I was talking to Dr. Korfhage about the election of 1800 the other day because I was a little confused about why it was a tie. He explained that at that point there was no way to distinguish the difference between people running for President and People running for Vice President. Simply put, whoever came in second became the Vice President. In 1800 when Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, and Aaron Burr, a Federalist, tied with 73 electoral votes each, the decision as to who would become President was given to the House of Representatives. The government, including the House of Representatives was controlled by the Federalists, it seemed natural that Burr would be chosen because he himself was a federalist. However, Hamilton, also a Federalist, urged the House of Representatives that Jefferson would be better for the Presidency because Burr could not be trusted. Hamilton had known Burr as both a lawyer and a politician and knew what a (to use Dr. Korfhage’s word) “scumbag” Burr was.* Even though Jefferson was of the opposite political party, Hamilton used his power to ensure that Burr was not President for the good of the country. I bring this up because I was thinking about doing something out of loyalty to a political party versus doing something for the greater good. In this case Hamilton chose to make sure that America was in good hands, not that the Federalists had control. This not only applies to politics in the 1800s, but also to many things in life. Generally speaking, it is a question of loyalty vs. the greater good. I think that in many cases the decision could go either way. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this conflict, but I think it is a fairly common issue. I would love to hear what other people have to say. There are many ethical choices that leaders and people have to make in life. Do people tend to advocate their beliefs or choose to support the greater good both in politics and in life?
Also, read Matt’s post below “Good Person vs. Good Ruler” for an interesting look on leadership and the choices of leaders.
*Quotes from Alexander Hamilton on Aaron Burr:
“a man of irregular and unsatiable ambition … who ought not to be trusted with the reins of government.”
“There is no doubt that upon every virtuous and prudent calculation Jefferson is to be preferred. He is by far not so dangerous a man and he has pretensions to character.”
“If we have an embryo-Caesar in the United States, ’tis Burr”
“For or against nothing, but as it suits his interests or ambition. I feel the religious duty to oppose his career.”