In September of 1796, George Washington told the American people that he wouldn’t serve a third term as president. That gave the country about three months to find his successor. The campaign turned negative pretty quickly and America’s first presidential attack ad was published in the Gazette of the United States, Federalist newspaper in Philadelphia. Alexander Hamilton wrote the letter attacking Thomas Jefferson. It was published under the alias Phocion.
In a Batman-complex moment, Phocion also accused Jefferson of running away from British troops during the Revolution, unlike his brave friend Alexander Hamilton.
Phocion also paid compliment after compliment to Adams and claimed Jefferson would emancipate all slaves if he were elected president.
The “slave” letter was one of several dozens written by Hamilton during the campaign, all attacking Jefferson.
The incident was one of the first instances where the “race card” was played in a presidential election. [Constitution Daily]