Election of 1796

George Washington, worn-out, stung by criticism and yearning for the pleasures of Mount Vernon, refused to consider a third term. He supported his vice president, John Adams, but thought it unseemly to campaign on behalf of any candidate.

The Constitution in 1796 required presidential electors to place the names of two individuals on their ballots; the candidate with the highest vote count, if a majority, became the president and the runner up the vice president.

It was generally agreed among the leading Federalists that John Adams of Massachusetts should follow the Southerner George Washington. Alexander Hamilton, however, had quarreled with Adams and sought to influence the results. Hamilton much preferred Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, the presumed vice presidential candidate, and persuaded a number of Southern electors to vote for Pinckney and a lesser candidate, i.e. ignoring Adams. Word leaked out, however, and Adams supporters in New England influenced electors to drop Pinckney's name from their ballots.

The results were not anticipated by anyone. Adams won with 71 electoral votes, but was followed by Thomas Jefferson with 68 votes; Thomas Pinckney trailed the leaders with 59. The president was a Federalist, but the vice president was the leader of the Republican opposition – an untidy situation.

The Election of 1796
Candidate

Party

Electoral
Vote

Popular
Vote

John Adams (MA)

Federalist

71

*

Thomas Jefferson (VA)

Democratic-Republican

68

Thomas Pinckney (SC)

Federalist

59

Aaron Burr (NY)

Democratic-Republican

30

Samuel Adams (MA)

Federalist

15

Oliver Ellsworth (CT)

Federalist

11

George Clinton (NY)

Democratic-Republican

7

John Jay (NY)

Federalist

5

Others

10


- - - Books You May Like Include: ----

First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis.
John and Abigail Adams left an indelible and remarkably preserved portrait of their lives together in their personal correspondence: both Adamses were...

Popular Pages