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When George Washington decided to not run for a third term in office, he would unknowingly set the stage for the nations first two party election.

This election would be the test of whether a government by the people, of the people and for the people could survive such a transition of power peacefully.

Presidential Candidates:

  • John Adams (Federalist)
  • Thomas Jefferson (Anti-Federalist)
  • Thomas Pickney (Supported by Alexander Hamilton)
  • Aaron Burr

Main Issues:

  • The Jay Treaty
  • French Revolution

Adams had won the election by only 3 votes and Thomas Jefferson, who finished second, automatically became vice-president.

The election of 1796 had exposed an inherent flaw in the Electoral College System.


  • The majority of the campaigning took place in the newspapers, broad sides and other methods of the day. The supporters of these men actually campaigned for their favorites.
  • The two main contenders of this election would battle it out again in the election of 1800.


  • John Adams Biography at the Thinkquest Web site
  • The Chief Executive Club Web site

Contributed by:Rick Brainard