Virginia Dynasty

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The Virginia Dynasty occurred during the early period of United States History. Once the United States Constitution was adopted, four of the first five Presidents were from Virginia, at that time the leading state of the South. The term is not always applied to George Washington, who, though a Virginia planter, was closely aligned with the policies of the Federalist Party for the most part, and was succeeded by his Vice President, John Adams of Massachusetts.

The defeat of Adams in 1800 by his Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, who had previously served as Washington's Secretary of State, marked the true beginning of the Virginia Dynasty, which is usually associated with what is now called the Democratic-Republican Party, although it was generally referred to as simply the "Republican" or "Jeffersonian" Party at the time. Jefferson served two terms before retiring, in the Washingtonian precedent, in favor of his Secretary of State, fellow Virginian James Madison, the so-called "Father of the Constitution." Although the War of 1812 greatly weakened Madison's popularity in the Northeast, especially in New England which consequently discussed secession, he was nonetheless re-elected rather easily in 1812 and was able to assist another Virginian who had remained loyal to him and the party, James Monroe, to be elected President in 1816.

By the end of Monroe's first term the Federalist Party had essentially disbanded and Monroe was re-elected in 1820 without any real opposition. One elector cast his electoral vote for Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams. This was to preserve the record of George Washington as being the only person to receive all of the electoral votes and technically have been elected unanimously.

Monore's second term marked the end of the Virginia Dynasty. The unity of the Democratic-Republican Party splintered, and John Quincy Adams won the disputed 1824 election over General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, then considered to be part of the Southwest. After having contributed four of the first five Presidents and their having held office for thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of the constitution, to date four more Virginians have served as President. They are William Henry Harrison, Virginia-born but elected as a resident of Ohio; John Tyler, who was elected Vice President in 1840 as Harrison's running mate but wound up serving all but the first month of the latter's term after he became the first President to die in office; Zachary Taylor, who made his name as a Kentucky resident; and Woodrow Wilson, who was a Virginia native but was elected President after serving as the president of Princeton University and Governor of New Jersey.

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