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1792 United States 1800
United States presidential election, 1796
JohnAdams.png T Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale 1791 2.jpg
Nominee John Adams Thomas Jefferson
Party Federalist Democratic-Republican
Home state Massachusetts Virginia
Running mate Thomas Pinckney Aaron Burr
Electoral vote 71 68
States carried 9 7
Popular vote 35,726 31,115
Percentage 53.4% 46.6%
Presidential election results map. Presidential electoral votes by state.
Because electors couldn't distinguish between their presidential and vice presidential choices until the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, the map above assumes that the presidential votes are exactly the votes for Adams or Jefferson. This leads to an anomaly: Maryland is listed as having cast 7 Federalist votes and 4 Democratic-Republican votes when Maryland had only 10 electors. The problem is that at least one Maryland elector cast his ballot for a Jefferson-Adams ticket. Green denotes states won by Jefferson, orange denotes states won by Adams. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

Incumbent President
George Washington

John Adams

The United States presidential election of 1796 was the first contested American presidential election and the only one to elect a President and Vice President from opposing tickets.

With incumbent President George Washington having refused a third term in office, incumbent Vice President John Adams of Massachusetts was a candidate for the presidency on the Federalist Party ticket with former Governor Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina as the next most popular Federalist. Their opponents were former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson of Virginia along with Senator Aaron Burr of New York on the Democratic-Republican ticket. At this point, each man from any party ran alone, as the formal position of "running mate" had not yet been established.

Unlike the previous election where the outcome had been a foregone conclusion, Democratic-Republicans campaigned heavily for Jefferson, and Federalists campaigned heavily for Adams. The debate was an acrimonious one, with Federalists tying the Democratic-Republicans to the violence of the French Revolution[1] and the Democratic-Republicans accusing the Federalists of favoring monarchism and aristocracy. In foreign policy, the Democratic-Republicans denounced the Federalists over Jay's Treaty, perceived as too favorable to Britain, while the French ambassador embarrassed the Democratic-Republicans by publicly backing them and attacking the Federalists right before the election.

Although Adams won, Thomas Jefferson received more electoral votes than Pinckney and was elected Vice-President.


General election


The Candidates


Under the system then in place, electors had two votes, but both were for President; the runner-up in the presidential race was elected Vice President (this was prior to the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, which changed the electoral process to a system based on running mates). Each party intended to manipulate the results by having some of their electors cast one vote for the intended presidential candidate and one vote for somebody besides the intended vice presidential candidate, leaving their vice presidential candidate a few votes shy of their presidential candidate. Unfortunately, these schemes were complicated by several factors:

  • All electoral votes were cast on the same day, and communications between states were extremely slow at that time, making it very difficult to coordinate which electors were to tank their Vice Presidential votes.
  • There were rumors that southern electors pledged to Jefferson were coerced by Alexander Hamilton to give their second vote to Pinckney in hope of electing him President instead of Adams. Indeed, as it turned out, all eight electors in Pinckney's home state of South Carolina as well as at least one elector in Pennsylvania cast ballots for both Jefferson and Pinckney.

The result was that too many Adams electors failed to cast their second vote for Pinckney, and so Adams was elected President while his opponent, Jefferson, was elected Vice President.

Presidential Candidate Party Home State Popular Vote(a), (b), (c) Electoral Vote
Count Percentage
John Adams Federalist Massachusetts 35,726 53.4% 71
Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican Virginia 31,115 46.6% 68
Thomas Pinckney Federalist South Carolina 59
Aaron Burr Democratic-Republican New York 30
Samuel Adams Democratic-Republican Massachusetts 15
Oliver Ellsworth Federalist Connecticut 11
George Clinton Democratic-Republican New York 7
John Jay Federalist New York 5
James Iredell Federalist North Carolina 3
George Washington (none) Virginia 2
John Henry Democratic-Republican Maryland 2
Samuel Johnston Federalist North Carolina 2
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney Federalist South Carolina 1
Total 66,841 100.0% 276
Needed to win 70

Source (Popular Vote): U.S. President National Vote. Our Campaigns. (February 11, 2006).
Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (July 30, 2005).

(a) Votes for Federalist electors have been assigned to John Adams and votes for Democratic-Republican electors have been assigned to Thomas Jefferson.
(b) Only 9 of the 16 states used any form of popular vote.
(c) Those states that did choose electors by popular vote had widely varying restrictions on suffrage via property requirements.

Breakdown by ticket

Presidential Candidate Running Mate Electoral Vote(a)
John Adams Thomas Pinckney 45 .. 49
Thomas Jefferson Aaron Burr 25 .. 30
Thomas Jefferson Samuel Adams 14 .. 15
John Adams Oliver Ellsworth 11
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Pinckney 9 .. 14
Thomas Jefferson George Clinton 6 .. 7
John Adams John Jay 5
Thomas Jefferson James Iredell 3
John Adams Samuel Johnston 2
John Adams Thomas Jefferson 1 .. 6
Thomas Jefferson George Washington 1
Thomas Jefferson Charles Cotesworth Pinckney 1
John Adams Aaron Burr 0 .. 4
Thomas Pinckney Aaron Burr 0 .. 4
John Adams John Henry 0 .. 2
Thomas Jefferson John Henry 0 .. 2
Thomas Pinckney John Henry 0 .. 2
Aaron Burr John Henry 0 .. 2
John Adams George Washington 0 .. 1
Thomas Pinckney George Washington 0 .. 1
Aaron Burr George Washington 0 .. 1
Samuel Adams George Washington 0 .. 1
George Clinton Samuel Adams 0 .. 1

(a) Wikipedia's research has not yet been sufficient to determine the pairings of 15 electoral votes in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; therefore, the possible tickets are listed with the minimum and maximum possible number of electoral votes each.

There were quite a few split tickets, with an elector casting one vote for the head of the Democratic-Republicans, Jefferson, and the other for a Federalist:

  • All eight South Carolina electors (along with at least one Pennsylvania elector) voted for native son Thomas Pinckney.
  • Three North Carolina electors voted for native son James Iredell.
  • There was even at least one elector in Maryland voting for an Adams-Jefferson ticket.


For the only time in United States history, the President and Vice President were from different parties (John Quincy Adams and John C. Calhoun would later be elected President and Vice President while being political opponents, but they were both Democratic-Republicans candidates). Jefferson would leverage his position as Vice President to attack President Adams' policies, and this would help him reach the White House in the following election.

This election would provide the first impetus for the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On January 6, 1797, Representative William L. Smith of South Carolina presented a resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives for an amendment to the Constitution by which the presidential electors would designate which candidate would be President and which would be Vice President.[2] However, no action was taken on his proposal, setting the stage for the deadlocked election of 1800.

Electoral college selection

Method of choosing Electors State(s)
Each Elector appointed by the state legislature Connecticut
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island
South Carolina
State is divided into electoral districts, with one Elector chosen per district by the voters of that district Kentucky
North Carolina
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide Georgia
  • Two Electors appointed by the state legislature
  • Each remaining Elector chosen by the state legislature from list of top two vote-getters in each Congressional district
Each Elector chosen by voters statewide; however, if no candidate wins majority, the state legislature appoints Elector from top two candidates New Hampshire
  • State is divided into electoral districts, with one Elector chosen per district
  • Each county chooses an electoral delegate by popular vote
  • Elector is chosen by electoral delegates of the counties within their district

See also


  1. ^ Presidential Election of 1796, retrieved on 2009-11-05.
  2. ^ United States Congress (1797). Annals of Congress. 4th Congress, 2nd Session. p. 1824. Retrieved 2006-06-26.  


  • The North Carolina Electoral Vote: The People and the Process Behind the Vote. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Secretary of State. 1988.  
Web references



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