newspaper. She accused Jefferson of planning a "French Government–at
least a licentious one, without doubt" echoing the words of the Centinel.
On December 3, the day the electors met in the states to select the
next president, the paper admonished:
On this day, the electors in all the United States will
decide whether our country shall continue to enjoy the wise and efficient
administration of the last twelve years; and all the blessings which
have emanated therefrom; or whether the reign of innovation and wild
experiment shall commence:– Whether the ship of state which has so
long obeyed the helm of self government shall pursue in safety her
prosperous voyage, or whether she shall be tossed at random "on the
tempestuous sea of licentious liberty.15
Louisa's use of the words "licentious" to describe Republicanism,
and "annihilate" rather than reject (the treaty) suggests that the Centinel,
which used the same words, was a primary source of her political information.
The paper used absolute language as an editorial device, but Louisa's
use of the words appeared sincere.
The presidential election of 1800 was unlike any other in American history.
Conducted under the constitutional provision that the president and
vice president should be the first and second place winners of electoral
votes, the political parties vied for control of the first and second
place votes. Incumbent John Adams was supported by the Federalist party
which favored diplomatic ties to Great Britain, a strong military, and
limited expansion into western lands. Vice President Thomas Jefferson
was favored by the Democratic Republicans, who wanted alliance with
France, feared that a standing army could be used to curb individual
freedom, and wanted access to free land in the west.16
Partisan newspapers published attacks on opposition candidates, often
in the form of anonymous letters to editors. Federalists accused Democratic
Republicans of being Jacobins, while Republicans accused Federalists
of being monarchists.