About the election

The election of 1824 marked the final collapse of the Federalist Party. No candidate ran as a Federalist, but there were five who ran as Democratic-Republican candidates. The election of 1824 was a turning point for how the presidential electors were chosen. It was the first election in which many states, 18 out of 24, were electing their presidential electors by popular vote instead of the state legislatures selecting the electors. It was also full of "Corrupt Bargains" and severe cases of sectionalism.

The campaign started early with many different candidates being suggested. The field was soon narrowed to five practical candidates; William Crawford, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, General Andrew Jackson (even though he was not taken seriously at first due to his lack of political experience) and John C. Calhoun. Soon, Calhoun dropped out of the presidential running and was content to run for vice president on both Adams's and Jackson's respective tickets.

Even though there was a large diversity between the candidates' points of view, they all claimed to be of the Democratic-Republican Party. This was acceptable because well organized political parties had not yet come into being. The Federalist Party had disappeared after being blamed for the war of 1812.

Crawford, who hoped to continue his "Virginia Dynasty," was the first official candidate, being selected by a caucus of Republican Congressmen. Right before the election he had a paralytic stroke, but the Republicans decided to keep him as their choice. When people found out how he was selected, his chances at winning were severely injured because he was selected as a candidate by an unpopular system.

One of the issues of the election dealt with the American System in which a high tariff was proposed to protect the American industry, and fuel the economy. All of the candidates believed in the American System, however they could not agree on how it should be funded. John Quincy Adams proposed high tariffs while Clay argued that the west should fund the American System since urban factory workers would be consuming western food. Clay also thought that maybe the South should fund it since there was a large market for cotton in the North. This was a bad mistake on Clay's part; any chance that he might have had getting support from the south went out the window since the south was never really on board with the American system, and they already had a large market for their cotton. Another issue of the election was sectionalism, in which voters only backed the candidates from their section of the county. Because of westward expansion and an increased population, there were more voters than in any of the prior elections. Being at an all time high did not mean that voting participation was at its peak; far from it actually. The voting turnout in the election of 1828 was double that of the 1824 election. When the time to vote came, the people would vote for whoever represented their area. This is confirmed by the electoral map.

When the election results were tallied, Jackson had won the popular vote with 152,901 votes (42.5%), followed by Adams with 114,023 votes (31.5%), Clay with 47,217 (13%), and Crawford brought up the end with 46,979 (13%). There was a slight difference in order when the electoral votes were counted. Jackson held 99, Adams 84, Crawford 41, and this time Clay was last with 37. The electoral map shows Adams winning outright in the New England states, with Jackson having success in states throughout the nation, and with Clay's votes coming from the west and Crawford's from the east.

Since there was no one candidate that held a majority of the electoral votes, the election of 1824 would become the second and last election to be decided by the House of Representatives. Under the requirements of the Twelfth Amendment, the House would meet and each state receives a single vote. Since the amendment says the House may only vote on three candidates with the most electoral votes, Clay could not be elected. Since Clay had been re-elected to his seat in the House by the people of Kentucky, all of the remaining presidential candidates wanted to gain the support of Clay and his supporters. It was generally admitted by the members of the House that Clay's influence commanded a large amount of votes to throw to whichever corner he wanted in the election.

Clay knew from the minute he was dropped from the election the amount of power he held, as did the presidential hopefuls. In one of his letters to Francis P. Blair, a friend from Kentucky, he jokingly said, "I am sometimes touched gently on the shoulder by a friend, for example, of General Jackson, who will thus address me: 'My dear sir, all my dependence is upon you; don't disappoint us; you know our partiality was for you next to the hero, and how much we want a Western President.' Immediately after, a friend of Mr. Crawford would remind me that if I had been the one to be returned instead of Mr. Crawford, everyone would have supported me." All three of the hopefuls would often have people do this to Clay to try and win over Clay's vote.

Clay's support was allegedly won in a three hour meeting between Adams and Clay. Before the House could meet, after the meeting between Adams and Clay, scandal erupted when a Philadelphia newspaper published an anonymous letter claiming that Clay would support Adams in return for being appointed Secretary of State. When the letter was published, the charge of "corrupt bargain" was heard throughout the states. Clay tried to deny this, but his word was not taken when Adams won the first ballot of the House of Representatives and later appointed Clay as the Secretary of State.

In conclusion, corruption played a major role in politics during this time in American history. The election of 1824 was the last of the old style elections where there were no campaigns or speeches being given to sway public opinion to vote for their platform. Most votes were based upon the individual's popularity in society or where they were born. Although our way of electing a president today is problematic, we at least have the opportunity to hear the beliefs of our chosen candidates.

Hunter Parda




American Statesmen- Henry Clay-Edited by John T. Morse, Jr.

History of the American People- Willis Mason West

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