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Sharp Discusses the Election of 1800 With the Washington Post

July 27, 2022

The Washington Post

James Roger Sharp

James Roger Sharp

Americans generally expect to know election results quickly, however, that wasn't always the case. The U.S. has a long history of long elections. The most divisive delay in a presidential election occurred during the 1800 race, when Thomas Jefferson challenged incumbent John Adams. It was the longest election in U.S. history: The winner would not be known for 10 months after the first ballots were cast.

Political wrangling over who would be the next president pushed the nation to its first constitutional crisis as partisan politics reared its ugly head. The 1800 election was a showdown between the country’s first two political parties: the Federalists, led by Adams; and the Democratic Republicans, captained by Jefferson.

“The parties didn’t trust each other then,” says James Roger Sharp, professor emeritus of history. He thinks it’s not impossible that we could see a repeat of the 1800 fiasco. “Much like 220 years ago, trust is gone between the two parties,” Sharp says. “The situation today is very similar in many ways to what happened then.”

Read more in the Washington Post article, "Maryland races could take days to call. The election of 1800 was worse."

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