BRIAN LAMB, HOST: John Ferling, author of "Adams vs. Jefferson," why did you think the election of 1800 was worth writing about again?
JOHN FERLING, AUTHOR, "ADAMS VS. JEFFERSON: THE TUMULTUOUS ELECTION OF 1800": Well, I think it was a pivotal election from two standpoints, one that doesn`t mean very much to us today, but it meant a great deal to contemporaries, and that was the fact that this was the first time that a group that controlled the executive branch had been voted out and surrendered power, and that just hadn`t happened in history. So we take that for granted today, but contemporaries in 1800, 1801 saw that as just something of enormous significance.
But in addition to that, I think the election of 1800 was, in a sense, the final act of the American Revolution, really resolved the American Revolution, in a sense. And what I mean by that is that our revolution was very different from other revolutions. Other revolutions had a long period of gestation and arguing and fighting against the governments, and then the revolution occurs. And our revolution was a revolution of colonials who were resisting change by an imperial government, and then that led into a war of independence. And no one really looked at what might -- what the United States might look like after independence.
And I think once the war began, people were afraid to broach that idea because it would be such a divisive idea. And so it really wasn`t until the war ended in the 1780s and thereafter that fighting began over what domestic America would look like. And I think the Constitutional Convention was probably the first shot in that war, and the election of 1800 was the second and final shot.
LAMB: George Washington became president what year?
FERLING: In 1789.
LAMB: He was president for eight years.
LAMB: Was he ever opposed in the two elections?
FERLING: No, no. He ran -- in fact, once he announces that he would accept the presidency, then no one contested it at all. So he gets all of the electoral votes in both elections.
LAMB: In 1796, who ran against who?
FERLING: OK. Well, in those days there were actually two candidates nominated by each party for president, not a candidate for vice president and a candidate for president, because the original Constitution stipulated that presidential electors were to cast two ballots for president. So the Federalists in 1796 nominated John Adams, who had been vice president for eight years, and Thomas Pinckney from South Carolina. And the Republicans nominated Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
LAMB: In 1796, what was a Federalist? What did they stand for?
FERLING: Well, the Federalists were the most conservative party in the 1790s. And I think it probably depends on whether you listened to what the Federalists said or what the Republicans said about them, but essentially, I think the Federalists were opposed to change. They wanted to keep the United States more or less as it had been in pre-revolutionary times. I mean, they didn`t, perhaps, accept the idea of a monarchy, but in terms of maintaining the social system, a fairly rigid, hierarchical kind of system, they were the most conservative party.
LAMB: But they wanted a strong federal government.
FERLING: Very strong federal government.
LAMB: Which wouldn`t work today, conservatives wanting a strong federal government...
FERLING: Right. It`s just the opposite today.
LAMB: No way to brand -- I mean, then you go to the other side. What was a Republican back in 1796?
FERLING: Well, a Republican favored a weaker central government. And in fact, I think the Republicans really grew out of the protest movement against Great Britain. Not that the Federalists weren`t part of that, but people like Samuel Adams and others, for example, who were kind of the original Republicans, saw Great Britain`s attempt, through taxation and whatever from 1765 to 1776, to tighten Britain`s control over America and impose a very strong central government over the colonies.
And so the Republicans favored more power at the local level for the colonies before 1776, for the states after 1776. And I think, generally, they tended to be more pro-French, more pro-French revolution, at any rate, and embraced the changes -- many of the changes, at any rate, that came out of the French revolution.
LAMB: So although the name "Republican" today would work with the states having more power, the fact that conservatives wanted more of a central government wouldn`t work today. So the labels -- is there any way to label people today, based on what they were back then?
FERLING: Not contrasting it to 1800, I don`t think. But I use the term "conservative" in the sense that I think the Federalists wanted to conserve more of the American past, pre-revolutionary past, and that they tended to be more pro-British. And many of their opponents argued, and to some degree, I think, with justification, that many of the Federalists wanted to reestablish ties with Great Britain, even perhaps form an alliance with Great Britain.
LAMB: Who won in 1796?
FERLING: The Federalists won. Adams defeated Jefferson by three votes -- 71 to 68.
LAMB: The electoral votes.
FERLING: The electoral votes.
LAMB: OK. Jump to 1800. Who was running against each other in 1800?
FERLING: Well, it was pretty much the same lineup, with the exception that Thomas Pinckney was not nominated by the Federalists, and his brother, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was. So the Federalists nominated John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney from South Carolina, and the Republicans renominated Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. And the nominations, by the way, were made by caucuses of the members of those -- of each party among the representatives and senators in the Congress.
LAMB: 5.2 million people lived in this country, you say, in 1800. Today there`s 294 million. There were 16 states. Today there are 100. What else differs? I know you talked about a $20 million deficit back then. We did a little research today. According to one economic model, that`s $291 million on today`s dollars. What else differed between the 1800 and today?
FERLING: Well, I think one major difference was the fact that it was a very rural country. Only about 5 percent of the population lived in urban areas. Today it`s about 82 or 83 percent that lives in urban areas. The largest city in the country was Philadelphia. It had a population of under 70,00 at the time. Most people were still farmers. Most people worked with their hands. It was a pre-industrial age at that time, so all labor was done by hand labor, essentially.
People didn`t travel very much. The average person never traveled more than about 50 miles from his place of birth, and probably, arguably, most people never traveled even 50 miles from their place of birth. It was just a very, very different society in that respect.
Also, slavery was still in existence. Nine hundred thousand Americans were enslaved in 1800. Two thirds of the inhabitants of South Carolina were enslaved. Half of the inhabitants of Georgia were enslaved. Almost half of the inhabitants of Maryland and North Carolina were enslaved. Slavery existed in virtually all of the Northern states. They were in the process of eliminating slavery, but it was by gradual emancipation. So there would still be slaves in most of the Northern states until the 1830s or 1840s or later.
LAMB: Where did John Adams as president live?
FERLING: Well, he was from Quincy, Massachusetts. Braintree originally, and then it split off and became...
LAMB: But where did he live as president?
FERLING: Oh, he lived in Philadelphia.
LAMB: When was the change made to Washington?
FERLING: Well, actually, there were two changes. The original capital was New York, and Washington spent his first year, maybe 15 months or so, in New York City. And then the capital was moved to Philadelphia in 1790, and it remained there until 1800, and then the capital was moved to Washington, "the federal city" it was still officially called, although almost everyone was referring to it as Washington at the time.
LAMB: Anybody that`s watched this 2004 election and watched the commentary thinks that it`s a nasty campaign. I mean, there`s a lot of talk about -- if you took everything that happened back in 1800 and moved it to today, what would they say about it?
FERLING: Well, I think they would say the election of 1800 was just as nasty as today`s election, and it has all the hallmarks, I think, of things that are occurring in the 2004 election, from the standpoint that one of the issues is the war record of both of the major candidates in 2004. But Jefferson`s war record was an issue in the election of 1800. Jefferson had not soldiered during the War of Independence. He spent almost all of the War of Independence living at home in Monticello, and the Federalists played on that during the election.
LAMB: So what had Adams done?
FERLING: Well, Adams was in Congress from the First Continental Congress forward and was in Congress when independence was declared, left Congress late in 1777, went abroad, served as a diplomat abroad. First he was sent to France, to try to secure an alliance or treaty with France. In 1778, he arrived to discover that that had already happened. And he came back to the United States, and then returned to France a year later as the sole negotiator to negotiate a peace treaty with England -- with Great Britain, whenever Britain was ready to negotiate.
And it turned out eventually that that commission -- that was expanded into a five-member commission. But Adams spent the entire -- almost the -- well, all of the war years either in Congress in Philadelphia, or various places when Congress was on the run because of the military situation, or abroad as an envoy.
LAMB: So neither one of them took up arms.
FERLING: No. But Adams was an older man. He was born in 1735, so he was about 40 at the time that the war broke out. Jefferson was about seven or eight years younger than Adams.
LAMB: I want to jump to the middle because, again, talking about the difference between 1800 and now -- and there`s a fellow named James Callender. We`ve talked about him many times here. But you have a lot on him. And the most interesting thing that you have is that Thomas Jefferson paid him. Now, first of all, who`s James Callender?
FERLING: Well, James Callender was a radical polemicist, a radical journalist. He was born in Scotland, got in trouble there because of things that he wrote and fled to Ireland, got in trouble there because of things that he wrote. He questioned the British constitution, and so the heat was on. And he fled from Ireland to Philadelphia and immediately began writing radical polemical essays in Philadelphia, as well.
And Jefferson was familiar with him. Jefferson had read, especially, the tract that he wrote attacking the British constitution. And Jefferson liked that. And Jefferson didn`t like to write political essays himself. He said that he never did, and as far as we know, he was accurate about that, truthful about that. He didn`t write political essays. He usually liked to find someone else to do that kind of work for him. So Callender, I think, was one of many individuals that Jefferson turned to.
Jefferson thought he was certainly one of the most talented, and he approached -- or Jefferson approached him in Philadelphia, and he wrote some things for the Republicans early on. And then Callender fled Philadelphia, came down to Virginia, to Richmond, and wrote. And Jefferson once again contacted him about writing some tracts during the election of 1800, but told Callender, Don`t come to Monticello. He didn`t want him to be attached. So this was all done quite clandestinely by Jefferson.
LAMB: So there`s nothing different than all these 527s we`re talking about today, where you have supporters of this president or of John Kerry who are feeding money to an organization to do the nasty.
FERLING: Well, in a sense that`s true. Right.
LAMB: Well, let me just read, so that everybody knows what we`re talking about here. "Soon other Republicans with deep pockets" and the Republican name has nothing to do with today, but some -- "Soon other Republicans with deep pockets came forward, likely at the behest of Jefferson, to bankroll the journalist. Calumny dripped from Callender`s pen in several essays that he wrote during the next year. He unsparingly flayed Washington as a liar who longed to be a dictator. He called Hamilton `the Judas Iscariot of our country` and charged that he was a monarchist willing to sell out the United States to Great Britain. Callender depicted Adams a warmonger and, quote, `poor old man` who as in his dotage. The Federalist Party, he said repeatedly, was the foe of the rights of men."
Could you get any tougher than that?
FERLING: No, I don`t think so.
LAMB: Could you get any nastier than that?
FERLING: But I think it should probably be said that the Federalists did the same thing. I mean, they recruited writers, as well. And about 60 percent of the newspapers that were affiliated with one party or the other were Federalist newspapers. So they were doing the same thing, as well. It was just common practice at the time. And I think it really, in a sense, went back to the revolutionary period, and probably even to the colonial period. I mean, Thomas Paine`s "Common Sense" in 1776 -- Paine was approached by members of Congress and asked to write a tract advocating independence. And there`s some evidence that a couple members of Congress may have even read the draft of what he wrote. So I think this was pretty common practice at the time.
LAMB: "Later on" -- you`re talking about a year later, in 1799, so we`re one year before the election -- "he sent Jefferson the sheets for `The Prospect Before Us.`" What was that?
FERLING: Well, that was a pamphlet that he wrote that appeared in 1800. Most of the writing was either done as essays in newspapers or as what were called broadsides, which was just one single sheet, a very short tract, that, in a sense, was like a sound bite today. It was just something that people could read very quickly. And then there were pamphlets. And pamphlets ran from maybe 10 pages up to 100 pages, but probably an average-length pamphlet would have been 35 or 40 pages. And that`s what Callender was doing.
LAMB: Later you write, "Telling Callender that the book, quote, `cannot fail to produce the best effect,` unquote, the vice president" -- who was Thomas Jefferson -- "once again provided funds to assist in the completion of the campaign tract. Soon after the pamphlet appeared, Callender discovered that he was not safe even in the South. He was arrested under the Sedition Act and incarcerated in Richmond."
Who passed the Sedition Act?
FERLING: Well, that was passed by a Federalist Congress in the midst of a war hysteria in 1798. Adams`s presidency is dominated by a single issue, essentially, and that`s a crisis with France that actually begins to have its first rumblings in the last year of Washington`s administration but explodes during Adams`s presidency. And it appeared in 1798 as a result of something called the XYZ Affair, in which Adams had sent envoys to Paris to try to negotiate a settlement with the French, and the French government refused to meet with those envoys, sent out secret agents, in fact, and demanded that they pay a bribe and that President Adams apologize for things that he had said in an address that he had given to a special session of Congress.
And when that was revealed to the American public, you can imagine the outrage and the outcries that occurred from that. And the Federalists capitalized on that hysteria to take a number of steps, to create a provisional army and other defensive preparations, military preparations. But also, they passed a series of acts that were called the Alien and Sedition Acts in the summer of 1798. And those acts provided for additional authority to expel aliens from the United States, lengthen the period of naturalization for immigrants before they could become citizens, and voting citizens. And most of the immigrants were Republicans, so many people thought there were political overtones to that act.
And then the Sedition Act provided for jail terms, very stiff jail terms and fines for people who criticized the leaders of the United States, Congress and especially the president of the United States. And Callender obviously had written very critical things about the president of the United States.
LAMB: How long did he go to jail?
FERLING: I`m not sure how long he was actually in jail. Most of the jail terms lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of six months to a bit more than a year or so.
LAMB: When was the Alien and Sedition Act revoked?
FERLING: Well, it was written in such a way that it was to expire on March the 4th, 1801, so that it would expire on the last day the Federalists were in office, if they lost the election of 1800. And Jefferson and the Republicans just simply let it expire.
LAMB: Did Callender -- do I remember correctly that he went on then to expose the affair that Thomas Jefferson had supposedly with Sally Hemmings?
FERLING: That`s right. I think what Callender wanted as payoff for writing was not only the financial rewards from Jefferson, but he also wanted a nice appointment, a nice job with the federal government. And he was given a position but not a very lucrative or handsome position. And he was distraught by that and then turned against Jefferson. And early in Jefferson`s administration went to Charlottesville, nosed around, talked to a number of people there to gather what information he could. He probably had heard rumors about Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. In fact, I think there`s some evidence that there was some whispering about Jefferson having a relationship with one of his female slaves during the election of 1800, but it never appeared in print during that election.
And then Callender broke that story or broke the news. I think it was in 1802. And it was something that I think probably a very few people accepted at the time, and it was only as a result of writings by Fawn Brodie and others since the 1970s that that issue came back front and center. And it`s been the subject of an enormous amount of research by scholars over the last 25 or 30 years now.
LAMB: What do you think -- if Thomas Jefferson were alive today and in the atmosphere we have today, all of the things that you have in here in your book about him, including he was in serious debt all the time, it seemed like, then his relationship with Maria Cosway, a woman who was married in Europe, and his relationship with his slaves and the fact that he had slaves -- what do you think would happen today if we judged him based on what people think is important today?
FERLING: Well, I think if the public knew it, his career would probably come to an end. I don`t think the public knew anything about his relationship with Maria Cosway. As far as I know, that only became public knowledge generations after Jefferson`s demise.
LAMB: How did we find out about her?
FERLING: I think it was just with the publication of Jefferson`s letters, or at least, when they became available to scholars some time after Jefferson`s death.
LAMB: When was that relationship?
FERLING: That developed in the 1780s. Jefferson`s wife had passed away in 1782, and Jefferson, I think, was just driven to -- as you can imagine, to a black despair. In fact, I think some people thought, probably correctly, that he may have even been suicidal for a time following Martha`s death. And friends like James Madison, in particular, used Virginia legislature, encouraged the Virginia legislature to elect Jefferson to Congress as a way to get him away from that environment and Monticello.
So he came back to Congress -- this was under the Articles of Confederation, actually -- in 1783, and then in 1784 went abroad as an American envoy. In fact, he and Adams and Franklin were abroad, and their task was to try to negotiate treaties, trade treaties with European countries. And it was during the course of his stay in Paris that he met Maria Cosway, fell in love with her, and they had a relationship, kind of an off-and-on relationship because she returned with her husband to London for a time and then came back to Paris. And then they continued to correspond for some time after that.
But as late as the early 1790s, when Jefferson is back in the United States -- he`s secretary of state under Washington by that time -- he`s writing letters to Maria Cosway in which he appears to be inviting her to come to America, to come to Monticello, and whatever. And I think the torch continued to burn for some time. But then eventually, I think Jefferson learned that she had had a child. She had gone into a convent. Years went by, and she didn`t correspond with Jefferson, or with anyone, in fact. And it was only when she emerged from the convent, after being in there for four or five years, that she became aware that Jefferson had written her. And I think, at that point, she tried to reestablish ties, at least by writing to Jefferson, and Jefferson just was no longer interested in pursuing that.
LAMB: How do you think he survived all of this, negative things that have been brought out? The debt, for instance. How much in debt was he, and what kind of problems did that cause him?
FERLING: Well, he ran into a terrific debt. He made a horrible decision. His father-in-law, his wife`s father, a man named John Wayles, who lived near Williamsburg, passed away just on the eve of the American revolution. And Jefferson had a choice of accepting his estate, which was willed to his wife and under the laws of the day, would pass into Jefferson`s hands, not his wife`s hands, actually -- he could accept it or he could reject it. And he knew that if he accepted the inheritance, a debt went with it because John Wayles was in debt. And Jefferson made a calculated decision that he could sell some of the land, sell some of the slaves, liquidate the debt and it wouldn`t be a risky proposition.
What he didn`t calculate was that the War of Independence was about to begin. There would be no American trade. Shipments of tobacco plummeted to almost nothing during the war. And so Jefferson`s debt increased. The interest just kept going up and up and up on that debt. And by the time you got to about 1790, when he enters Washington`s administration as secretary of state, his debt was about 6,000 pounds.
And in that day and time, a skilled artisan, someone who was maybe a gunsmith or a weaver, a tanner, a carpenter, a brick mason, something along those lines, made about 100 pounds a year in annual wages. So that individual, if he worked a lifetime, into his mid-60s might have total lifetime earnings of about 4,000 pounds. And Jefferson`s debt was 6,000 pounds, roughly. So I mean, it was a huge debt. He was grappling even just to pay the interest on it.
And in fact, I think he came back from France in 1789 largely because of the debt. He had an 18-year-old daughter that he wanted to get married, and he wanted her to marry an American, and especially a Virginian, so part of the reason for coming back was to introduce her into Virginia society. But part of it was to try to get operations at Monticello shipshape in the hopes that he could start making money there and liquidate the debt.
And I think it`s only after he comes back that he really understands the magnitude of that debt. And in fact, he`s back maybe a year or so and he`s talking in some of his correspondence about having sleepless nights because of his debt. So I think by that time, he knew what he was up against. And he was never able to extricate himself from that debt. And in fact, I think if anybody other than Thomas Jefferson had owned Monticello, creditors would have taken it long, long before 1826, when Jefferson finally passed away.
LAMB: Was there ever any case where he got special favors because of his position in the government from the banks or any of the people that he owed money to?
FERLING: Not that I know of. I mean, I`m sure some of the creditors probably cut him some slack on some of that. And he did eventually sell his library to the government. That became the basic foundation of the Library of Congress, in fact.
LAMB: Do you remember how much money it was that he got?
FERLING: No, I don`t.
LAMB: I vaguely remember something like $5,000-plus back then, which would be hundreds of thousands probably today.
FERLING: Right. Yes. And some people have alleged there was maybe a sweetheart deal involved in arranging that sale, but I think that would probably be the closest thing...
LAMB: One last thing on this, and I want to go back to the election of 1800. John Wayles, his father-in-law, was the father of Sally Hemming?
FERLING: That`s right. And which meant that Sally Hemmings and Jefferson`s wife, Martha Jefferson, Martha Wayles Skelton, because she was a widow when Jefferson married her -- that Martha and Sally Hemmings were sisters, half-sisters.
LAMB: Go back to the situation in 1800. How many electors were there?
FERLING: I`d have to count...
LAMB: I wrote it down.
FERLING: About 139, I think.
LAMB: There were 136 electors in 16 states.
LAMB: OK. If you were an elector in 1800, how did you get there?
FERLING: Well, actually there were three ways that electors were chosen. You could be elected by the qualified voters in special districts -- essentially the congressional districts, was one way.
LAMB: What is a qualified voter?
FERLING: Well, that`s a good question. It varies from state to state, at that point. Before the American Revolution, almost everywhere you had to be a property-owning adult white male in order to vote. The adult white male remained in 1800. Women were disenfranchised. Indians were disenfranchised. African-Americans were disenfranchised. Catholics and Jews here and there were disenfranchised at the time. But during the Revolution, some states had eliminated the property qualifications for voting, or they had reduced the property qualifications.
LAMB: But what you`re saying, though, I don`t mean to interrupt, but you`re saying, though, if you were -- in some places you had to be a white male Protestant.
LAMB: Owning property in order to put the elector in this town, in order to make the decision on who became president.
FERLING: That`s right. That`s right. Although in, I think in most places, the property qualifications either had been eliminated altogether -- Pennsylvania eliminated the property qualifications in the mid-1770s, for example -- or they had been reduced dramatically. I mean, clearly, in New York propertyless workers are voting in the election of 1800. But it certainly would have been a much smaller electorate among adults than is the case in 2004.
LAMB: To go back to what you told us, the Federalist ticket included John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and the Republicans were Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
LAMB: If you were an elector back in 1800, how many votes did you have?
FERLING: You had two votes.
LAMB: And could you literally vote for John Adams and Aaron Burr?
FERLING: Right. The only restriction that the Constitution imposed was that only one of your two votes could be for a resident of your state. So if you were from Virginia, you could vote for Jefferson but you couldn`t vote for any other Virginian.
LAMB: So who could become president, then? How did they decide if you had four people running who got to be president?
FERLING: Whoever got a majority of the electoral votes. And if no one got a majority of the electoral votes, then it went to the House of Representatives, or if two individuals received a majority but tied, as happened in 1800, then it went to the House of Representatives.
LAMB: You said turned out to be 73 and 73.
LAMB: And the two top winners with 73 were?
FERLING: Were Jefferson and Burr, both Republicans.
LAMB: And what did that do then to the whole process?
FERLING: Well, it kicked it into the House of Representatives, and then that really changes everything, because the way the Constitution stipulated that the House was to proceed -- because the Federalists controlled the House of Representatives, and had more members in the House of Representatives, but the Constitution stipulated that in voting for a president, each state was allotted just one vote, and eight of the 16 delegations were controlled by Republicans six were controlled by Federalists in 1800.
LAMB: How about the other two?
FERLING: No. I`m sorry. The other two were split. Actually, Maryland was -- there were eight Republicans, seven Federalist states, and one state, Vermont, had one Republican and one Federalist. So the breakdown was eight to seven with one essentially neutral.
But within the Maryland delegation, one of the Federalist congressmen leaned toward Jefferson. And what that meant was where there were actually five Federalists and three Republicans in the Maryland delegation, the split was four to four, because four of them were going to vote for Jefferson and four were going to vote for Burr.
So what that meant was there were eight states that were committed initially to Jefferson, six states that were in essence dominated by the Federalists, and two that couldn`t reach a resolution, Maryland and Vermont.
LAMB: So what you`re saying, back in 1800 if you were a woman or you were a white male that didn`t own property, in some cases, or if you were a Catholic or a Jew or a black person, this is off somewhere else, somebody -- it was the purview of very few people.
FERLING: Well, that`s true, and that`s the way politics had always been I think through most of the 18th century. It had been practiced by just a small handful of people. And for the people who were disenfranchised had to go into the streets or had to make their voices heard in other ways than at the polling place.
LAMB: I`m not sure this is fair, but if you are going around today taking the position that you are for the original intent of the Constitution, and that you don`t believe that the Constitution -- what the Constitution says ought to be followed, does that mean that you`re saying that you agree with all this back in 1800 the way it was?
FERLING: Well, no, actually the Constitution stipulated -- the Constitution left it to the states to determine who could vote. And the Constitution stipulated that those who could vote for the largest body in the state legislature, which would be the lower house in the state legislature, that anybody that the state permitted, or gave eligibility to vote for that office, then was eligible to vote in federal elections.
LAMB: But does the Constitution do that today?
FERLING: Yes, I think so.
LAMB: Still leaves it entirely up to the states?
LAMB: And so...
FERLING: Well, I think there have been -- you know, there have been amendments added, you know, the 16th Amendment on -- you can`t disenfranchise someone because of race or color, and the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, and so forth. So there obviously have been some changes.
LAMB: Go back to again your book. You say early in your book that you changed your mind about Alexander Hamilton some. Changed from what to what?
FERLING: Well, I don`t think I cared for Hamilton very much in my early writings, earlier books that I had worked on. But I think as I went along, I came to have more respect for Hamilton, and for Jefferson, too. I didn`t like Jefferson very much as a young man either. Didn`t like Washington very much as a young man when I worked on a biography of Washington.
So it probably has something to do with my own maturing and study of history and coming to see things differently.
But while I still see Hamilton as someone with blemishes, who made mistakes and whatever, I think that Hamilton was somebody who really creates the modern American economic system when he`s the secretary of the treasury in the Washington administration. I mean, he puts in a -- he creates -- asks Congress to create a Bank of the United States. He gets through a funding and assumption proposal, really, really creates a national debt to eliminate the debt that had been carried over from the Revolutionary War, and then in the process essentially puts money into circulation in the United States.
It`s in a sense kind of the beginning of our modern capitalistic system.
LAMB: Where was he in 1800, what was he doing?
FERLING: Well, he didn`t hold office. He was out of politics and he was practicing law in New York City. He lived in New York City at the time.
LAMB: You write, "Alexander Hamilton published a savage attack on Adams that for scurrility equaled the worst assaults by the most noxious Republican scribes, including some who now languished in jail." Wasn`t Hamilton politically closer to Adams back then?
FERLING: Well, Hamilton was a Federalist and Adams was a Federalist. But they had very different views on what to do in this crisis with France that dominated Adams` presidency. And Hamilton -- it is difficult to know exactly what Hamilton was up to. And Hamilton`s biographers have been all over the board in trying to explain where Hamilton was going.
An army was created. Hamilton maneuvered, actually I think maneuvered Washington to pressure Adams to get Hamilton named as what was called the inspector general, which was the number two individual under Washington in that army.
But since Washington said, I`ll only leave Mount Vernon if a French invasion is imminent, that meant that Hamilton was really in charge of the army.
And there are some people who believe that Hamilton was interested in the army just for patronage purposes. And there are other people who think, and I would -- I think probably be in this camp, that Hamilton was interested in military adventurism. I think he wanted to use that army to move against some of the border lands that were controlled by Spain, and which was distracted by the war in Europe, and thought it would be in the interests of national security -- and not coincidentally, perhaps, make himself a military hero and strengthen his career.
So I think he wanted to keep this crisis going with France, and Adams was more interested in what he thought would be an honorable, negotiated settlement. And Adams sent envoys to Europe -- to Paris, to try to seek a settlement. And when he did that, then what might be called the radical right wing of the Federalist Party, which most historians refer to as the High Federalists or the Ultra-Federalists really broke with Adams at that point.
So it`s within that context that Hamilton writes this devastating critique of Adams that appeared late in the campaign of 1800.
LAMB: Let me just read what you write. "Hamilton acknowledged that Adams is bright and well educated, but those attributes were vitiated by his vanity, distempered jealousy, extreme egotism and such an ungovernable temper that he frequently behaved outrageously toward those who served him."
Later on, "Adams, Hamilton concluded, has certain fixed points of character which tend naturally to the detriment of any cause of which he is the chief, of any administration of which he is the head."
Is there any correlation to today, and is it Zell Miller talking about his own party, or is it John McCain previously talking about his -- the current president?
FERLING: Sure. And I think all through history, you can find people who defect from one party and move to another. In fact, in the book I talk about a man named Tench Coxe, who had been assistant secretary of the treasury under Hamilton. He was a Federalist. He converted to the Republican side and published incriminating letters that Adams had written about the Pinckneys during the course of this campaign.
So I think it probably has gone on in many elections.
I think the question in this case, I mean, there`s no mystery that Hamilton hated Adams, but the mystery is why would he do something like this? I mean, it would seem to be political suicide to attack the leader of your own party, and I think that what Hamilton was really rolling the dice on, gambling on here, was that Pinckney might -- that the issue might get thrown to the House of Representatives, which it did, and that Pinckney might be one of the candidates in the House of Representatives.
So I see this as almost a brief on behalf of Pinckney, in the hopes that he can convert one or two House members to vote for Pinckney. And if he can make Pinckney the president, he can be seen as the kingmaker who makes Pinckney the president. This will restore his political career.
I mean, otherwise, he`s dead. If Adams has four more years, Adams will have nothing to do with Hamilton. In fact, he`s calling Hamilton "America`s Napoleon." And if Jefferson is elected, surely -- or Burr, for that matter, they`ll have nothing to do with Hamilton.
So Hamilton`s one hope is to get Pinckney into office. And I think he was gambling that perhaps by writing this tract that he could influence members not in the Electoral College -- that really was pretty unlikely, I think -- but that he might influence people in the House.
Of course, the members of the Electoral College of course were elected as Federalists or as Republicans, but they could still vote however they wished. And in fact, one of the Federalists did abandon Pinckney and voted for John Jay. He was the only one of the presidential electors who broke with the party caucus nominations.
So I think Hamilton may have hoped that he could influence one or two electors, but mostly I think he was trying to influence members of the House.
LAMB: I`m frantically trying to find and not being very successful, I thought I had it marked well, the health condition of John Adams in all this. I mean, there is one description you give that I wondered if he could have anything else wrong with him and still be alive.
FERLING: Well, he was an elderly man by this time. He was getting into his mid-60s. And I felt, in fact, I years ago wrote an article with Dr. Lewis Braverman, who is an endocrinologist, an article that appeared in "The William and Mary Quarterly," and we speculated -- I don`t think it can be proven conclusively, but we speculated that Adams was suffering from Graves Disease.
LAMB: Can I read this? I found it.
FERLING: Sure. Sure.
LAMB: So you`ve put your finger on what I was trying to find, but just so people know what you`re talking about, "during those illnesses he had exhibited symptoms that including heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, weakness, night sweats, skin disorders, inflamed and protuberant eyes, insomnia, confusion, tremors, exceptional anxiety and possibly a goiter," which you ended up calling auto-immune disorder, stress.
FERLING: Right. Well, one of the causes of hyperthyroidism or Graves Disease is stress. And those symptoms that I was describing were symptoms that Adams manifested in 1775 and 1776. It was long before he became president. And Dr. Braverman and I theorized that Adams had experienced an onset of Graves Disease on three occasions. Twice in the 1770s, and once in the early 1780s.
But the disease can go into remission. And if you look at the medical literature before therapies were devised for it, while most people didn`t survive the disease, some people could go -- the disease could go into remission and they could live on for years and years. And that seems to have been I think what happened in Adams` case.
The last instance was 1781, where he exhibited those symptoms. So it`s about 20 years before this election. And I think Adams, just through his own deductive reasoning, concluded that a relatively stress-free environment and a great deal of exercise would be therapy against these problems. And so he pursued that for the rest of his life, and managed to fight off the recurrence of it. He had some other problems, but the other problems were more like gum disease and things of that sort, not life threatening.
LAMB: And lived to be 90.
FERLING: Lived to be 90 years old, almost 91.
LAMB: Go back to the House of Representatives. You said it took 36 ballots, and each state then -- 16 states only had one vote.
FERLING: Had one vote.
LAMB: In the end, in that 36th ballot, what was the score?
FERLING: Well, on the 36th ballot, neither -- none of the Federalists from South Carolina was in totally Federalist delegation. None of the congressmen from South Carolina voted, nor did James Bayard, who was Delaware`s sole representative and a Federalist vote.
So the final vote was 10 votes, 10 states voted for Jefferson. Four states voted for Burr, even on the final vote, and two essentially didn`t vote.
LAMB: James Bayard, was he the one who tripped it off?
FERLING: Right. He`s the one I think who blinks finally. The House went through 33 ballots between Wednesday, February the 12th, when it began voting, and Saturday. And every vote was precisely the same -- eight for Jefferson -- you had to have nine votes to win. Jefferson got eight on every vote. Burr, with the Federalists voting for Burr, Burr got six votes, and two states cast ballots but didn`t vote for anyone, because they were deadlocked.
If a state abstained and didn`t vote at all, then that changed the arithmetic. In that case, it would be 15 states voting, and Jefferson would have had a majority to vote.
So those two -- to win, rather. So those states cast ballots.
And I think what happened, and it`s -- there is certainly some conjecture involved, because no one says specifically what happened, and you have to try to read into the doctrines. But I think what happened is that James Bayard, who was a Federalist congressman from Delaware, the only representative from Delaware, so he held it in his hands to make the decision...
LAMB: How old was he, by the way?
FERLING: Bayard? He was in his 40s. He was still a relatively young man. In fact, would in fact have a political career that would last for almost 20 years beyond this.
But I think Bayard on that Saturday night decided that he was -- that it had gone far enough and he wanted some sort of resolution. And I think what he did was he went to John Nicholas, who was a Virginia congressman and a Jefferson supporter, a Republican, and talked with Nicholas and offered Nicholas a bargain, if Jefferson will agree to the terms of this bargain -- and it was something that the Federalists in their caucuses had essentially put forward, that they wanted to see if either Burr or Jefferson would agree to the terms of this bargain. If Nicholas would see that Jefferson would consent to the bargain, then Bayard would switch his vote and vote for Jefferson and Jefferson could be elected.
And the terms of the bargain essentially were that Jefferson would have to retain Hamilton`s economic program. He would have to protect American neutrality. In other words, not ally with France, which the Federalists were concerned about. He would have to maintain the American Navy, which would protect America`s commerce on the high seas. And he would have to leave the Federalist officials beneath the cabinet level in office.
And Bayard went to Nicholas, and Nicholas apparently said, yes, Jefferson will agree to this. And so the next day, Bayard went to the Federalist leaders and told them what he was going to do. And the Federalist leaders, Theodore Sedgwick, who was the speaker of the House, a Federalist from Massachusetts, called the Federalists into a caucus -- they actually caucused twice that day. And the upshot of the two caucuses was that for one thing, they were expecting word from Burr, whether he would consent to the bargain or not. And so they said, let`s wait and hear from Burr, don`t do anything until the letters from Burr arrive. And Bayard consented to that.
And secondly, the Federalists said, look, Nicholas never talked to Jefferson. That`s not good enough. We have to have Jefferson`s word. He doesn`t have to put it in writing, we`ll trust his honor, but we have to hear something from Jefferson.
So Bayard went back to Nicholas and asked Nicholas to approach Jefferson, and Nicholas refused to do that. And Jefferson then went to a Republican named Samuel Smith, who was a former Federalist from Baltimore, who had converted over to the Republican Party. Smith then, apparently, went to Jefferson, presented Jefferson with the terms of the bargain, and both Bayard and Smith, subsequently in a deposition when they were under oath in a federal court hearing, stipulated that Jefferson had agreed to the bargain, and Jefferson`s subsequent behavior suggests that he did.
LAMB: Because we don`t have much time, what was the number one thing that Bayard got out of it?
FERLING: Well, I think Bayard offered numerous explanations for his behavior. He said he feared civil war if Jefferson was kept out of the presidency. He feared Southern secession. He feared that the Federalist Party would be injured because Jefferson clearly seemed to be the country`s choice to be president. But as far as we know, I mean, there was no payoff to Bayard.
LAMB: By the way, when did the country change this two-elector vote business?
FERLING: It was right after this election. Congress passed and sent to the states the 12th Amendment. It was actually adopted, ratified in 1804, just prior to the election of 1804.
LAMB: John Ferling is of what community in this country? Where do you come from?
FERLING: I live in Carrollton, Georgia, which is in the western suburbs of Atlanta.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
FERLING: I grew up in Texas City, Texas, and it`s on the Gulf Coast of Texas, in the Houston-Galveston area. My parents were from right on the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border, about 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh, and my father worked for a large chemical corporation, and he was sent to Texas City to help start up a new plant. I was one year old at the time, and that`s where I was raised.
LAMB: Where do you teach today and how long have you been there?
FERLING: Well, actually, I taught at the State University of West Georgia in the Atlanta area, in Carrollton, for 33 years, and I retired last May, retired from teaching to devote full time to writing.
LAMB: Wasn`t Newt Gingrich associated with...
FERLING: Right. He was a colleague for about a half dozen years. We were in the History Department together.
LAMB: Do you remember when you first got interested in history?
FERLING: Yes, I do. I actually became interested in history in high school. I saw a documentary called "The Twisted Cross," on the rise and fall of Hitler, and I think the next day I went to the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, and for the first time in my life on my own initiative checked out a book on history.
And so I was interested in history when I went to college. But I found the history courses pretty dull, pretty factual, memorization type courses. And in my sophomore year in college, I had to declare a major, and the course -- the last history course that I took, Western civ course, started very badly. Didn`t like it at all. And my professor fell ill. And they, in the time-honored tradition of academia, ran into the youngest man in the department, a non-tenured faculty member named William Painter. And I just found him electrifying, filled with all kinds of ideas that I had never heard. He had us read some books including Marcus Cunliffe`s "Washington: Man and Monument," and I found that just a turn-around experience and decided to major in history, and to write.
LAMB: What book is this?
FERLING: I`ve written eight books and edited three.
LAMB: What`s next?
FERLING: I`m working on a book on the War of Independence. It`s probably three or four years down the road.
LAMB: Our guest has been John Ferling. Here`s the cover of the book. It`s all about the 1800 election, "Adams vs. Jefferson." Thank you very much for joining us.
FERLING: Thank you for having me.
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