Adams Papers

September 10. 1796. Saturday.
[from the Diary of John Adams]

September 10. 1796. Saturday.

Walked, with my Brother to Mount Arrarat, and find upon Inquiry that Jo. Arnold’s Fence against the New Lane begins at the Road by the Nine mile Stone. My half is towards Neddy Curtis’s Land lately Wm. Fields. The Western Half of the Fence against Josiah Bass, or in other Words that Part nearest to Neddy Curtis’s is mine. Against Dr. Greenleaf my half is nearest to Josiah Bass’s Land.1

1The tempo of electioneering increased rapidly after the publication of Washington’s Farewell Address on 19 Sept., but JA stayed quietly on at Quincy for two months longer, pushing his program of farm improvements into severely cold weather. On 23 Nov. he left for Philadelphia, passing a day on the way with his daughter in East Chester and another with CA in New York (JA to AA, 27 Nov., 1 Dec, both in Adams Papers). He arrived in Philadelphia on 2 Dec., in ample time for the opening of the second session of the Fourth Congress three days later. The city was seething with politics on the eve of the voting by Presidential electors in the sixteen states, and so indeed was the country; but JA wrote much more calmly of the prospects of both himself and his rivals, not to mention the maneuvers of party understrappers and the libels of journalists, than AA could. “I look upon the Event as the throw of a Die, a mere Chance, a miserable, meagre Tryumph to either Party,” he told JQA in a letter of 5 Dec. (Adams Papers). What he meant was that, since the contest was bound to be very close, the new President, whoever he might be, would have so small a majority that he would “be very apt to stagger and stumble” in discharging his duties (to AA, 7 Dec, Adams Papers). The result of the electors’ balloting was not perfectly certain until late that month. By the 27th JA could write his wife: “71 is the Ne plus ultra—it is now certain that no Man can have more and but one so many”; and though he did not yet know beyond all doubt whether Jefferson or Thomas Pinckney would be Vice-president he discussed with AA their imminent problems respecting “House, Furniture, Equipage, Servants,” and the like (Adams Papers). At length, on 8 Feb., as he was bound to do, he presided over a joint meeting of the two houses in which the votes were unsealed and counted, and announced the result as 71 votes for himself (one more than the necessary majority of 70), 68 for Jefferson, 59 for Pinckney, and the rest scattered among ten others, so that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were elected President and Vicepresident respectively, to serve for four years beginning on 4 March 1797 (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends , 4th Cong., 2d sess., col. 2095–2098).

Four years later, on 11 Feb. 1801, Vice-president Jefferson found himself obliged to perform a similar duty and announced that Jefferson and Burr had each received 73 electoral votes, JA 65, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney 64, and John Jay 1 vote (same description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States [1789–1824], Washington, 1834–1856; 42 vols. description ends , 6th Cong., 2d sess., col. 743–744). The tie vote for the two Democratic-Republican candidates led to complications, but JA was out of the running, and early on the day of his successor’s inauguration he left the new seat of government in Washington, and public life, for good.

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