Jefferson's Second Revolution Summary

Susan Dunn

Jefferson’s Second Revolution

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Historian Susan Dunn captures the intriguing dynamics of the presidential election of 1800 in Jefferson’s Second Revolution: The Election Crisis of 1800 and the Triumph of Republicanism. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence of 1776 that spearheaded the American Revolution against British rule, is at the forefront of another "revolution" within the new government. Jefferson, a Republican, believes America should live up to the founders’ proclamation that "all men are created equal." He wants to dispense with rule by wealthy elites as represented by the incumbent Federalists. While the first Revolution created a new form of government called democracy, the revolutionary election of 1800 makes America more truly democratic.

Jefferson’s opponent is Federalist John Adams. Adams, serving as vice-president to George Washington, sees himself as heir-apparent and believes that educated, well-born and wealthy elites should serve as guiding "fathers" to ordinary citizens. This sense of entitlement comes up against a rising tide of public demand for participation in their own government. Jefferson is the beneficiary as support shifts away from incumbent, aristocratic Federalism towards the more egalitarian principles of Republicanism. Jefferson defeats Adams, but a Constitutional crisis ensues over a vagary in Electoral College balloting. Though Federalists try to delay the transfer of power to Republicans, Jefferson eventually prevails in a bitterly won victory in a struggle that foreshadows election dilemmas that go on yet today.

Author Susan Dunn successfully turns historical fact into riveting drama in her narration of the 1800 election. Included within the pages of this book are power shifts involving America’s famous founders, political factions, and the struggle for individual and states’ rights. In the aftermath of this remarkable time the scene is set for a brewing conflict between the industrializing North and an agrarian South.