As the map of blue and red states filled in on election night while Obama and McCain vied for the Presidency, it was hard to believe how little the political battleground had changed since the election of 1800 when the Northeast went for Adams, the South was Jefferson’s, and the middle states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware were considered key to the outcome.
Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward J. Larson gives a vivid and intimate account of A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign. Drawing extensively on the resources that have surfaced in recent years, Larson draws a roses and warts sketch of the major characters — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr, Pinckneys, Madison, Monroe — and of the events leading up to the first political election in America.
Larson’s emininently readable history offers no new insights, no new facts, but it’s evenhanded and balanced telling should make this the “standard” by which other accounts will be judged. Certainly it’s the primer of partisan politics!