Saturday, November 21, 2009

History of the Electoral College Part 3: 1820-1832


Winner - James Monroe (228 out of 231 electoral votes)

Runner-Up - None

This would be the third and final time in American history wherein a candidate ran effectively unopposed. Following the collapse of the Federalist Party, there existed no body stable enough to present serious opposition to the candidacy of of James Monroe. He and Vice-President Daniel Tompkins did not even run a campaign, as their victory was assured from the moment of their nomination. Though there were some Federalist holdouts whom refused to cast their votes, Monroe nonetheless carried the election in a landslide. America was at this time in "The Era of Good Feelings," an extended stretch of single-party politics.

So set in stone was Monroe's re-nomination that only 40 delegates from the Democratic Republican party even bothered to attend the caucus. Several states went unrepresented. Also in this election, changes in the country brought about a shift in the electoral college. Massachusetts lost 7 of its electors due to the Missouri Compromise, which had created Maine out of a large part of its territory. In Mississippi, one of the electors died before being able to cast his vote, bringing about the rare circumstance of a state casting only 2 votes when they are entitled to 3 at a minimum. It was also the first time Mississippi participated in a Presidential election, as well as Illinois and Alabama.

At this time, the issue of slavery was beginning to heat up in America. The Missouri Compromise established Maine to balance the number of Free States and Slave States. There was a growing rift in the country over the issue, one with no easy resolution in sight. America was also fresh off the heels of the Panic of 1819, its first major economic crisis. 190 years ago, the country was in the grips of an economic meltdown brought about by speculation and failing banks. Bankruptcy and unemployment reached previously unknown levels.

Still, the political system remained intact, and James Monroe would go on to sign the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821 to help the struggling economy. The Panic ended in 1823.

William Plumer of Massachusetts cast the sole dissenting vote in the electoral college. He did so by voting for then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Some suggest he did this to ensure that George Washington would remain the only President ever to win the entire electoral college. Others think it was to draw attention to Adams for a future candidacy - which would in fact be the case in 1824.


Winner - John Quincy Adams (84 out of 261)


Andrew Jackson (99 out of 261)

William H. Crawford (41 out of 261)

Henry Clay (37 out of 261)

In a complete turnabout from the events of 1820, 1824 was a bitterly contested 4-way race by the Democratic Republicans which would splinter politics in America once more.

The numbers here clearly point to a victory by popular Tennessee Senator Andrew Jackson. However, due to the nature of the race and the requirement for a majority rather than plurality, the vote was decided in the House of Representatives. Let's take a look at how each candidate measured up.

John Quincy Adams was the current Secretary of State and former Senator from Massachusetts, as well as being the son of former President John Adams. He had become a Democratic Republican after the collapse of the Federalist Party, and still enjoyed much support from old Federalists.

Andrew Jackson was a hero of the War of 1812 and popular in the South. He was an early favorite to win, as his fame was widespread in the nation. He did in fact take the electoral college and by many accounts the popular vote as well. During the election he was the sitting Senator from Tennessee.

William H. Crawford suffered a stroke in 1823, and though he recovered by the election his chances had been crippled. He was a former Secretary of War and current Secretary of the Treasury. His method of nomination was considered to be undemocratic by many, as it was done by a sparsely-attended Congressional Congress.

Henry Clay was the current Speaker of the House, also known as "The Great Compromiser." His support was mostly in the west, with John Quincy Adams enjoying far more popularity amongst voters that might have otherwise gone for Clay. Still, his role in this election would be pivotal.

When the results were tallied, none of the candidates had sufficient support from the electoral college to claim victory. Thus for the first time since the ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, the Presidency was determined by the House of Representatives - the same House wherein Henry Clay currently served as Speaker. As he received the fewest number of electoral votes in the nationwide election, his candidacy was revoked, leaving only Adams, Crawford, and Jackson as eligible candidates. As Crawford trailed both by a significant margin, it was in fact a battle between the Secretary of State and the Senator from Tennessee.

Henry Clay was no admirer of Andrew Jackson, and is quoted as saying "“I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult, and complicated duties of the Chief Magistracy.” His political ideals fell far more in line with those of Adams. Thus he threw his support in behind the Secretary of State, cementing his victory.

This action is also noteworthy for a statement, allegedly from a member of Congress, which began circulating before the results of the election were revealed. In it, the charge was levied that Henry Clay had been offered the position of Secretary of State by John Quincy Adams should he support his candidacy. Sure enough, when the results were determined, Clay was indeed picked for the now-vacant slot. Adams and his three predecessors had all served as Secretary of State prior to being elected President, and the position was assumed to be a stepping stone for the highest seat in the land.

Andrew Jackson was astonished and outraged by the results, and would spend the next four years railing against the audacity of Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams. This set the stage for a rematch in 1828. It also ended the Era of Good Feeling, as the division between the Democratic Republicans would splinter the party into factions. From Jackson would rise the Democratic Party, and from Adams and Clay the National Republicans and the Whig Party came to be.

Electors during this period were chosen as follows:

Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia chose electors by statewide vote.

Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont had their electors chosen by state legislature.

Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee were divided into electoral districts, with one elector chosen by the voters of each district.

Maine had two electors chosen by voters statewide, and one elector chosen per Congressional district by the voters of each district.

Of course in 1824, it hardly mattered, as the election was decided by debate and backroom deals rather than democratic vote.


Winner - Andrew Jackson (178 out of 261 electoral votes)

Runner-Up - John Quincy Adams (83 out of 261 electoral votes)

Andrew Jackson had not run a strong campaign in 1824. This coupled with the fact that it was a four-way race negated his chances for victory. As the only person now running against the incumbent President, he managed to win practically everything that had gone for Crawford or Clay in the previous election.

Jackson's support was wide-ranging and powerful. Thomas Jefferson, whom had been in favor of a Crawford victory in 1824, reversed his opinion after seeing the current administration in action. He feared for declining States Rights and the growing powers of the Federal Government, and believed Jackson was the one hope left to reverse that trend. John C. Calhoun, then serving as Vice President of the United States, also threw in his support behind Jackson, becoming his running mate. The newly-established Democratic Party began spreading across the country, attacking Adams wherever it could.

Adams responded in kind, with a mudslinging campaign the likes of which had not previously been seen. Jackson was called an adulterer for his marriage to Rachel Jackson, whose divorce had not yet been finalized when she married Andrew Jackson. His habit of dueling and executing deserters while in the military was also called into question. The charges of adultery caused Rachel much distress, and infuriated Jackson.

It was too late for Adams to save his Presidency by 1828. He accomplished few of his goals while in office, due largely to the opposition he faced in Congress. Many members of his cabinet were Jackson supporters, and his high tariff policy and non-expansionist attitude towards Native Americans were highly unpopular in the South and West. The Democratic Republicans lost control of Congress to Jackson's Democrats in 1826, and the Presidency followed. Adams won New England and a few other states, but Jackson took the remainder of the country.

Rachel Jackson, in constant distress over the campaign which slandered her name so often, died of a heart attack two weeks after Jackson's victory. Andrew Jackson was heartbroken, and blamed Adam's campaign and Henry Clay for her death. Quoth Jackson; "I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy."

Electors in 1828 were chosen as follows:

Delaware and South Carolina had their electors chosen via State Congressional appointment.

Maryland and Tennessee were divided into electoral districts, with electors chosen by voters from each district.

Maine had two electors chosen by voters statewide, and one elector chosen per Congressional district by the voters of each district.

New York had one elector chosen per Congressional District by the voters of that district, and the remaining two electors chosen by the other electors.

All other states chose their electors via popular vote.


Winner: Andrew Jackson (219 out of 286 electoral votes)


Henry Clay (49 out of 286)

William Wirt (7 out of 286)

John Floyd (11 out of 286)

Andrew Jackson was the current sitting President. His first term in office was marked by an aggressive attack of the National Debt - indeed, by his second term, Jackson was the first and only President to pay it off in its entirety. His image as a man defending the common people grew rapidly as he fought against large banking institutions.

Henry Clay was a sitting Senator from Kentucky and had served as John Q. Adam's Secretary of State. He was easily chosen by the Republican convention as their Presidential nominee.

William Wirt was a successful and very well-reknowned lawyer whom had also served as the United States Attorney General. He is often credited for making that position one of importance.

John Floyd was a former member of the House of Representatives and at the time of the election sitting governor of Virginia.

The follow-up to Jackson's defeat of John Q. Adams had him finalize his revenge against those whom had wronged him. As the candidate for the newly-formed National Republican Party, Henry Clay received hardly a fraction of the support Jackson was able to draw up.

A political standard established in 1832 which still exists today is that of the National Convention. The Congressional Nominating Caucus had fallen victim to the changing times, and now each political party held their own convention to determine a nominee. Baltimore was the host of the very first, organized by William Wirt's Anti-Masonic party. Maryland's capital also played host to the Democratic and Republican conventions when they followed suit.

The campaign focused on Jackson's policies. Distrustful of banks and paper currency, Jackson had come down hard upon the National Banking system. Henry Clay took the side of the Second Bank of the United States, hoping doing so would curry favor in its home state of Pennsylvania. He spent a great deal of the bank's money and published a number of inflamatory cartoons abuot Jackson to make his method of governing appear monarchial. This failed, as Jackson successfully conveyed to the people his belief that taking apart the bank was in their best interests. Clay won only a few states, and Jackson took most of the country.

For the election of 1832, Electors were chosen as follows.

Maryland was divided into electoral districts, with one elector chosen per district via the voters of that district.

South Carolina had its electors appointed by the state legislature. All of South Carolina's electors voted for John Floyd.

All other states had their electors chosen via statewide popular vote.

1 comment:

B.Graham said...

man 190 years ago looks so familiar...