US Coins

The 1800 Presidential election was one of many firsts

This is the second in a multi-part series on Presidential campaign collectibles from the Nov. 7, 2016, monthly issue of Coin World:

Presidential campaign banners, badges, tokens and medals and more date back nearly 200 years, each item a window into a campaign and an age. Depending upon the presidential campaign and candidate being considered, the items available may cost only a few dollars each, or as much as thousands of dollars regardless of condition. For the race of 1800, the available collectibles are few and rare.

The presidential election of 1800 was a particularly uncomfortable one in political circles, pitting Vice President Thomas Jefferson against the president he was currently serving under, John Adams.

Jefferson described his campaign as “The Revolution of 1800.” The contest marked the first shift of the balance of power from one political party to another.

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Jefferson campaigned on a platform of promises to govern based on a decentralized government and trust in the people to govern themselves — tenets that the founding fathers had established.

Jefferson carried these principles in his own war against Adams. The campaign of 1800 marked the emergence of the two-party system, pitting Adams’ Federalists again Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans.

In May 1800, the Federalist Senators and Representatives nominated Adams and Charles C. Pinckney as their party’s candidates, while the opposition selected Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr as their standard bearers. Burr agreed only after he received assurances that all party electors would support him along with Jefferson.

There was deep dissatisfaction in the American populace with Adams, who with his Federalists, propelled the country into an undeclared naval war with France, according to Walsh. Jefferson and his supporters believed Adams’ actions and those of his supporters contradicted democratic principles.

While attacking each other on the issues the nation faced, Adams and Jefferson also took to personally attacking one another.

Adams’ Federalists asked voters: “Look at your houses, your parents, your wives and your children. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, hoary hairs bathed in blood, female chastity violated, or children writhing on the pike and the halberd? ... Great God of compassion and justice, shield my country from destruction.” 

Jefferson took the bitter attacks to a whole new level, hiring a writer to pen the barbs against his opponent Adams.

One of those barbs suggested Adams was a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

According to the Summer 1976 issue of the American Political Items Collectors' periodical, APIC Keynoter, the electoral vote, when counted, showed 73 votes for Jefferson, 73 for Burr, 64 for Adams, 64 for Pinckney and one for John Jay. One of the electors from Rhode Island had cast his second vote for Jay.

Since Jefferson and Burr received the identical number of electoral votes, resolution of the election of 1800, according to the U.S. Constitution, had to be decided by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote each.

Resolution of the election would not be decided until the spring of 1801, by the House, which enjoyed a Federalist majority. Since there were 16 states, nine votes would be needed to decide the election’s final outcome.

According to the APIC Keynoter, Federalists saw an opportunity to block Jefferson from the White House by steering the electors toward Burr. Alexander Hamilton, who would become the nation’s first Treasury secretary, opposed the plan, considering Burr to be “a man completely devoid of scruples.” On Feb. 17, 1801, on the 36th ballot taken, 16 days after the first, Jefferson received 10 votes, giving him the presidency, and Burr, the vice presidency. Burr blamed Hamilton’s interference and behind-the-scenes maneuvering with steering the necessary votes to Jefferson. Burr got his revenge July 11, 1804, when he shot and killed Hamilton in duel.

Despite Jefferson’s election, one shred of Federalist power remained. Just before the end of his term as president, Adams appointed John Marshall as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a position he held until 1835.

Because of the bitterness of the 1800 campaign, Congress passed the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution dictating that the nominee with the second highest popular vote total would no longer automatically be elected vice president.

So what is collectible?

Nothing considered to be a campaign item from the 1800 election is available to collect, according to renowned political items experts Rex Stark and Alan Weinberg. Any collectibles associated with that presidential race are considered extremely rare.

Among these are a hand-colored banner depicting Jefferson, an example of which is in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.

Also extremely rare are the U.S. Mint struck silver Jefferson inaugural medal and the 38-millimeter copper Adams inaugural medal pattern dated 1800 and created in anticipation of Adams winning re-election.

Extant examples of the Adams and Jefferson pieces are few and far between and valued in the tens of thousands of dollars even in lower levels of preservation.

The Adams piece was made by and signed by Aaron M. Peasley, a Massachusetts die maker.

The Jefferson inaugural medal, struck in silver, bronze and white metal versions, was designed and engraved by John Reich.

Read our entire series so far on collecting Presidential election materials:

1828 election collectiblesThe presidential election that might have been the nastiest on record: So nasty were the personal attacks between Jackson and the incumbent, John Quincy Adams, during the 1828 campaign that Jackson blamed the stress of the attacks for contributing to the death of his wife.

1828 election collectiblesThe election of 1800 saw a number of firsts among American presidential races: The presidential election of 1800 was a particularly uncomfortable one in political circles, pitting Vice President Thomas Jefferson against the president he was currently serving under, John Adams.

1860 presidential election collectiblesAbraham Lincoln faced more than one opponent in the 1860 presidential election: While it is not uncommon today for political candidates in state and national contents to stump in any small community that will host them, during the 1860 campaign the tactic was considered somewhat tacky.

1896 presidential election collectiblesSounds like jewelry, so why was a ‘cross of gold’ not considered a good thing in 1896?: The hotly contested presidential race of 1896 pitted former Ohio Gov. William McKinley, a Republican, against Democratic contender and perennial presidential wannabe William Jennings Bryan.

Teddy Roosevelt cigar cutterHow Theodore Roosevelt helped deliver the White House to Woodrow Wilson: The 1912 election witnessed the establishment of a new political entity, Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, also dubbed the Bull Moose Party. 

Franklin Roosevelt buttonFour-time winner Franklin Roosevelt generates opposition collectibles: The election of 1932 put Democrat and former New York governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the White House for the first of his unprecedented four terms. 

Donald Trump novelty noteThe 2016 presidential election hitting new heights, or depths, of nastiness: Campaign collectibles are trying to promote the 2016 presidential candidates amid all the mudslinging.

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