Election and Dirty Campaign
The papers ran with the headline. One of the candidates hoping to be elected president had had an affair. In fact some of his children were the result of that affair. There were many rumors about the affair. It had supposedly took place in France, but after the article ran how such a man could be running for president have that kind of background. Scandalous. Even a previous First Lady got into it, calling the candidate “one of the most detestable of mankind”. He was called weak, an atheist and a coward. This was going to be at tough election.
It was the election of 1800 and the man spoken of was Vice President Thomas Jefferson. He was running against President Adams. It was actually the
first and the last time a sitting president ran against his vice president. The two were friends until this election (And years later they rekindled their friendship) It got nasty. Since politicians did not actively campaign back in the good old day, they hired “Hatchet Men” A hatchet man would do the smearing for the candidate. That way the candidate could remain above it all. Adams did not, hire one deciding to take the higher ground, but Jefferson did.
The man hired was James Callendar. He convinced Americans that Adams wanted to attack France. It was completely untrue but the voters bought and Jefferson won the election Callendar was found guilty of Slander and went to jail for a year. When he got out, he felt that Jefferson owed him. When Jefferson did not agree, the dirty tactics came back to haunt Jefferson. It was Callendar who broke the story that Jefferson was having an affair with one of his slaves, and that five of his children were the result of that affair. It followed Jefferson through his days and was asked about it often.
This election was considered the birth of dirty politics, the smearing of the politician’s name, mudslinging if you will. It is reminiscent of today’s election and really many elections previously. Both candidates, Adams and Jefferson, felt that if the other was to be elected it would bring RUIN to the country. In fact back in the election of 1800, Federalist wanted a strong federal authority to restrain the excesses of the popular majority while the Democratic republicans wanted to reduce the federal influence and allot the people to rule through stare governments. Sound familiar?
The woman above the previous first lady who cried the candidate was “one of the most detestable of mankind”? That was Martha Washington peaking to a clergyman about Jefferson.