Sunday, October 26, 2008

Presidential History Free Write: Part 1 - The Founding Fathers

In 1789 the electoral college voted twice, George Washington won unanimously their first vote, while John Adams placed second in a landslide. Adams was sworn in as the nation's first vice president in April 1789, and Washington was sworn in on April 30th in New York City. After taking the oath, the president started the first tradition following the oath by adding "so help me God."

Washington once again unanimously won reelection in 1792, as did Adams for the vice presidency. Washington then made another tradition by not seeking a third term as president. The election of 1796 would pit Vice President Adams, politically aligned with the Federalist Party's ideology, against the former secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, part of the anti-Federalist faction. Adams defeated Jefferson. For the first time the nation had a president of one party and a vice president of another.

The election of 1800 was worse than four years before. It was the first and only time a sitting president ran against a sitting vice president. Not wanting to have the same scenario of 1796 play out again but reversed caused a Constitutional crisis. Jefferson ran for president with Aaron Burr as the vice president for the Democratic-Republican party. While Adams and his vice presidential candidate ran for their respected offices for the Federalists. However the Electoral College did not specify a vote for president and a vote for vice president. The person with a majority of electoral votes becomes president-elect and the person with next highest amount becomes vice president-elect. If there is no majority the top three choices go to the House of Representatives and if there is no majority the top two for the second place position it go to the Senate. Each state has only one vote.

Jefferson and Burr tied in the Electoral College, throwing the election to the House of Representatives. Jefferson was always the intended choice for president and Burr for vice. I believe it took thirty-six ballots to come to the final result of Jefferson for president, placing Burr in second. Burr would go on to shoot former secretary of the treasury, the guy on the ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton in a duel made famous in a "got milk?" commercial in the 1990s. Burr after fleeing was rumored to be making deals with the Spanish to become ruler of country west of the United State's new borders thanks to the Louisiana Purchase.

After the election of 1800 the way the Electoral College vote for president and vice president were to change. This change came in the form of the the 12th Amendment passed in 1804 taking effect in that presidential election. The 12th Amendment lowered the status of the vice presidency. Our nation's first two vice presidents under the original system were men vital to the political process that gave birth to our nation, just as Washington's role militarily was a vital part to the birth of our nation. Burr, even though elected under the original system, is really a first in a line of lame vice presidents, the unknown vice presidents. The men placed on the bottom of ticket were usually put there to balance the ticket geographically. I.E. the top guy is from the North, and the bottom guy is from the South.

The 12th Amendment states that the electors must vote once for a presidential candidate and one other vote for a vice presidential candidate. If there is a tie among the presidential candidates, the top three go to the House. If there is a tie among the vice presidential candidates, the top two go to the Senate. Each State has one vote.

Jefferson won the election of 1804 after having made the Louisiana Purchase the previous year. He ran with New Yorker George Clinton, the man who always wanted the vice presidency.

Jefferson's secretary of state, James Madison won the election of 1808. Clinton was reelected to a second, and the first to be elected with another president. Madison faced the War of 1812, our Second Battle for Independence. The British invaded, after Madison asked for a declaration of war when the British weren't respecting American ships. Madison was the last commander-in-chief to truly be that in the battle field. He had the northeastern Federalists as the major opposition to his war with the British. The northeast even threatened succeeding from the Union.

Madison eventually had to abandon the capital city of Washington. Dolley Madison was preparing dinner when she was told to evacuate. She ordered the portrait of George Washington to be taken down and taken with them. She saved other important documents. She escaped before the British arrived. Before they set the presidential mansion on fire, they enjoyed the meal left by the first lady. The Capitol and the Executive Mansion were set on fire, as was the Library of Congress.

The weather turned horrible creating a rain storm that put out the fire at the mansion preserving the limestone shell wall. The mansion would be rebuilt and the Madisons moved back in by 1818. Nicely painted white, the painters left a section of the burn marks from the fire.

The War of 1812 ended with no clear victor, but two weeks after the signing of the treaty, unknown because the communication of the time, General Andrew Jackson successfully defends New Orleans against the British.

Madison won the election of 1812 and passed on the presidency to his secretary of state James Monroe. In 1816, Monroe defeated the last candidate for president by the Federalist Party. Monroe, with the help of his secretary of state John Quincy Adams, in his annual message to Congress, establish what would become known as the Monroe Doctrine. Making sure the Old World kept out of the New World.

Monroe was president during an era of good feelings politically, so in the election of 1820 Monroe ran opposed. Instead of giving him unanimous vote in the Electoral College like George Washington, one elector cast a vote for John Quincy Adams.

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