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Election of 1836
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Politics
The Election of 1836 marked the first time Andrew Jackson was not running for President in 16 years. In his place was a hand-picked successor, Martin van Buren. Opposing him were four Whigs, one for each section of the country (New England, South, West) and one from South Carolina.
The major change brought about in the Election of 1836 was the formation of a new political party - the Whigs. In 1832 Henry Clay opposed Andrew Jackson under the National Republican banner. Although many historians consider Clay's party the start of the American Whig party, the National Republicans died. In 1834 a group of discontent politicians (including Henry Clay) organized the Whigs from the remnants of Clay's old party, Federalists, and anti-Jacksons.
At the start of 1836 the United States enjoyed one its longest runs of prosperity, having gone 15 years without a major downturn and the country was in the midst of reaping the benefits of a new, revolutionary form of transportation, the railroad. Georgia, Virginia, Ohio and New England were looking at substantial investments in railroads, although a good deal of it was to increase the profits (and taxes) earned at ports.
In the earliest major party convention ever held Democrats nominated Andrew Jackson's hand pick successor, Martin van Buren by a unanimous vote. Opposing van Buren were four candidates running under the Whig banner, William Henry Harrison, Hugh Lawson White, Daniel Webster and William P. Magnum. The Anti-Masonic Party nominated the Democratic ticket as their national candidates.
Since 1792 the importance of slavery in presidential elections had ebbed and flowed. In 1836 hints of Martin Van Buren's anti-slavery beliefs had made it into local newspapers, but he had cleverly side-stepped any national exposure. While Whigs did not successfully exploit slavery as a campaign issue they did exploit Richard Johnson's marriage to a mulatto woman ("The Amalgamation"), making his candidacy unacceptable to some Southerners. Elsewhere, the cry for immediate abolition had emerged from the radical wing of the movement and the American Anti-Slavery Society was flooding Congress with petitions, but slavery was not a major factor in the Election of 1836.
International issues affecting the United States appeared to wane with Texas independence early in 1836, although ongoing arguments with Great Britain over exactly who owned what continued, at this time centered on the upper reaches of Maine. Ongoing "indian problems" included the Second Seminole War and the Indian Removal. This benefited the Whig Party's Southern candidate, Hugh Lawson White, especially in Georgia, which had a large population of Cherokee still living in the state and a border with the Seminole Indians.
The major issue of the 1836 campaign appears to be the "rule of King Andy," as it was referred to in Whig literature. At one point or another virtually each of his actions was criticized, and since the Whigs had chosen to field four different candidates, they could selectively criticize the actions most appalling to a region. For example, in the Northeast he was criticized for the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and his failure to renew the charter of the Second National Bank. In the South he was criticized for failure to defeat the relatively small Seminole force in spite of assigning both William Gaines and Winfield Scott to the task. In the West he was criticized for a wide variety of problems including the slow development of "internal improvements," a message the Whig Party would hone for the next 20 years.
When America voted on November 8, 1836 Democrat Martin Van Buren won with just over 50% of the vote and Whig William Henry Harrison came in second.
Election of 1840
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Election of 1836 was last changed on - November 21, 2007
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