John Adams was the next logical Federalist candidate for president, having served two terms as Washington's vice president. He had found his role as vice president to be undesirable, but he looked forward to becoming president. In the election, he was opposed by Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican who fought against the idea of a strong, national government.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
John Adams did not relish his position as second-in-command as can be told from his words on the vice presidency: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”
The campaign between Adams and Jefferson was fierce. While both of them remained above the fray, their campaigns focused on personal attacks. The Democratic-Republicans were unhappy with Washington's policies but could not attack such a popular leader directly, so they instead heaped their attacks on Adams. Adams's camp shot back that Jefferson wanted to overthrow the Constitution. Further, Adams believed that France was the greater concern to national security while Jefferson felt that it was Great Britain. This campaign would cause a rift between the two friends for years.
Election of 1796
According to the Constitution, whoever received the most votes became president and whoever had the second most votes became vice president. Thomas Pinckney had been Adams's running mate for vice president. Alexander Hamilton tried to get Pinckney elected over Adams. However, his plan backfired and the presidency almost went to Thomas Jefferson who lost by only three votes. Therefore, Adams and Jefferson, political adversaries representing different parties, were elected as president and vice president, respectively.