Conspiracy Politics in the Election of 1796

Document Type


Publication Title

New York History


The United States has had its share of presidential election conspiracies and conspiracy theories. The best known is Alexander Hamilton's efforts to slip Charles C. Pinckney past a sitting president of the same party, John Adams, in the election of 1800. But there are numerous others, such as the question of whether Henry Clay sold his support to John Quincy Adams in the House of Representative voting for president in 1825. Other examples include the electoral vote count of the 1876 election when the Democrats allowed the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for the end of Reconstruction, and the Illinois vote count in 1960 that gave John Kennedy the election. In 1972 Richard Nixon's team tried to fix the election by ensuring the worst possible Democrat received his party's nomination. Conspiracies are a part of the United States' political life and folklore, enough so, that even the best of observers may see them where they do not exist. Such could be the case in the election of 1796. The question is, did Hamilton really try to slip Thomas Pinckney past Adams into the presidency, or was he just trying to ensure that a federalist won?

Publication Date

Summer 2011