1792 US flag with 15 stars by Hellerick 1800 ›
United States Presidential Election of 1796
November 1, 1796
Washington John Jay (Gilbert Stuart portrait) NC-Congress-SamuelJohnston
Nominee George Washington John Jay Samuel Johnston
Home state Virginia New York North Carolina
Electoral vote 87 46 31
States carried 11 4 5
Percentage 15.1 10.8 7.7
Samuel Adams Richard Henry Lee Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Nominee Samuel Adams Richard Henry Lee Charles Coatesworth Pinckney
Home state Massachusetts Virginia South Carolina
Electoral vote 29 21 20
States carried 3 1 2
Percentage 7.3 6.3 5.6
The United States Presidential Election of 1796 was the third quadrennial election to determine the President and Vice President of the United States. For the first time, the Electoral College was conducted in its normal form where each elector submitted two ballots for a different person (previously, each ballot had different candidates to ensure the election of George Washington, the 1788 having only Washington and Benjamin Franklin on one ballot, and the 1792 having only Washington on one). For that reason, it is considered to be the first competitive Presidential election.

The Electoral College selected George Washington as President for the third time and John Jay, his Secretary of State, as Washington's third Vice President.


See more: Second Administration of George Washington

The Second Washington Administration

Washington remained personally popular throughout his second term, but his government decline in popular. The South, in particular, grew discontented with the federal government after the establishment of militia standards and the government's continued neutrality with Britain and France. Further, a growing number of Washingtonians began to feel that Washington would not go far enough by trying to appease the Henrians too much, punctuated by the appointment of Thomas Jefferson as Ambassador to France.

Third Term

President George Washington had been intending to retire at the end of his second term. Washingtonians and Henrians, however, could only agree on Washington again as an acceptable President. Reluctantly, Washington agreed to run a final time for unity's sake but with the guarantee that he would not run in 1800 nor would the different ballots in the Electoral College to force a competitive election. Washington also warned of increasing health problems, making the Vice Presidency more important than ever.


  • Governor Samuel Adams
  • Aurora Editor Benjamin Franklin Bache
  • Governor Josiah Bartlett
  • Senator Aaron Burr
  • Former Governor George Clinton
  • President Pro Tempore of the Senate Oliver Ellsworth
  • Secretary John Jay
  • Former Senator Samuel Johnston
  • Senator Alexander Hamilton
  • Speaker Richard Henry Lee
  • Secretary Robert Morris
  • Congressman Charles Coatesworth Pinckney
  • President George Washington

Decline to Run

  • Ambassador Thomas Jefferson
  • Chief Justice John Adams

General Election



Unsurprisingly, President George Washington seems poised to be reelected yet again, but a third term is not guaranteed, and unanimity seems impossible. With Washington's health concerns, every faction is desperately trying to win second place as the Vice President might fulfill its second constitutional duty for the first time. The Electoral dynamics come into play for the first time, so Washington's strength in the North might be matched by Henrian strength in the South, creating an informally split combination.


Like 1792, their respective ideologies hoped for runs by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, but, again, both optioned not to run and stay in their present roles. Also like 1792, the Washingtonians have conceded to back Secretaries Jay and Morris. Jay has moderately stronger support in the North, but Southern Washingtonians prefer the highly moderate Morris. Alexander Hamilton ran for the second time, though many disputed that he represented the Washingtonian ideology but rather represents his own developing Hamiltonian philosophy. He looks like a much stronger contender than in 1792. C. C. Pinckney has the support of many Southerners, which might help Washingtonians preserve the Vice Presidency.


With Patrick Henry out of politics, Henrians have rallied around Aaron Burr, who has taken over as the Henrian leader in the Senate and looks strongest among non-Washingtonians having support both North and South. George Clinton, once a face of the Henrian movement, returns for a second run but has drastically lost support after being out of the spotlight. The House's leading obstructionist, Richard Henry Lee, has taken the role of the futile Virginian after Patrick Henry; however, Lee is loathed in the North and even unfavorable amongst many Henrians, but he hopes to take Virginian electoral votes from Washington. Samuel Johnston, a former President of Congress under the Articles, hopes to use strength in the South to have a surprise performance.


For the third election, Samuel Adams has entered as a compromise choice, and many in the North support him but the South lacks interest. Oliver Ellsworth hopes to use his mostly honorary position in the Senate as name recognition to build a compromise campaign. Ellsworth is beloved in New England but mostly unknown in the South.


Too candidates have set out to run unusual campaigns that likely will not earn much support yet spread their ideologies. First, New Hampshire's Josiah Bartlett, leveraging name recognition as a former House Speaker, runs as the first full abolition candidate. Bartlett has some New England support but no consideration with the South Second, Benjamin F. Bache pushed for a Jefferson run but had decided to run himself and create momentum for a House run. Bache lacks much support although some niche circles are behind him.

Halfway Through

At the halfway point, Washington still looked very likely to be reelected. Johnston's Southern strength grew stronger and seemed to have a great possibility of winning second. Jay emerged strong throughout the North though many worried that the popularity of Morris, Adams, and even Bartlett in their home states would deny Jay the necessary electoral votes to win second. Outside of Jay and Johnston, nobody looked to have the potential in the Electoral College to be competitive despite popular support, many surpassing Johnston.

Election Day

Heading into election day, again, Washington seemed assured of victory. Still, Jay and Johnston looked to have the only potential to take multiple states in the Electoral College, yet without a multi-state performance by those two, Hamilton and Clinton had a chance to win as well. In another odd scenario, weak performances by Johnston and Jay coupled with a Lee win in Virginia opened the opportunity of third place becoming Vice President


As expected, Washington was reelected for a third term. To the delight of Washingtonians, Jay finished second and became Vice President. Every candidate received electoral votes except for George Clinton, expected to have a strong performance, and Benjamin Franklin Buche, an outsider who was last in the popular vote. Despite a third and fourth overall finish in the popular vote, New York Senators Burr and Hamilton finished last and third-to-last in the Electoral College, with Burr finishing below abolitionist Josiah Bartlett.