SDMB Retrospective US Presidential Elections 1800

Sorry for the delay in posting a new one. Seven days as usual.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1800

Would have voted for Jefferson this time around.

Please vote in this thread rather than the other one.

Why the flip? You were supporting Adams in the 1796 thread.

Not to speak for the OP, but the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. That alone would have been enough for me to switch. (Assuming I had voted for the Federalists in the first place.)

Would have voted for Tommy, though I think Adams is the most underrated Founder. I think Adams gets too much grief over the A&S Acts, after all he merely signed it. I’d blame the Congress more for passing it in the first place.

Why blame others more than Adams when it stems from the same source, the belief that legitimate political expression was limited to discrete and polite discussion (mostly conducted by gentlemen)? Federalists like Adams took threats to the dignity of the federal government and its officials very seriously. They feared the democratizing forces of the new popular politics would lead to chaos followed by dictatorship. It’s not that they didn’t support the 1st Amendment. It’s just that they believed it merely forbid the federal government from prior constraint. You had the right to say what you wanted but then you had to take responsibility for your speech if it slandered the government.

I hope I’m not giving the impression that I’m defending Adams’ actions. I’m only saying he was in line with other Federalists. They had played a valuable role in the Founding, to be sure, but as a group they were out of touch with the direction the nation was headed and by 1800 it was past time they stumbled off the stage of history.

I would not have been eligible to vote, and quite likely a slave. I’m sure I’d have been torn between disgust at the Alien & Sedition Acts (disqualiying Adams) and revulsion at Thomas Jefferson’s hypocrisy. Mostly I’d have been keeping my head down (if I were a free black) or hopefully trying to escape my masters and the corrupt society they mistakenly called free.

Besides what Frank said, I believe a brief period of a Federalist rule was necessary for the nation to get used to the concept of a reasonably strong federal government which even the Democratic-Republicans would follow later on.

I’m still backing Adams. The Sedition Act doesn’t really bother me, that much. One has the freedom to debate policy, one has the freedom to criticize the government. One doesn’t have the right, though, to call for the government’s overthrow, or to maliciously print lies against the government or government officials.

The United States is engaged in a noble experiment; to see if a republic of this size can be maintained, or if a large state must fall to despotism. But if we are to maintain the republic, we must be worthy of it. We must not be subject to the base passions of the mob, or the slanderous whisperings of the gutter press, but instead, be elevated by noble passions; to debate the issues of the day like gentlemen.

As for the Alien Act, it is the right of the government to set procedures for naturalization, in the first part, and, in the second, aliens reside here at the pleasure of the government. If an alien is an insurrectionist, or a spy, or a plotter, it is within the right of the government to deny him entry, and, should such plots be discovered when he is in the country, to require him to remove himself to his place of origin. These propositions seem to me to be sensible ones that no one can dispute. So then why do you hold the Sedition Act and the Alien Acts in such disdain?

You know, despite what is widely believed, none of the Old World powers are really plotting to take over America.

I see what you are saying in the abstract. IANAL but I believe America is the only government that protects the right of citizens to lie about it. But there is how the Federalists applied the law. First of all, attacks against Jefferson were never prosecuted. And for good reason, the Vice President himself was not covered by the law only the POTUS and Representatives and Senators. Then even before the law was passed they tried Benjamin Franklin Bache under the common law which they claimed (controlling the judiciary) applied in federal courts. (Again no one was tried under common law for scurrilous attacks on VP Jefferson.)

A lot of these cases were tried before the violent partisan Associate Justice Chase who would badger defense attorneys and refuse to allow them to call witnesses. Penalties were harsh. A wandering public speaker who opposed the Federalists named David Brown was sentenced to a year and half in jail and a $480 dollar fine. That was a lot of money at the time, certainly more than Brown would ever be able to pay which threatened to send him to debtors prison for the rest of his life. A Benjamin Fairbanks was fined $5 for helping Brown erect a liberty pole.

Nicely done. This is the Federalist view. They thought of politics in elite terms. Brown was given a heavy punishment specifically because he, “attempted to incite the uniformed part of the community”.

When Médéric Louis Elie Moreau de St-Méry wondered why he was scheduled for deportation he was told of Adams’ simple response: “Nothing in particular, but he’s too French.” Again, there is a due process issue.

That’s supposed to be the “uninformed” in the previous post. It was us dumb common folk Federalists didn’t like David Brown “inciting” and not soldiers.

For another example of partisan justice there is the very first case brought under the Sedition Act. Matthew Lyons of Vermont was indicted for writing in a public letter that he couldn’t speak in favor an executive with, “a continual grasp for power, in an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice…” Lyon was convicted when Associate Justice Patterson instructed the jury that they must only decide if the statement could have been made for any other purpose than defaming President Adams and if so they must convict. That conflicted with the actual text of the law which allowed the use of truth as a defense (though this was interpreted by Federalist judges to require defendants to prove their statements were accurate in every way or, as in this case, simply ignored as inconvenient). The law also allowed juries to determine the law as well as the facts again in direct contrast to the behavior of Judge Patterson.

Lyon was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison and given a huge fine of $1000. Lyons had nowhere near that kind of money and would have stayed in jail, despite the fact that he had been reelected to Congress in the meantime, except that his fellow Republicans around the country were able to raise the money. David Brown wasn’t so lucky in having wealthy friends. He was unable to pay his fine and was forced to remain in jail after his sentence was completed until Jefferson took office and pardoned all those convicted under the law.

That makes sense. Though as I argued in the last thread, I believe that requirement had been fulfilled during the eight years of Washington’s 2 terms.

That’s just what a papist spy would want us to think!

The revolutionaryness of the “Revolution of 1800” sweeping the Jeffersonian Republicans into power is a controversial question. Many see it as mere rhetoric on Jefferson’s part and that the main change was that as the unsophisticated Republicans came to understand the federal machinery they now controlled they adopted neofederalist policies. And certainly there is good reason to believe that the Republican outlook changed as it became less naïve. But look, depending on how you look at it this view overlooks the aristocratic outlook of the Federalists.

Back then food production was so inefficient that nine out of ten people lived on farms and of central concern for farmers was land policy. Would they be able to continue to eke out a living on their farms and would their children be able to build farms of their own? For these people the course their government would follow was no academic exercise. They overwhelmingly supported Jefferson and the Republicans for a very good reason: Federalist land policy was the same land policy London had tried to impose on the colonies.

Under the Federalists public lands became available to white settlers only after large chunks had been sold to wealthy speculators who then sold parcels to farm families. These “land jobbers” were hated by farmers. They were parasites who added no value. They had political influence so taxes didn’t fall heavily on their holdings and they could reserve choice pieces of land (which had often been improved by squatters) for later sale at much higher prices after settlers built up the community infrastructure. Federalists also tried to limit credit. The less capital is available the more wealth the capitalists can extract from it which is why you still see cries today for raising interest rates even after years of crying wolf about runaway inflation. Joyce Appleby in Inheriting the Revolution (page 57) put it this way:

Federalists, being almost entirely easterners, looked on western expansion much as their former masters in London did. It was good for their interests but needed to be slowed and controlled to ensure the right people benefited. Federalists not only refused to sell land in farm-sized lots but also carefully limited its availability. They didn’t want to depopulate the east and lower prices there. In 1800, their last full year of control, only they sold only 67,000 acres of public land. In 1801, when the Republicans took over only after a long struggle and so didn’t control land policy for the whole year the government still sold 497,939 acres. (Page 64 of Appleby’s work.)

Land availability is only part of the equation. In order to buy land farmers needed credit. As I argued in the last thread, the Federalists were actively opposing this. For them credit was to be restricted to gentlemen who could then maintain their elevated position in the community. Hamilton is credited as a pioneer in both finance and manufacturing but it is rarely noted that his financial instrument, the bank, didn’t offer any services useful to manufacturers. They, like farmers, needed long term loans. The Bank of the United States loaned to the government and made large, short term loans to individuals, often speculators. It also actively collected bills of credit (paper money) drawn on state banks and returned them in bulk rather than just passing it. This was bitterly resented as it forced state banks to keep more gold in deposit and float less paper.

As I argued in the last thread, I don’t believe that Adams and Jefferson personally made very good presidents. But for ordinary white people the choice of Republican over Federalist rule was pretty stark.

Bumped. One day left before the polls close!

Jefferson, just because it’s time for something different. But I don’t know how far I trust that Burr . . .

Too late for me to vote in the poll, but I would vote for Adams. Despite the A&SA, which I think was a serious mistake and patently unconstitutional, he kept us out of war with the European powers, as did the great Washington before him. He is a man of unquestioned personal integrity who did great service during the Revolution. I also loathe Jefferson, for the reasons I explained in the 1804 election thread.