A Magnificent Catastrophe

  • by Edward J. Larson
  • Narrated by John Dossett
  • 6 hrs and 0 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A Magnificent Catastrophe tells the story of the most perverse, bizarre, nail-biting, and influential election battle ever in U.S. history: America's first true presidential campaign, and a contest so important to the future of the country that Jefferson referred to it as "the second American Revolution" because the outcome resolved so much unfinished business about just what kind of government we would have. This election in many ways determined just how democratic a country we would be. George Washington had been a non-contested favorite for president and had never campaigned for the job. In 1796, the first election after Washington announced he would not run for a third term, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson squared off as the leading contenders, but carried on Washington's tradition of not actively campaigning. Adams beat Jefferson by just three electoral votes, and the stage was set for viscious battle next time. In the 1800 rematch between Adams and Jefferson, and the newly forming parties that each represented, the gloves came off with both sides launching into hard-core campaiging for the first time.
All the tricks and tactics of partisan warfare that have become the hallmark of American elections were born. Before this election, the parties were merely informal networks and presidential administrations were bipartisan; after this election, the two-party system had been set in stone and all of the regrettable effects of bitter partisanship the Founders had warned of, and tried so hard to fend off, had been set in motion. This election shaped all future lines of battle in American politics.
The audiobook tells the story of that tumultuous, year-long campaign, vividly conveying the heady and overheated spirit of the times and bringing the personalities of the leading players vividly to life.


What the Critics Say

"In this absorbing, brisk account, Larson re-creates the dramatic presidential race of 1800...an invaluable study of a crucial chapter in the lives of the founding fathers: and of the nation." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Some pages aren't read in the audible book

Is there anything you would change about this book?

If the person who read it didn't skip many pages at a time. State continuously exactly what is on the book. Let's say the person was reading on page 142, it read a paragraph, skipped the next paragraph, read a sentence from the following paragraph then decided to skip 3 full pages until it started reading again from what is on the book.

Has A Magnificent Catastrophe turned you off from other books in this genre?

No it has not

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

I liked how the reader sounded it wasn't a robot nor it was annoying. I dislike how the person kept skipping sentences from the book or even at times pages.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?


Any additional comments?

Read the whole book continuously, exactly what is on the book.

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- kemberli

Great Book

If you could sum up A Magnificent Catastrophe in three words, what would they be?

informative, consice, detailed

What about John Dossett’s performance did you like?

Pleasent to listen to.

Any additional comments?

This book details the struggles concerning the elections of 1800. Ironically, I found many parallels with present day politics. The "Federalist" who believed in big government and central power in a sort of monarchical government against the 'republicans' or "anti-federalist" that where big supporters of the original intent of the Constitution, de-centralized government doing battle. This fits the narrative we see today where the two factions are "Big Government" Republicans and Democrats and the smaller government "republicans" (emphasis on the lowercase 'r') which has members of more "traditional" Democrats and Republicans.

The book covers the elections of 1800 where John Adams (2nd President) seek re-election. However the current Vice President (Thomas Jefferson) also seeks his first win as POTUS. The most interesting information in this book is how two men could have been allies and come together to create the Declaration of Independence yet be so diametrically different in their respective visions for the country. Truth be told, I find it fascinating that so soon after winning are independence from the Crown, that John Adams would be the impetus for the Alien and Sedition acts. Ironically, the President and the House were protected from criticism, but the Vice President (Thomas Jefferson), was not protected.

As you all know, Adams was unsuccessful in retaining a second term as President and was succeeded by Thomas Jefferson which served two terms as President. After their rivalry, Jefferson and Adams remained in contact via mail and talked about religion, politics, to name a few.

It is difficult to ascertain a particular agenda or ideology from the writer. This is important to me as I like to form my own opinions. With that said, the author did take certain liberties and stated "FACTS" that in my opinion where not exactly facts. The one that comes to mind is, that of Jefferson being a deist.

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- Manny Fernandez

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-21-2007
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio