Many of us are stressed out this November 2020. The election process moves at a snail’s pace. We are used to seeing a sitting loser graciously concede and invite the winner to tea at the white house.

My advice to my excitable wife, Daisy, was, “Relax. All will end well enough no matter the man in the white house. Our laws and institutions have enormous strength to resist the base intentions a few scoundrels on top.”

So, thanks be for our wonderful form of government. Here’s my messy election story…


The election of 1800 was a mess. The Unites States of America was 24 years old. Here’s a little history lesson gleaned from Wikipedia and my reading of Ron Chernow’s excellent biography, Alexander Hamilton.

John Adams was president in 1800. He lost the election. And so, there was was a runoff between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

Aaron Burr, a Federalist man, favored a strong central government and close relations with Great Britain. Democratic-Republican man, Thomas Jefferson, favored decentralization to the state governments. 

Jockeying for electoral votes, regional divisions, and smear campaigns makes the election seem modern. The constitution did not then allow electors to choose a vice the president but stipulated that the second-highest vote-getter would hold that office. 


Instead of choosing Jefferson president and Burr vice president, the electors botched the work. They gave each man 73 electoral votes. Therefore the job of breaking the tie was handed to the  House of Representatives.

Each of the 16 states had one vote to award to either Jefferson or Burr. The winner needed to get nine of the 16 votes to be elected president. It took 36 rounds of balloting, over a week’s time, to decide the winner.

Eventually, James A. Bayard of Delaware, fearing for the future of the Union, made known his intention to break the impasse. On the thirty-sixth ballot, Bayard and three other Federalists cast blank ballots, breaking the deadlock, thus, Thomas Jefferson was chosen to win the presidency.

History teaches us that flawed men can hold high positions.

Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant man and contributed much to our country, and to our ideas about freedom. Jefferson wrote, …We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal… Since he owned over 600 slaves, that did not seem to be in tune with his words. Oh well…

Aaron Burr was a politician despised by Alexander Hamilton, the great architect of American government. As Vice President, Burr’s most notable act was killing Hamilton in a duel. Becauset of that crime, he lost everything. He never recovered, and died broke, in obscurity in 1836.

Yes. The country has survived awful events. I believe we are still one wonderful land of opportunity.


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