“We can no longer say that there is nothing new under the sun.”
Our young democracy passed a crucial test today. Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, became president as his opponent, Federalist John Adams, quietly stepped down.
Adams chose to leave town rather than watch. But everyone there saw something remarkable as Jefferson was sworn in by his bitter foe, Chief Justice John Marshall.
The moment came after a nasty campaign marked by slander and scandals. Federalists called Jefferson a godless man whose election would lead to a “reign of terror” like the one in France. Republicans claimed that Adams is a British-loving tyrant bent on enslaving us.
Then an Electoral College deadlock took a week of tense balloting in the House to resolve, adding to the feeling of crisis.
But instead of a bloody coup, we’ve just seen power pass peacefully between rivals.