Posts Tagged ‘Delaware’

America’s first two elections were basically uncontested.  Everyone knew George Washington would be elected to the top post, and his 100% tally in both Electoral College votes bore that out.  The election of 1796, won by John Adams, was the first election that showed just how divided a country, recently united by Revolution and victory, could become.  It also gave us some insight into the power of a muck-raking press not conditioned to the niceties of 21st-century subtlety.

Which brings us to the election of 1800, which may have been the most dramatic in the country’s history.  There was little doubt who wasn’t going to win.  President John Adams had been demonized by the Anti-Federalist Party and marginalized by his own Federalist Party.  The threat of open war with France had split the powers in government into two camps.  The Anti-Federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, wanted peace with France…the Federalists, war.

President Adams’ envoys to France brokered peace, but the “slow boat to America” brought news of the treaty too late to act as the catalyst that almost surely would have garnered Adams another term.  So it came down to Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.  Everyone knew the election would end in an Electoral College tie, and that was verified when the ballots were opened on February 11th, 1801.  The vote would go to the House of Representatives, a chamber dominated by Federalists, which spelled doom for Jefferson.

But not so fast.

Aaron Burr was a pretty unpopular fellow amongst those in power.  And one of his biggest rivals was Alexander Hamilton.  The two had engaged in an on-again-off-again cycle of trust, distrust, collaboration, and outright hatred that boggles the senses.  Hamilton saw Burr as a two-faced hypocrite, who swapped allegiances and ideologies to suit whatever constituency gave him the most power.  He (correctly) saw Burr as a man of exceeding ambition who, if he couldn’t gain power by rightful election, was capable of using any means necessary.

Burr, for his part, was initially gracious about the tie, stating that “It is highly improbable that I shall have an equal number of votes with Mr. Jefferson, but if such should be the result, every man who knows me ought to know that I should utterly disclaim all competition.”  Some Federalists were inclined to favor the ever-ambitious Burr over Jefferson.

Alexander Hamilton was horrified. He and Thomas Jefferson had also been bitter rivals for years, but in this case, Burr was the bigger evil, as we’ll begin to unravel in a few days.  As always, he let his pen do the talking, writing to Congressional Federalists that “As to Burr, there is nothing in his favour…He is bankrupt beyond redemption, except by the plunder of his country.  His pubilc principles have no other spring or aim than his own aggrandizement…If he can, he will certainly disturb our institutions to secure to himself permanent power…”

The irony here is startling…Hamilton defending Jefferson by saying of Burr the same things Jefferson said of Hamilton…read that carefully.  President John Adams, relegated to spectator status in this and a recipient of Hamilton’s ire just prior to the election, laughed at the situation.  “The very man – the very two men – of all the world that he was most jealous of are now placed above him.”

Thirty-five ballots were cast in the House over a week’s time.  And thirty-five times the deadlock remained.  The politiking in the House grew as electors looked for any leeway that could break the deadlock.  That leeway came to Delaware’s James Bayard.  Possibly influenced by Hamilton’s constant letters to Congress, this anti-Jefferson Federalist met with Jefferson supporters and set forth a few requirements which, if promised by Jefferson, could likely win Bayard’s vote.

What Bayard heard in response must have been enough, because the thirty-sixth vote, taken on February 17, 1801, saw Bayard cast a blank ballot, removing Delaware from Burr’s column.  Thomas Jefferson had a new title…President of the United States.

Recommended Reading: Alexander Hamilton

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I’m doing a little finalization work on the project car I have and, while it’s not terribly difficult work, I’m a relative novice.  So I’m taking my time, which means it takes a long time to get each step accomplished.  But it’s going reasonably well…well enough that, with continued success, it may get done this weekend.  So the extra hours in the garage means I’m spending a little less time behind the keyboard.  But let’s take a shot at something.

The Battle of Cooch’s Bridge probably doesn’t come to mind when thinking of the battles fought during the American Revolution.  And that’s probably ok, because it wasn’t a large battle by any means.  “Skirmish” or “kind of large fight” or maybe “royal rumble” would be more appropriate (though the WWE might have a word with you about filching one of their terms).  But the circumstances surrounding it make it somewhat unique.

The battle itself, which occurred on September 3, 1777, was fought between 700 British (a mix of  German Hessians and Redcoats) and 450 American militia, led by Brigadier General William Maxwell.  The engagement began a few miles south of Cooch’s Bridge, when the Americans, who were waiting in ambush fired first.  The ensuing firefight saw the outnumbered Americans pushed back, though the British were not able to flank the Americans due to swampy terrain.

Maxwell’s final defense line, Cooch’s Bridge (named such because it was sitting on property owned by the Cooch family), was finally overrun when the British added some light cannon to the firepower.  Each side lost about the same number of men (30-40 killed and wounded), but the British took the victory because they seized the ground.

That’s the battle…here’s some of the more interesting stuff.

  • The Cooch family still owns the property where the skirmish was fought, and the original manor still stands.
  • The Cooch property sits in northern Delaware, and this was only military action of the Revolution that took place in the nation’s first state.
  • Maxwell’s defense line at Cooch’s Bridge was marked with an American flag, making it the first (but certainly not the last) time the Star-Spangled Banner was flown in combat.

It should be noted that the British and Hessian forces that fought at Cooch’s Bridge were not a fighting force unto themselves.  They were merely advance scouts for General William Howe’s much larger army, which had landed in Maryland in late August.  These forces would be the ones that swept into Philadelphia later in September, pushing General Washington and his men 20 miles outside the city…to a place called Valley Forge.

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