One Vote Saved a Nation

By Mark Bowser

I think many times that we believe that 2020 presidential election was the only controversial, contentious election that we have ever had in this country. Not so. Not even close. In fact, the 2020 election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was mild when compared to some we have had in this country.

I am thinking of one election in particular. It took place way back in the beginning of this great nation. The election of 1800 had in one corner the sitting president of the United States John Adams. In the other corner was Adam’s own vice president Thomas Jefferson.

In those days, the presidential candidates did not run officially with a vice presidential candidate on the same ticket. Whoever got the most votes became president and whoever got the second highest votes became vice president. So, it wasn’t uncommon to have a president of one party and a vice president of another party.

If you think dirty campaigns are just an element of recent times as well, then think again. The election of 1800 was down deep and dirty. The newspapers ran attack ads almost daily against the candidate they disliked. Adams was called names such as a hermaphrodite. If you aren’t familiar with that word like I wasn’t … then I will let you look it up. Trust me, it isn’t very polite.

Jefferson was called a man who was dangerous and an atheist. It was an ugly campaign.

In the end, Jefferson got more votes than Adams. It appeared that he was going to be the next President of the United States. Oh, but not so fast. The electoral college ran a little differently back then and the states that backed Jefferson in the general election had backed his vice president of choice Aaron Burr as well. Jefferson and Burr were tied in the electoral college. So, who was the next president of the United States?

Since the electoral college couldn’t decide the election, the election was now tossed to the House of Representatives to decide the next commander in chief. The representatives from the Federalist party who had been in Adam’s camp so despised Jefferson that they threw their support behind Burr.

As Burr begin to see the votes come in for himself, he realized that he had a chance to become president instead of vice president. He then began to negotiate, persuade, beg, promise his way to more votes from other house members.

Each representative didn’t vote independently. Each state voted as a unit. One vote for each state. On the first ballot, two states were tied, Burr won six states, and Jefferson had won eight states. Jefferson was short one vote from winning.

The next few days were as tense as cloud cover in the Smoky Mountains. Thirty-two ballots later and the country was still in the same place. The country expected the worst. For some, including President John Adams, thought it would end in a civil war.

Finally, a patriot stepped forward to save the infant nation. The state of Delaware only had one member in the House of Representatives. His name was John Bayard. He would vote alone to decide for his state. Bayard decided to save the nation from an early, bloody civil war. He abstained from the next ballot. Without his vote included, the election went to Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States. So, now you know. Thanks for reading today.

*Mark Bowser is the author of several books including “Some Gave It All” with Danny Lane, “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” “Nehemiah on Leadership,” and “Sales Success” with Zig Ziglar.

He is the host of the podcast “Let Me Tell You a Story with Mark Bowser” which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, and other popular podcast platforms. Subscribe today so that you don’t miss another inspiring episode.

You can reach Mark at his website


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