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September 9, 2008

"The Will of the People" prevailed in bitter election of 1800

Colonial Williamsburg’s 2008 – 2009 Electronic Field Trip series launches Oct. 16 with “The Will of the People,” a timely premiere for this year’s election season. The presidential election of 1800, one of the most bitter in U.S. history, is part of a surprising lesson for a 21st-century student. Thomas Jefferson explains how negative campaigning, partisan politics and contested elections have been part of our political system since the early days of the republic.

“We’ve got this notion today that it wasn’t until after the founding generation that things got nasty in American politics, but American politics has been nasty since the very beginning of our country, and the election of 1800 proves it,” said Bill White, Colonial Williamsburg’s executive producer and director of education program development. “Lies, half-truths, rumors, demonstrations and violence dominated that contest, and then as now, the ugliness was generated not by the candidates, but mostly by their surrogates.”

The men we now refer to as our Founding Fathers were not loved and respected by all their fellow citizens. “The Will of the People” explains that issues of military spending, the power of the federal government, taxation and the deficit were front and center 200 years ago, just as they are today. And, the disagreements of the citizens were at least as lively as they are today.

“The Will of the People” is the first of seven Electronic Field Trips broadcast one Thursday each month from October through April at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time on participating PBS stations and cable channels across the country. Targeted to grades 4 – 8, the distance learning programs span a broad range of historical subjects about people, issues and events from colonial times to the present day.

Each Electronic Field Trip is supported with lesson plans, interactive student resources and other materials to help teachers make history exciting and relevant for their students. All materials have been developed by teachers, historians and museum educators and meet state standards for history, technology and literacy. Selected programs also correlate to state science and arts education standards.

Students in participating schools may phone in questions to costumed interpreters and historians during the broadcast on live television. Registered users also may view Electronic Field Trips and use teacher and student resources via the Internet on demand any time.

The remaining 2008-2009 Electronic Field Trips are as follows:

  • Yorktown – Explore the key turning point in the Revolutionary War and learn how Yorktown became the place where American independence was secured. (Nov. 13, 2008)
  • Making History Live – (premiere) Take a behind-the-scenes look at how historical African American character portrayals are created for Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area programs. (Dec. 11, 2008)
  • In Pursuit of Science – Enter the exciting world of scientific exploration and discovery through the eyes of a young colonial American boy. (Jan. 15, 2009)
  • Freedom Bound – (premiere) Learn about choice, hope and escape from slavery over three centuries, from slavery in colonial times to the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. (Feb. 19, 2009)
  • Remember the Ladies – Examine the roles, responsibilities, and daily activities of early America women. (March 26, 2009)
  • Soldier of Liberty – Experience the everyday life of a young recruit during the American Revolution. (April 23, 2009)

    As the nation’s leading educational resource for early American history, Colonial Williamsburg uses the Internet and live interactive television broadcasts to bring American history to life for more than one million students and four million other viewers each year. For more information or to register for the Electronic Field Trip series, visit, call 1-800-761-8331 or e-mail

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation – is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Barbara Brown
    (757) 220-7280

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