The Election of 1820

There is not much to write about the election of 1820. This election was the only uncontested presidential election in American history except for the first two elections when Washington was the only candidate. The Federalist Party had almost completely faded away by then and with it, the first party system of American politics. There was still a handful of Federalists serving in Congress, but the Federalist had lost all of their influence outside of New England and was not able to nominate a candidate to oppose the reelection of James Monroe. The Democratic-Republicans nominated their team of Monroe and Daniel D. Tomkins for a second term.

There was no real campaign and little interest in the election. Turnout for the election was light, even in the fifteen of the twenty-four states that chose their electors by popular vote. There was some controversy over the status of Missouri. The new state had adopted a constitution in July of 1820, but Congress delayed Missouri’s admission into the Union until August of 1821 because of a provision the constitution that prohibited free Blacks from residing in the state. It made no difference to the outcome, so the matter was not pursued.

As for the outcome, James Monroe won 228 of the 232 electoral votes. Three electors, one each from Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee had died before  casting their votes and so were not counted. There was only one dissenting vote cast by William Plumer, a former Senator and governor from New Hampshire. It is sometimes said that he voted for John Quincy Adams so that Monroe would not equal Washington’s achievement in gaining a unanimous vote in the Electoral College, but he had no way of knowing what the votes of his colleagues  would be. He simply believed that John Quincy Adams would make a better president than James Monroe. He also disliked Daniel Tomkins and voted for Richard Rush for vice-president.

The Election of 1820
The Election of 1820

After this election, it seemed as if the United States would become a one party state. James Monroe was happy with that result. The founding fathers had not approved of political parties believing them to be divisive and troublesome. Most political observers looked forward to a future of calm elections with no partisan rivalry. Just four years later they would find out how wrong they were.


The Election of 1804

The election of 1804 was not nearly as exciting of the election of 1800. The re-election of Thomas Jefferson was virtually a forgone conclusion. The country was prosperous and at peace. The Louisiana Purchase had doubled the size of the United States and Ohio had been added to the Union. Taxes were lower and the national debt was being paid off. There was even a lull in the seemingly endless war between Britain and France. Jefferson had proved not to be the radical that many Federalists had feared. On the advice of his Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin , Jefferson had left in place many of the financial programs  begun by Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson was popular everywhere except among the Federalists in New England. These Federalists actually opposed the expansion to the west because they feared that an alliance between the South and the growing Northwest would marginalize New England. There was beginning to be some talk of Federalist New England seceding from the Union.

There was almost no drama in this election. The Democratic-Republicans met in caucus on February 25 and nominated Thomas Jefferson for a second term. Since Jefferson didn’t trust his Vice-President, Aaron Burr, after his intrigues during the previous election, the Democratic-Republicans selected George Clinton of New York to be Vice-President. Clinton had been governor of New York from 1777 until 1795 and again from 1800 to 1804. He had also served as a brigadier general in the Continental Army. Clinton had been an anti-Federalist during the fight to ratify the constitution but had relented when the bill of rights was added.

The Federalists didn’t have a formal caucus but decided to support Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as President and Rufus King as Vice-President. Pinckney had been nominated for Vice-President in the election of 1800. He was from South Carolina and was noted for his role in the XYZ affair while minister to France. Rufus King served as a Senator from New York from 1789 to 1796 and then was minister to Great Britain from 1796 to 1803. He had been an opponent of slavery and the slave trade, but was willing to wait for gradual emancipation.

The only issue that the Federalists had that might have gained any traction was Thomas Jefferson’s supposed relationship with his slave Sally Hemmings. They made fun of his “African Venus” Black Sal. Jefferson wisely kept silent about the issue. The Federalists also condemned the Louisiana Purchase as unconstitutional, but that was not likely to be a popular position to hold outside of New England.

This was the first election under the new rules established by the twelfth amendment, in which each elector voted for the presidential candidate and his running mate. In the end Jefferson won by a landslide of 162 electoral votes against only 14 votes for Pinckney. The Democratic-Republicans won every state except Connecticut and Delaware with two electors in Maryland supporting the Federalists. The Federalists on the way to becoming a minor regional party and Jefferson looked forward to the day when party spirit would be extinguished. If he had known what he was in for, he wouldn’t have been so happy about the future.

The election of 1804
The election of 1804


The Election of 1792

The election of 1792 was, in many ways, a repeat of the election of 1789. There were the same candidates and the same result, Washington winning by a unaminous vote of the electoral college and John Adams being re-elected Vice President. George Washington really didn’t want to run for a second term. Although his first term had been very successful, Washington had not enjoyed it. He wanted nothing more than to retire from politics and go back to his home at Mount Vernon.

One thing that had especially exasperated Washington was the growth of partisan politics in the new republic. None of the founding fathers had anything good to say about political parties and they all warned of the dangers of factions. Despite these warning, the first party system was already forming around Washington’s two chief cabinet officials; Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both of these men were very intelligent and ambitious. Both of them had grown up without a father, Jefferson’s dying when he was 14 and Hamilton’s abandoning his family. In all other ways, however, the two men were opposites and rivals.

Alexander Hamilton favored a strong federal government. Since he had been born outside the thirteen colonies, he had never developed any intense loyalty to any one state, instead viewing the United States as a whole. He believed that the United States should become an industrial power and wanted a national bank to finance investments and improvements to the infrastructure for that end. Hamilton was also something of an elitist, believing that the people should be guided. Thomas Jefferson was a Virginian. He, like almost everyone at the time, was loyal to his state first and then to the nation. He wanted a weak national government, and believed that state’s rights were paramount. He believed that the United States should have a primarily agricultural economy and distrusted banks. His opinion was that only a republic of sturdy independent farmers could endure. He professed to have great love for the people. Even in personality the two men differed. Hamilton was hyperactive, always making plans and working on projects. Jefferson was more laid back, in some ways even lazy. In foreign policy, Hamilton favored an alliance with the British on the grounds of common culture and trade. Jefferson wanted to support France as a fellow republic after their revolution. The two men caused Washington quite a lot of trouble with their endless bickering, especially when the newspapers they were financing starting to attack each other. Soon the followers of Hamilton were calling themselves Federalists while Jefferson’s supporters were the Democratic-Republicans.

The one thing that Hamilton and Jefferson did agree on was that Washington should run again. The country was still too young and things were still too unsettled to go without Washington’s guidance. Washington reluctantly agreed. All thirteen of the original states were able to participate in this election and Vermont and Kentucky had been added to the Union so there were 132 electoral votes. All 132 electors cast one of their votes for Washington, giving him a unanimous vote for President. With their second vote, they gave John Adams 77 votes, making him Vice-President again. George Clinton received 50 votes.

%d bloggers like this: