of his Republican opponents, who accused him of being a tyrant.

The Republicans, unofficially led by Adams's Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, saw themselves as heirs to a tradition of radical republican liberty, the most precious bequest of the colonists' victory over the British. To them, the Federalists constituted a threat to Americans' hard-won freedom. They held that ultimate sovereignty resided with the states, in keeping with the radical decentralization of power under the Articles of Confederation. The growing power of the federal government under Adams represented a complete antithesis of the...

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