Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Today in American History: Thomas Jefferson Officially Elected President 02/17/1801

Today in American History Thomas Jefferson was officially elected the 3rd President of the United States.  The House of Representatives broke the stalemate between Jefferson and Aaron Burr (yes, that Aaron Burr).  

Why is this historical?  For several reasons.  First, this represented the first time in American history that there was a change in ideological power.  George Washington and John Adams had been considered Federalists, while Thomas Jefferson represented the Democratic-Republican ideal.  At this time in history, they did not formally call them political parties, that had not happened yet.  However, with the dissension and hub-bub caused by the 1800 election, parties were well on their way to being formed and creating a divisive influence in American politics.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, this election is significant because it actually triggered a Constitutional change in how elections were counted by the Electoral College.  The founders initially created a system whereby candidates ran individually, and the electors would vote for top two candidates based on the popular vote in their state.  This would be very useful in a situation where most states were of a similar, yet not exacting mind.  This seemed like a swimming way to do it, figuring that this would elect the two most popular candidates out of a pool of four, five or more candidates.  However, this did not work as political parties began to rear their ugly heads.  With two distinct "parties" running in the election, this did not leave any room for different people being voted for.  What actually happened in 1800 was the electors would vote for both Jefferson and Burr -- thus causing a stalemate since both votes counted the same.  It took 36 calls to vote in the House of Representatives for Thomas Jefferson to be elected President on February 17, 1801 ushering in a new era in America.  

This obvious flaw in the voting system was then rectified with a change to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.  This change morphed the vote from the "vote for two guys" approach to a vote for one President and one Vice President, and clarified the will of the electoral college.

As a side note... the election of 1800 was a bitterly fought election in which both sides campaigned on a negative plane, accusing the other of side of representing the sure ruin of the young American nation.  Thomas Jefferson was seen as a radical departure from the recently enjoyed American Industrial Revolution with his significant pro-agrarian and separatist attitudes.  Jefferson felt that the country needed to expand, but that the way to do that was on the backs of the farmers of America.  He trusted their dedication, hard work and commitment to the American ideal much more than he did the money-hungry industrialists that were only interested in making money for themselves.  Jefferson was responsible for brokering the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, increasing the United States landmass by 828,000 miles or 529,920,000 acres for a mere 50 million Francs, the equivalent of $11,250,000 USD.  This equates to approximately $0.42 per acre in today's US dollars, or a total of $236,000,000 today.  This is the single largest expansion of American land mass in history.

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

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