Politics 1796, Dirty as Today's

From Jeffrey L. Pasley, The First Presidential Contest:

"Federalist attacks of 1796 wrapped their caricature of Jefferson in a powerful conservative critique of French revolutionary radicalism, the Enlightenment, and post-Christian morals. With the Sally Hemings revelations still in the future, the critics focused chiefly on Jefferson's lack of manly qualities, as evidenced especially by his interest in science and technology. According to the Federalists, here quoted in a sort of dual biography of the two candidates published in Boston, the 'timid and wavering' Jefferson was not cut out to be a 'statesman, still less ... a patriot.' Woe betide America if 'her liberties depended upon the depth of his political knowledge, the strength of his virtue, or the vigour of his mind.' Jefferson's inability to 'act the man' would invite foreign ag­gression and lead to national ruin: 'our national honour forfeited; war probably ensue, our commerce be destroyed, our towns pillaged.' Better to opt for the 'security' of the 'resplendent abilities,' 'faithful services,' 'inflexible patriotism,' and 'undeviating firmness' of John Adams, who would have the wisdom and strength to stand against 'mad democracy' and 'the wiles of ambition.' The basic images of liberalism and conser­vatism in American politics have never strayed very far from this origi­nal Federalist template."