Thomas Jefferson Becomes Third U.S. President: March 4, 1801

Charlottesville, VA

Jefferson’s election over incumbent John Adams had come at the conclusion of a nasty political campaign. Adams and Jefferson had been close collaborators in the move to independence, but their political philosophies had since diverged. In 1796, Adams barely won the presidency over Jefferson. In 1800, the unpopularity of the Alien and Sedition Acts and a split in the Federalist Party allowed Jefferson to carry nine of the 16 states and take the Electoral College 73 to 65. However, under the prevailing rule for counting in the Electoral College, Jefferson’s vice-presidential nominee, the ambitious Aaron Burr, also scored 73 electoral votes. On Feb. 17, 1801, after 36 ballots, Jefferson was declared president-elect.

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