Before sunrise on the morning of March 4, 1801, President John Adams left the White House and boarded a stage coach to return to his home and retirement in Massachusetts following his defeat in the election of 1800. Six hours later, Thomas Jefferson would take the oath as the third president of the United States.

Today, that seems a very ordinary political event. After all, defeated politicians leave office all the time. It has happened nine other times in the American presidency and hundreds of times in other countries around the world. 


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