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The Election of 1800
Digital History ID 180

Author:   Elizur Goodrich


A lawyer, educator, and mayor of New Haven, Connecticut for nineteen years, Elizur Goodrich (1761-1849) was a Federalist member of Congress during the critical presidential election of 1800. In the following letter, Goodrich reports on the House of Representatives' protracted efforts to select a president. Jefferson ultimately received the required majority in the House, but not until the 36th ballot, after Virginia and Pennsylvania had mobilized their state militias and made it clear, in Jefferson's words, "that a legislative usurpation would be resisted by arms."

In his last hours in office in 1801, President John Adams appointed Goodrich Collector of the Port of New Haven. The Jeffersonians denounced such "midnight" appointments as a violation of the peoples' will, and promptly removed Goodrich from office.


The votes are even between Jefferson & Burr. It will not be a matter of course that Mr. Jefferson be designated, as the probable Man in the minds of the Electors. I apprehend that his majority of States, if he obtains one, will not be very great. Never were men more seriously alarmed than our republican friends. They do not hesitate to say that Mr. Burr is not fit for the office, that it never was their intention to have & they never was their intention to have and they never will have him present. It is a question of immense importance and ought not to be decided in heat in a passion--or without great deliberation--and as one of them, who are to act on the subject--determining to act my own best Judgment--to be able to form that opinion correctly. I wish to know what are the impressions of men in general--what say the Democrats--and what are the individual opinions of our respectable federal men. You...will have a good opportunity to learn and I wish you to take a little pain to ascertain the sentiments of some of the Judges, the Bar &c--what say the clergy....

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Elizur Goodrich to Stephen Twining

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