A Magnificent Catastrophe tells the story of the most perverse, bizarre, nail-biting, and influential election battle ever in U.S. history: America's first true presidential campaign, and a contest so important to the future of the country that Jefferson referred to it as "the second American Revolution" because the outcome resolved so much unfinished business about just what kind of government we would have. This election in many ways determined just how democratic a country we would be.
George Washington had been a non-contested favorite for president and had never campaigned for the job. In 1796, the first election after Washington announced he would not run for a third term, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson squared off as the leading contenders, but carried on Washington's tradition of not actively campaigning. Adams beat Jefferson by just three electoral votes, and the stage was set for viscious battle next time. In the 1800 rematch between Adams and Jefferson, and the newly forming parties that each represented, the gloves came off with both sides launching into hard-core campaiging for the first time.
All the tricks and tactics of partisan warfare that have become the hallmark of American elections were born. Before this election, the parties were merely informal networks and presidential administrations were bipartisan; after this election, the two-party system had been set in stone and all of the regrettable effects of bitter partisanship the Founders had warned of, and tried so hard to fend off, had been set in motion. This election shaped all future lines of battle in American politics.
The audiobook tells the story of that tumultuous, year-long campaign, vividly conveying the heady and overheated spirit of the times and bringing the personalities of the leading players vividly to life.
"In this absorbing, brisk account, Larson re-creates the dramatic presidential race of 1800...an invaluable study of a crucial chapter in the lives of the founding fathers: and of the nation." (
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