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Flashback: Founding Fathers Dirty Campaign

This might be a good time to re-post this article CNN put out right after the end of the highly charged Democrat primary season in 2008:

Founding Fathers’ dirty campaign

By Kerwin Swint
August 22, 2008

Negative campaigning in America was sired by two lifelong friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Back in 1776, the dynamic duo combined powers to help claim America’s independence, and they had nothing but love and respect for one another. But by 1800, party politics had so distanced the pair that, for the first and last time in U.S. history, a president found himself running against his vice president.

Things got ugly fast. Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.

Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind."

Back then, presidential candidates didn’t actively campaign. In fact, Adams and Jefferson spent much of the election season at their respective homes in Massachusetts and Virginia.

But the key difference between the two politicians was that Jefferson hired a hatchet man named James Callendar to do his smearing for him. Adams, on the other hand, considered himself above such tactics. To Jefferson’s credit, Callendar proved incredibly effective, convincing many Americans that Adams desperately wanted to attack France. Although the claim was completely untrue, voters bought it, and Jefferson stole the election.

Jefferson paid a price for his dirty campaign tactics, though. Callendar served jail time for the slander he wrote about Adams, and when he emerged from prison in 1801, he felt Jefferson still owed him.

After Jefferson did little to appease him, Callendar broke a story in 1802 that had only been a rumor until then — that the President was having an affair with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings. In a series of articles, Callendar claimed that Jefferson had lived with Hemings in France and that she had given birth to five of his children.

The story plagued Jefferson for the rest of his career. And although generations of historians shrugged off the story as part of Callendar’s propaganda, DNA testing in 1998 showed a link between Hemings’ descendents and the Jefferson family.

That this proves Thomas Jefferson’s paternity, is questionable, however.

Just as truth persists, however, so does friendship. Twelve years after the vicious election of 1800, Adams and Jefferson began writing letters to each other and became friends again. They remained pen pals for the rest of their lives and passed away on the same day, July 4, 1826. It was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams lived long enough to see his son become president in 1825, but he died before John Quincy Adams lost the presidency to Andrew Jackson in 1828. Fortunately, that meant he didn’t have to witness what many historians consider the nastiest contest in American history.

The slurs flew back and forth, with John Quincy Adams being labeled a pimp, and Andrew Jackson’s wife getting called a slut.

As the election progressed, editorials in the American newspapers read more like bathroom graffiti than political commentary. One paper reported that "General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterward married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!"

Adams was a Harvard-educated diplomat from a prominent New England family. Jackson was a humble war hero from the rural South who’d never learned to spell. He was the first presidential candidate in American history to really sell himself as a man of the people, and the people loved him for it.

Having been denied their candidate in 1824, the masses were up in arms for Jackson four years later. And though his lack of education and political experience terrified many Adams supporters, that argument didn’t hold water for the throngs who lined up to cast their votes for "Old Hickory." Ever since Jackson’s decisive victory, no presidential candidate has dared take a step toward the White House without first holding hands with the common man

Of course Newt, the historian, already knows all this.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, January 30th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “Flashback: Founding Fathers Dirty Campaign”

  1. tranquil.night says:

    Try this against Obama and see what happens.

  2. proreason says:

    I don’t think Mrs Romney is a slut, and I doubt Mrs obamy has ever had relations with anything other than a test tube. As for Mrs Gingrich, no comment.

    • JohnMG says:

      …..”I doubt Mrs obamy has ever had relations with anything other than a test tube……”

      Thanks, pro, I needed that.

  3. GetBackJack says:

    Has Sweetness and Light become an Anti-Newt site? Or was this comment a nod to Mr. Gingrich’s superior grasp of History over his political opponents?

  4. canary says:

    Common does not describe Obama’s life, friends, church, and bizarre family roots & customs. Obama using an outhouse or the bushes is not common either.

    • canary says:

      I don’t want to be misread. While Obama had a privileged life, his use of outhouses and bushes was expensive camp outs, the most enjoyable times of his life in visiting families.

  5. tranquil.night says:

    Mark Levin basically said today that anyone who isn’t bothered by the ‘mutually assured destruction’ going on the in GOP and participating in it rather than demanding campaigns based on how the candidates are going to address the prolems at hand need to examine their core.

    Stop whining Mark.

  6. tranquil.night says:

    Just imagine if Jefferson had really crossed the line and called Adams a vulture capitalist. Then the muskets would’ve come out.

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