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Analysis of 1800 U.S. House elections
Posted January 30, 2005 at 11:00am by Chronicler

The Revolution of 1800 brought the Presidency and Congress into the hands of the Democratic Republicans. However, it has always bothered me that everyone assumes that the House races were decided on the same date as the presidency. I have completed a timeline of the 1800-1801 U.S. House races, which have some interesting findings.

The first state to vote for the U.S. House was New York, on 4/29 to 5/1/1800. This was rather early for the election, since it was 18 months before the new Congress assembled. The Democratic Republicans won control of the state legislature, assuring them that Jefferson would take the state's 12 electoral votes away from Adams. In the U.S. House races, the Democratic Republicans won six seats to four for the Federalists. No seat changed hands. If the remaining seats to be elected (59 Federalist and 37 DR) remained in the same hands, the new Congress would have 63 Federalists and 43 DRs.

Tennessee voted on 8/3 to 4/1800. U.S. Rep. Claiborne was re-elected.
-----Result: 1 DR
-----Elected thus far: DR 7, F 4
-----Remaining to be elected: F 59, DR 36
-----Projected next House: F 63, DR 43.

North Carolina voted on 8/14/1800. Several of the seats were hotly contested after the major Federalist gains of 1798. The Federalists defeated Rep. Spaight in CD 10 and the DRs defeated Rep. Dickson in CD 01. Rep. Alston, elected with Federalist support in 1798, was tending to the DRs, providing the DRs with their first pick-up.
-----Result: DR 6, F 4 (DR gain of one by change of party, not election result)
-----Elected thus far: DR 13, F 8
-----Remaining to be elected: F 54, DR 31
-----Projected next House: F 62, DR 44

New Hampshire voted on 8/25/1800. The Federalists won all four At Large House seats once again.
-----Result: F 4
-----Elected thus far: DR 13, F 12
-----Remaining to be elected: F 50, DR 31
-----Projected next House: F 62, DR 44

Rhode Island voted on 8/26/1800. The DRs scored a major win with Thomas Tillinghast, who carried 81% of the vote in gaining one of the at large seats. No one won a majority of the other seat (DR 48%, F 40%), so a second election was called for 4/15/1801. No one at the time knew that holding the second election so far in the future would have such an impact on the result.
-----Result: DR 1, No Choice 1 (DR gain of one)
-----Elected thus far: DR 14, F 12
-----Remaining to be elected: F 49, DR 31
-----Projected next House: F 61, DR 45

Vermont voted on 9/2/1800. Embattled Rep. Lyon did not run for re-election, and the DRs easily won his seat with 65% of the vote. The Federalist incumbent in the eastern district won only 25% of the vote to 25% for his main DR opponent; since neither obtained 50%, a second election was scheduled for 12/2/1800. Just as a reminder, the second election was scheduled for one year before the next Congress would assemble.
-----Result: DR 1, No Choice 1
-----Elected thus far: DR 15, F 12
-----Remaining to be elected: F 49, DR 30
-----Projected next House: F 61, DR 45

Connecticut voted on 9/22/1800. At that time, Connecticut held a 'nomination' election, much like today's primary, in the spring. In 1800, the Federalists knocked out all DR candidates except for one in the nominations. As a result, the voting on 9/22 allowed voters to choose seven candidates out of a field of 17 Fs and 1 DR. The Federalists swept the field; the lone DR received 37%.
-----Result: F 7
-----Elected thus far: F 19, DR 15
-----Remaining to be elected: F 42, DR 30
-----Projected next House: F 61, DR 45

Georgia voted on 10/6/1800. In this race, the two at large Reps. both decided to switch from the Federalist to the DR party. They were re-elected with 96% and 84% of the vote. As a result, the DRs gained two more seats through party switches, not by election victories. By this time, the DRs had only gained one seat by election results (in RI)
-----Result: DR 2 (DR gain of two)
-----Elected thus far: F 19, DR 17
-----Remaining to be elected: F 40, DR 30
-----Projected next House: F 59, DR 47

Delaware voted on 10/7/1800. Rep. James A. Bayard (F) was re-elected with 53% of the vote.
-----Result: F 1
-----Elected thus far: F 20, DR 17
-----Remaining to be elected: F 39, DR 30
-----Projected next House: F 59, DR 47

South Carolina voted on 10/13 to 14/1800. This was a key race both in terms of the presidential race and the U.S. House. The new legislature was going to select the presidential electors, so the two parties waged a rough race for control. In the U.S. House races, the DRs picked up the open CD 05 seat.
-----Result: F 4, DR 2 (DR gain of one)
-----Elected thus far: F 24, DR 19
-----Remaining to be elected: F 34, DR 29
-----Projected next House: F 58, DR 48

Pennsylvania voted on 10/14/1800. This was another key race. The legislature had decided to take the selection of presidential electors to itself, so this race represented a plebiscite on the presidential election. Samuel Miles, the faithless Elector of 1796, ran for the U.S. House on the DR ticket (unsuccessfully). The DRs picked up the CD 08 open seat (the Federalist incumbent had died), and they won the hotly contested CD 01 seat by a margin of 14. It was a defeat for the Federalists, but not very significant under the circumstances.
-----Result: DR 10, F 3 (DR gain of two)
-----Elected thus far: DR 29, F 27
-----Remaining to be elected: F 29, DR 21
-----Projected next House: F 56, DR 50

Massachusetts voted on 11/3/1800. The Federalist legislature had taken away the people's right to vote for President, which they discovered was unpopular. The U.S. House races gave the populace an opportunity to register their dissatisfaction. The House delegation stood 12 F to 2 DR in the last Congress. The DRs gained two seats and prevented the Fs from receiving a majority in two others. This election was a major blow to the Federalists, coming as it did right in the middle of the voting for President. This race signalled that the DRs were probably going to gain control of the House. From here on, the Federalist lost most of the close races.
-----Result: F 8, DR 4, no choice 2 (DR gain of two)
-----Elected thus far: F 35, DR 33
-----Remaining to be elected: F 19, DR 19
-----Projected next House: F 54, DR 52

Vermont held its second election to fill the seat of the eastern district. The incumbent, Lewis R. Morris, managed to get the other Federalist candidates to drop out, and he won re-election with 57% of the vote. It is significant that the alternate Federalist candidates decided not to challenge this weak incumbent. It appearst that they realized the status of the next House.
-----Result: F 1
-----Elected thus far: F 36, DR 33
-----Remaining to be elected: DR 19, F 18
-----Projected next House: F 54, DR 52

New Jersey voted on 12/23 to 24/1800. The legislature had switched the elections from CDs to at large since 1798. The Federalists knew that they needed to carry the entire slate of five. In the last Congress, the delegation was DR-3, F-2. This was another hotly contested race. In the end, the DR ticket won with a 51-49 margin. With this race, it was becoming increasingly clear that the DRs would control the next House.
-----Result: DR 5
-----Elected thus far: DR 38, F 36
-----Remaining to be elected: DR 16, F 16
-----Projected next House: DR 54, F 52

Massachusetts held its second election on 3/9/1801, right after the U.S. House finished voting in the contingent election for President between Jefferson and Burr. These two Federalist seats were critical to any hopes that they might retain control of the House in 1801. The result: the DRs carried both districts with 59% and 51% of the vote. This referendum on the U.S. House voting between Jefferson and Burr effectively sealed the DR control of the House.
-----Result: DR 2 (DR gain of two)
-----Elected thus far: DR 40, F 36
-----Remaining to be elected: DR 16, F 14
-----Projected next House: DR 56, F 50

Maryland voted on 4/6/1801. Jefferson had won the contingent election and was president. The DRs targeted three Federalist seats, including the open CD 04. In the end, the DRs won two of the targeted seats, and Rep. Plater (F) was re-elected by a 53-47 margin. The delegation switched from F-5, DR-3 to DR-5, F-3.
-----Result: DR 5, F 3 (DR gain of two)
-----Elected thus far: DR 45, F 39
-----Remaining to be elected: DR 13, F 9
-----Projected next House: DR 58, F 48

Rhode Island held its second election on 4/15/1801. This race was held to fill one seat in which no candidate received a majority on 8/26/1800. Since Jefferson was the President and the DRs were headed towards a comfortable majority in the House, why not add to it? Joseph Stanton (DR) picked up the seat with 61% ofthe vote.
-----Result: DR 1 (DR gain of one)
-----Elected thus far: DR 46, F 39
-----Remaining to be elected: DR 13, F 8
-----Projected next House: DR 59, F 47

Virginia voted on 4/22/1801. We always think of Virginia as a strong DR state. However, in the 1799 elections, the Federalists won 8 of the 19 seats, a rather respectable showing. The appeal of having a Virginian President and the scheming of the Federalists during the contingent election doomed the state Federalists. Only two of the incumbent Federalists ran for re-election. In the end, the DRs defeated one incumbent and carried 17 of the 19 seats. It was a dramatic shift in the state's delegation.
-----Result: DR 17, F 2 (DR gain of 5, having already taken one in a special election)
-----Elected thus far: DR 63, F 41
-----Remaining to be elected: DR 2
-----Projected next House: DR 65, F 41

Kentucky voted on 8/3/1801. This was over a year after the first U.S. House race in this cycle. The two incumbent DR Reps were re-elected with 68% and 79% of the vote.
-----Result: DR 2
-----Elected thus far: DR 65, F 41

By the time Congress assembled, some special elections had been held to fill certain vacancies. When the House assembled on 12/7/1801, it stood DR 66, F 39.

A recent book on the 1800 election described the entire U.S. House campaign of that cycle in two sentences. I think that the above information illustrates that there was a lot going on. In fact, one can easily argue that the Federalists had an excellent chance of retaining the House until they miscalculated on how to address the presidential race in the lame duck Congress. Before the selection of presidential electors, the Federalists had lost only seven seats and were headed for a 56-50 majority. Three of those seven seats were the result of incumbents changing their party, so the Federalists had only lost four seats in elections. By early 1801, however, Federalist candidates were slipping nationwide. Even their disaster in Virginia might have been tempered if they had used more discretion in the Jefferson-Burr deadlock.

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