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Election of 1824
In the late spring of 1823 Secretary of War John C. Calhoun began to campaign for the 1824 presidential nomination in Western North Carolina in hopes of controlling the caucuses of the Southern states. By the end of summer it became apparent that Calhoun had failed in his quest, and that William Crawford would be the choice of the Congressional caucus. Then in September, 1823 Crawford suffered a stroke. In spite of this the Congressional caucus nominated him to run for President.
At the end of Monroe's "Era of Good Feeling," the Democratic-Republican party was the only political entity in the county. It had no defined nomination process and really was little more than an umbrella group for the factional groups within.
Prior to 1824 most state offices were chosen by voters. They in turn selected a governor and Congressmen. By 1824 people were refusing to be managed under this scenario. They had demanded and in many cases received the right to directly elect senators, representatives, governors and caucus members.
By the spring of 1824 the change had manifest itself to the point where all the candidates realized the revolution, although Andrew Jackson's managers realized it first. While John Quincy Adams and Calhoun had been attacking William Crawford in speeches, Jackson attacked the party organization and backed popular elections. Then Calhoun and Adams changed their stump speeches and began to back popular voting, but not quickly enough for Calhoun. After his poor showing in Pennsylvania, he decided to seek the Vice-presidency and wait four years. The state caucus process produced two candidates, Jackson and Adams.
The fourth candidate was Henry Clay, who was nominated by the state legislatures of Kentucky and Tennessee, in lieu of a party caucus. Although Andrew Jackson is frequently described as the Western candidate there were really two candidates advocating pro-Western stances, Andy Jackson and Henry Clay. From the border state of Kentucky, Clay is frequently portrayed as representing the Upper South or mid-South. In Congress Clay had been a War Hawk while championing the "American System" of of protective tariffs, internal improvements and using the proceeds from the sale of public lands to pay what the increased tariffs wouldn't pay for, all considered to be pro-Western stances. Clay's proposed protective tariffs of 1820 and 1824 made him extremely unpopular in the Deep South.
Jackson was by far the most popular candidate, but his strong anti-party attacks drew the hostility of the party regulars, who stood to loose a good deal of power under Jackson. Adams, who also backed popular election, did not attack the Democratic-Republican party machine, making him the choice of many party regulars. Jackson's managers badly underestimated the power this gave Adams.
Crawford, who was paralysed from the stroke and did not campaign, was a pro-farmer candidate who garnered little support in the big cities. His conservative views championed the small farmer while reducing the voting power of cities.
Jackson had little in the way of a public career but his military successes were very well known. He was the "Savior of New Orleans" who destroyed the British at the end of the War of 1812, perhaps changing the international impression of who won the conflict. He defeated the Red Sticks in Alabama on the way to New Orleans, drove the Seminole Indians into Florida during the First Seminole War and he fought in the American Revolution. Jackson also benefited from changes in the property requirement once enforced by many states. Now everybody could vote, property owner or not and elections by at-large popular vote were held for the first time in Alabama, Missouri and Indiana. Others, like Illinois, used popular vote by district to determine the winner.
Adams, on the other hand, was known for foreign relations, which probably helped the Northerner in the South. He was not closely associated with any anti-slavery stand nor was he considered to be a party regular. He appealed to upper-class voters and seems to have gotten a good deal of votes from deeply religious voters. For example, the Quakers voted strongly pro-Adams because of Jackson's military background.
Henry Clay did not have broad-based support, probably because of his similarity on issues to Andrew Jackson. His power base consisted of Kentucky and the mid-West rather than the mid-South and he did not appear on the ballot in many states.
The election came down to Jackson and John Quincy Adams and on election night, Jackson walked away with a plurality of popular votes and electoral votes, but not the election. The Constitution requires a majority of votes in the Electoral College or the outcome is determined by the House of Representatives.
Now Adams was helped by his political experience and Jackson was seriously hurt by his attacks on the political machine. The best example of this was North Carolina, where Jackson won the Electoral vote while Adams won 10 out 13 votes in the House.
As it became apparent that Jackson would lose the election in the House, his followers charged that Henry Clay and John Adams had made a "Corrupt Bargain" to give Adams the Presidency in exchange for the Secretary of State position in the Adams administration. The accusations appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper before the House of Representative voting. Clay demanded to face his accusers, but none ever appeared. Adams did in fact appoint Clay Secretary of State, but the Corrupt Bargain charges were mere fodder for the Election of 1828.
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Election of 1824 was last changed on - February 28, 2006
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