#40 A Magnificent Catastrophe by Edward Larson

Larson’s book is in regard to the 1800 US Presidential Election. Thomas Jefferson ultimately defeated John Adams in the first change of power between political parties in American history. This was also the election which appeared to begin such modern staples as the two party system, public campaigning, and of conservatives accusing liberals of being Godless infidels, and of liberals accusing conservatives of trying to set up an aristocracy which governed in its own interests.

While I was familiar with the basic details of this election, Larson digs into primary sources and brings Hamilton, Burr, Adams, Jefferson, Pinckney and others to life. 1800 was a troubled time for a young America, and it is refreshing to see that then as now, candidates quickly resorted to turning on each other like wild dogs to try to salvage the problems of the day.

As a new country, it was essential for America to survive this election with a peaceful transition of power. It did so and, more or less, hasn’t looked back. Larson’s book is an entertaining and relatively quick story of a nation on the brink of major trouble, saved from same by the same combination of democractic virtue and luck which triumph still, more or less.



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