To fully comprehend the gravity of the “Revolution of 1800,” one must first look back on the past relationship between Adams and Jefferson. The two first met at the Constitutional Convention of 1775, and it was actually Adams who personally chose Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. While these two men fought for the freedom of their nation, their bold was unbreakable; in fact, during the 1780s, Adams and his family helped console Jefferson after the loss of his beloved wife. However, once independence had been won, the tranquil nature of their former friendship began to feign, the two men sparred against one another throughout the Washington Administration. Their arguments mainly concerned Adam’s support for a strong central government and Jefferson’s fear of such an idea. On top of that, Jefferson became furious with Adams’ pro-British stance and Washington’s neutrality. His support for the French Revolution was unwavering and continued even after the execution of King Louis XVI and the beginning of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror. This disagreement was one of the many reasons Jefferson chose to resign from Washington’s Administration and return to private life. However, even after Jefferson had left, Adams couldn’t help but gossip about him; saying that Jefferson’s departure was nothing more than a political stunt and that Jefferson was planning his grand return to politics from his home in Monticello. Adams preached that Jefferson’s ultimate goal had always been the presidency. Adams even began gossiping about Jefferson’s relations with Sally Hemings (his slave), which many saw as a low blow because information concerning that affair had not yet leaked to the press.
Adam’s predictions did eventually come true when Jefferson wasted no time returning to public life as soon as Washington announced he would not seek a third term. The two former friends prepared for battle, and in doing so personified the two warring visions for America. Their dramatic and contentious relationship came to a head during the elections of 1796 & 1800, but more importantly their relationship displayed the benefits and drawbacks of public service in America.
The duo did end up reconciling their differences later in life and thankfully died knowing they had a friend in one another. The saga of their rivalry showed America that it could survive even the most vicious elections because once the results were made clear, neither one of these men questioned the outcome. Instead, they made it their goal to ensure the preservation of the peaceful transition of power. Adams and Jefferson never challenged the legitimacy of either election when they lost and never attempted to stop each other from serving as president once the people had voted. Even through their anger and disappointment, Jefferson and Adams put the country’s well-being above their egos or parties to maintain the legitimacy of America’s presidential elections – which stood as a testament to our great experiment. Their relationship also displayed how the vicious nature of politics can destroy even the oldest friendships and make us forget who we are at times, but it’s sobering to know that once politics is removed from our daily lives, past friendships can be rekindled and mistakes can be mended. The saga of Jefferson and Adams should bestow hope on any person who studies them.
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