Who you calling “a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Tis the season for the political hatchet job and while most complain about the tone and nature of attack ads, they’re almost quaint with the mud that was flung in the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Via the Mill Center:

Given the intense rivalry and conflict involved, it is not surprising that the 1800 election reached a level of personal animosity seldom equaled in American politics. The Federalists attacked the fifty-seven-year-old Jefferson as a godless Jacobin who would unleash the forces of bloody terror upon the land. With Jefferson as President, so warned one newspaper, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes." Others attacked Jefferson’s deist beliefs as the views of an infidel who "writes aghast the truths of God’s words; who makes not even a profession of Christianity; who is without Sabbaths; without the sanctuary, and without so much as a decent external respect for the faith and worship of Christians."

The luckless Adams was ridiculed from two directions: by the Hamiltonians within his own party and by the Jeffersonian-Republicans from the outside. For example, a private letter in which Hamilton depicted Adams as having “great and intrinsic defects in his character” was obtained by Aaron Burr and leaked to the national press. It fueled the Republican attack on Adams as a hypocritical fool and tyrant. His opponents also spread the story that Adams had planned to create an American dynasty by the marriage of one of his sons to a daughter of King George III. According to this unsubstantiated story, only the intervention of George Washington, dressed in his Revolutionary military uniform, and the threat by Washington to use his sword against his former vice president had stopped Adams’s scheme.

The 1880 election also exacerbated the animosity between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Burr, of course, killed Hamilton a few years later in a duel.

In this short 2010 video from Reason, we’re shown what television ads might have looked like had they existed at the time. Their sources for the quotes are here.

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