One reader has asked about the results of the faulted selection method for Vice President prior to Amendment XII taking effect for the 1804 election. Before Amendment XII the loser of the presidential election became Vice President. Sometimes this created strange bedfellows as my previous post discussed.
(Left: Aaron Burr, one of the most contentious Vice Presidents – ever.)
Here are the results of the four presidential elections occurring before the amendment (party affiliation in brackets):
President George Washington (none), Vice President John Adams (none)
Not contentious because after all how could Adams argue that Washington, the Father of His Country, should not be first president of his country.
President George Washington (none), Vice President John Adams (Federalist)
Adams felt presidents should only serve one term and his also disagreed with Washington’s handling of many issues. A rift developed, but Washington was stuck with Adams.
President John Adams (Federalist), Vice President Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) Jefferson held almost complete opposite views on issues of the day. Jefferson stayed away and was hardly seen around Washington during Adam’s term.
President Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), Vice President Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican)
In this election both Jefferson and Burr wanted to be president and even though they were of the same political party, they held widely differing views. They ended up tied with 73 Electoral Votes each. This assured both men of at least one of the highest offices of the land. In accordance with the Constitution, the House of Representatives decided the result for the first time in history. After 36 ballots, the House elected Jefferson president and Burr vice president. Burr refused to remove himself from consideration even after pleading from his and Jefferson’s party. This created animosity between Jefferson and Burr. In addition Alexander Hamilton of the Federalist-controlled House advocated Jefferson as the lesser political evil than Burr. Later while Burr was vice president he killed Hamilton in a duel. This destroyed Burr’s career because Hamilton was very popular. Jefferson did not retain Burr as his vice presidential running mate in the election of 1804, the first one held under the new rules.
Having the loser become vice president and remain as part of the winner’s administration created many problems. Chief of these was the fact the vice president’s primary duty was to preside over the Senate and cast the deciding vote on legislation in the event of a tie. This came back to haunt the presidents several times.