The election of 1792 was, in many ways, a repeat of the election of 1789. There were the same candidates and the same result, Washington winning by a unaminous vote of the electoral college and John Adams being re-elected Vice President. George Washington really didn’t want to run for a second term. Although his first term had been very successful, Washington had not enjoyed it. He wanted nothing more than to retire from politics and go back to his home at Mount Vernon.
One thing that had especially exasperated Washington was the growth of partisan politics in the new republic. None of the founding fathers had anything good to say about political parties and they all warned of the dangers of factions. Despite these warning, the first party system was already forming around Washington’s two chief cabinet officials; Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both of these men were very intelligent and ambitious. Both of them had grown up without a father, Jefferson’s dying when he was 14 and Hamilton’s abandoning his family. In all other ways, however, the two men were opposites and rivals.
Alexander Hamilton favored a strong federal government. Since he had been born outside the thirteen colonies, he had never developed any intense loyalty to any one state, instead viewing the United States as a whole. He believed that the United States should become an industrial power and wanted a national bank to finance investments and improvements to the infrastructure for that end. Hamilton was also something of an elitist, believing that the people should be guided. Thomas Jefferson was a Virginian. He, like almost everyone at the time, was loyal to his state first and then to the nation. He wanted a weak national government, and believed that state’s rights were paramount. He believed that the United States should have a primarily agricultural economy and distrusted banks. His opinion was that only a republic of sturdy independent farmers could endure. He professed to have great love for the people. Even in personality the two men differed. Hamilton was hyperactive, always making plans and working on projects. Jefferson was more laid back, in some ways even lazy. In foreign policy, Hamilton favored an alliance with the British on the grounds of common culture and trade. Jefferson wanted to support France as a fellow republic after their revolution. The two men caused Washington quite a lot of trouble with their endless bickering, especially when the newspapers they were financing starting to attack each other. Soon the followers of Hamilton were calling themselves Federalists while Jefferson’s supporters were the Democratic-Republicans.
The one thing that Hamilton and Jefferson did agree on was that Washington should run again. The country was still too young and things were still too unsettled to go without Washington’s guidance. Washington reluctantly agreed. All thirteen of the original states were able to participate in this election and Vermont and Kentucky had been added to the Union so there were 132 electoral votes. All 132 electors cast one of their votes for Washington, giving him a unanimous vote for President. With their second vote, they gave John Adams 77 votes, making him Vice-President again. George Clinton received 50 votes.
- An important historical deal forged at a Founding Fathers dinner party (constitutioncenter.org)
- 7 of John Adams’ Greatest Insults (mentalfloss.com)