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From Bullets to Ballots: The Election of 1800 and the First Peaceful Transfer of Political Power

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1776 – Declaration of Independence; war with Britain until 1782

1777 – Articles of Confederation (first United States Constitution) written by Continental Congress; ratified by each state (the last one in 1781)

1778 – Wartime treaty of alliance with France

1783 – Formal peace treaty with Britain

1787 – New constitution written by convention in Philadelphia

1787-1788 – Constitution ratified, after debates in each state between proponents (Federalists) and opponents (Antifederalists). Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay write The Federalist Papers as a contribution to the campaign for ratification.

1788 – First congressional and presidential elections

1789 – First Congress and President George Washington’s first administration begin, with Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State.

– Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10) adopted

– Congressman James Madison unsuccessfully proposes trade war with Britain.

1790 – Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton successfully proposes federal takeover (“assumption”) of states’ war debts.

1791 – Hamilton’s proposal for National Bank approved

1792 – Republican party initiates first national partisan campaigns, in congressional elections.

1793 – News of execution of King of France reaches United States.

– War between France and Britain (which continues with little pause until 1815)

1795 – Jay Treaty between United States and Britain

1796 – Washington’s Farewell Address; Republican party now contests presidential as well as congressional elections.

1797 – President John Adams’ administration begins.

1798-1800 – Naval “quasi-war” with France

1798 – Congress passes Alien and Sedition Acts; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison secretly draft Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.

1800-1801 – Republicans win big majorities in House and Senate elections.

December 1800 – Republicans narrowly win presidential election, with electoral college tie between Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr.

February 1801 – After a week of balloting, House of Representatives chooses Jefferson as President.

March 1801 – Peaceful transfer of power to Republicans; Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address