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 1816

There is not much to say about the election of 1816. There was hardly any campaigning and with the collapse of the Federalist Party, there was little question that the Democratic-Republican candidate, James Monroe, would be elected.

The War of 1812 had ended the year before. The United States hadn’t exactly won the war, but we hadn’t exactly lost it either. The Treaty of Ghent had largely restored the relations between the United States and Great Britain as they had been before the war. Neither side had gained or lost any territory, so the war could be considered a draw. Actually, you might consider the US ahead on points since the last battle of the war, the Battle of New Orleans fought two weeks after the treaty was signed, was a resounding defeat for the British.

In any event, the War of 1812 turned out to be a “good war” and the Federalists who had opposed it were badly damaged by their opposition. The Federalist Party had been declining in numbers and influence for years and the War of 1812 finished them. It didn’t help that the Democratic-Republicans were stealing their better ideas. The trouble the United States had in financing the War of 1812 convinced many Jeffersonians that Alexander Hamilton’s ideas about a National Bank and encouraging American manufacturing weren’t so bad after all.

President Madison decided to follow the example of Washington and Jefferson and did not run for a third term. Instead, he supported the campaign of his Secretary of State, James Monroe. Monroe was yet another of the Virginia dynasty which had supplied the US with every president thus far, except for Adams. He had served in the Continental Army during the War of Independence and had been wounded at the Battle of Trenton. After the war, Monroe entered politics serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the US Senate. He was also ambassador to France under Washington, governor of Virginia, and President Madison’s Secretary of State and War. He was an obvious successor to Jefferson and Madison.

Not everyone thought so. Many in the North were wary of another Virginia president and felt it was time to end the Virginia dynasty. There was some talk of nominating another of Madison’s Secretary of Wars, William H. Crawford, but he declined to run and it came to nothing. In the end the Democratic-Republican Congressional Caucus nominated James Monroe for president and New York governor Daniel D Tompkins for vice-president.


The Federalists didn’t even bother to have a formal caucus to nominate a candidate. Most Federalists supported Rufus King, the Federalist Vice Presidential candidate from the elections of 1808 and 1812. Former Maryland senator and governor John Eager Howard was the informal candidate for Vice-President.


There was hardly any campaigning or excitement in this election, except for a slight controversy about the status of Indiana. When the official count of the electoral votes took place in February of 1817, there were some objections made that since Indiana was not recognized by Congress until December 11,1816 while the Electoral College had cast its ballots on December 4, therefore the State of Indiana did not yet exist and its votes shouldn’t be counted. Others argued that Indiana had been organized as a state, with its constitution on June 29, and that Congress was merely acknowledging a state that already existed. The debate was postponed and since it made no difference to the results, it was never taken up again.

As for the results, it was a landslide for Monroe and the Democratic-Republicans. The popular vote was 76,592 or 68.2% for Monroe and 34,740 or 30.9% for King. At this time only ten of the nineteen states chose their electors by popular vote, while the electors of the remaining nine were chosen by their state legislatures. In the Electoral College, Monroe won all but three states, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Delaware for a total of 183 electoral votes. King, with those three states only won 34 votes. This was the end of the Federalist Party and the first party system of the United States.

The Election of 1816
The Election of 1816




The Election of 1796

The presidential election of 1796 was the first real election for president that the United States had. In the first two elections, the elections of 1789 and 1792, everyone knew that George Washington was going to win. He had no opposition and it was simply inconceivable that anyone would run against him. Washington’s second term was not as successful as his first, especially in foreign policy. The young nation was being pressured to take sides in the war between Great Britain and Revolutionary France, and Washington’s insistence that the United State was neutral pleased neither side. The British would not respect American sovereignty while the French ambassador tried to undermine the government. Washington sent John Jay to Great Britain to negotiate a trade treaty and to deal with these issues. The resulting treaty was greatly to the advantage of the British and was very unpopular, especially among the supporters of Jefferson. This affected Washington’s popularity and in the second half of his second term, Washington faced more public opposition than he had before as president.

Still, if George Washington had wanted a third term, he would have gotten it. He didn’t want it. Washington was feeling old and tired. He was 64 years old and had lived a hard life. He was also aware that the men of his family tended to die young. Washington wanted to return to Mount Vernon and spend a few years in retirement.

As soon as it was clear that Washington would not serve a third term, the race was on. The first party system had begun to develop in George Washington’s second term. The party organizations were still rather rudimentary, however and there were none of the primaries, caucuses, or nominating conventions that were a feature later on in American politics. Instead the leader of each party met informally and chose candidates. Both parties decided to balance their tickets geographically with one candidate from the north and one from the south, in order to appeal to the whole country.

The Federalists picked John Adams to be their candidate for president. He had served as vice-president for eight years under Washington and many felt that he deserved the top job. Adams was known to be capable and honest and was a good choice. For vice-president, the Federalists chose Thomas Pinckney from South Carolina. Pinckney is not well known today. He had fought in the Revolutionary War and had served as governor of South Carolina from 1787 to 1789. He was Washington’s minister to Britain in 1792 and had negotiated the Treaty of San Lorenzo with Spain. In fact, the Federalist Party leader, Alexander Hamilton preferred Pinckney to Adams and tried to arranged for him to get more electoral votes.

The Democratic-Republicans chose their party leader, Thomas Jefferson. For vice-president they decided on Aaron Burr from New York. This might seem a  strange choice considering Burr’s later notoriety, but Burr was also a Revolutionary War veteran and a prominent attorney. He was also the leader of the Democratic Republican Party in the state of New York.

The rules for electing the president were different before the passage of the twelfth amendment. The electors were selected in November either by state legislatures or in some states by popular vote. When the Electoral College met, each elector had two votes which he cast for two different men. The candidate with the most votes was elected president while the runner up got to be vice-president. This system worked well enough in the first two elections, when everyone knew Washington would be president. It did not work so well in the election of 1796 and caused a crisis in the election of 1800.

The first contested election was fiercely fought. Adams and Jefferson took no part in the campaign, it wasn’t considered seemly to actively campaign in those days, and they remained friends. Their partisans, however, attacked each other mercilessly. Adams was accused of being a monarchist who planned to make himself king and his sons lords. Jefferson was attacked as a  fanatic Jacobin and atheist who wanted to import the French Revolution to America. When the votes were cast, Adams won by a narrow margin. He got 71 electoral votes, winning all of New England along with New York and New Jersey. Jefferson had 68 electoral votes, winning the entire south including the new states  of Kentucky and Tennessee and also won Pennsylvania. In the states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia, one elector had voted for Adams, while Maryland was split with seven votes for Adams and four votes for Jefferson.

The Election of 1796
The Election of 1796

In both parties the plan had been for all but a few electors to cast their second vote for their party’s choice for vice president, thus allowing either Pinckney or Burr to be in second place. This didn’t work out because of the slow speed of communications at the time, so the electors’ second votes were distributed among a variety of men. Thomas Pinckney got 59 votes, fewer than Jefferson. Burr was a distant fourth with only 30 votes. So John Adams, the Federalist was elected president with Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Republican as his vice president. This might be a little like Barack Obama having John McCain as his vice president.

Despite the differences in party, Adams and Jefferson expected to work well with each other and Jefferson was gracious in defeat, saying, “Adams has always been my senior from the commencement of my public life”. Maybe he had an idea of just how rough the next four years were going to be.



The Election of 1789

The election of 1789 was the first presidential election in the United States and it was unlike any election that followed. There were no debates, no campaigns, no popular vote and only one candidate; George Washington. The constitution had been ratified the year before by nine of the thirteen states. North Carolina didn’t ratify the constitution until later in 1789 and didn’t get a vote in this first election. Rhode Island held out until 1790 and likewise did not get a vote.

The rules for electing the President were slightly different in the first four elections. Each State had as many electors in the Electoral College as the number of Representatives and Senators, just as is the case today. Unlike the procedure today, each elector had two votes and the candidate who had the most votes would be President, while the runner-up would be Vice-President.The seelction of the electors took place between December 15, 1788 to January 10, 1789. As I stated, North Carolina and Rhode Island could nor participate in this election and New York’s legislature was deadlocked and was unable to name any electors. So, only ten states participated. Of these only six had any form of popular vote at all, and the franchise was limited by property requirements. In most states, the legislatures either appointed the electors directly, or divided the state into electoral districts. In Maryland and Pennsylvania the electors were elected at large. In no case did any voter actually vote for the president.

George Washington was the only candidate considered for the post. In fact, much of the debate over the Presidency at the Constitutional Convention had been shaped by the idea that Washington would be the first President. In a way, the job was designed to fit Washington. Washington was the most famous and popular man in America. He had been the indispensible man in the Revolution. He was well known in all parts of the new nation, and although he was from Virginia, he was not thought to be tied to any one section of the country. Of his contemporaries, only Benjamin Franklin could claim a similar national status. Franklin was too old, however, and although he had been a successful businessman, he had little experience as a political executive and none at all in military matters.

Washington, however, did not especially want to be President. He was getting older himself. Although he was only 56 at the time of the Constitutional Convention, he had lived a hard life and he was feeling it. Washington was also aware that the males in his family tended not to be long lived and he felt his time was running out. Washington preferred to spend his final years tending Mount Vernon over the

George Washington
George Washington

difficult job of establishing a new government, especially since unlike all of his successors, he could not blame his problems on his predecessor. Washington was concerned that every action of his would be taken as a precedent and he was not sure he was up to the task  of not just being the President, but of establishing the pattern of behavior for all subsequent presidents. Washington had a strong sense of duty and was somewhat vain about his posthumous reputation so he agreed to be the first president.

There was no suspense when the Electoral College met on February 4, 1789. Each one of the 69 electors cast one of his votes for George Washington, making Washington the only president ever elected by a unanimous vote. John Adams got second place with 34 votes and John Jay was a distant third with 9 votes. There were a number of other men who received a scattering of votes.



John Adams
John Adams

As the runner up, Adams became the first Vice-President. He was not exactly thrilled with his new job, as he told his wife Abigail,

“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”. Everyone else was confident that this election would prove to be a bright beginning to the grand American experiment.

The Election of 1824

I am going to make a prediction about the upcoming election. I predict that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will win. I admit that that is not much of an prediction, but given that they are the only two candidates, one of them has to get the majority of electoral votes and win. There are, to be sure, third party candidates, but it is exceedingly unlikely that any of them will get even one vote.

That is the way it has been in almost every American presidential election. Even in those few cases with a significant third party challenge, one candidate always gets a majority. In fact, there have been only two elections in which no candidate received a majority, the election of 1800 and the election of 1824. Both these elections were contentious. I wrote about the election of 1800 some time ago, so now I will take on the story of the election of 1824. That election was, if possible, even more contentious than the former, although there was no duel in the aftermath. This is remarkable, considering that one of the candidates was Andrew Jackson, a man who apparently enjoyed dueling.

By 1816 the first two-party system in the US had ended. The Federalist had slowly faded away after the election of 1800, and by 1820 President James Monroe had run unopposed for re-election. This period, the only time America has had a one-party political system, was known as the “Era of Good Feelings“. Domestic politics have never been quieter. It couldn’t last, of course. By 1824, there were already tensions forming in the ruling Democratic-Republican Party.

A lot of this tension was regional. Different sections of the country, north and south, east and west, had different interests and favored different types of men for the presidency. Another problem was the method the party selected its candidate. Up until then, each party had held a caucus of the Congressmen in the party to select their candidates. It seemed undemocratic that a few politicians in Washington should select the man who would likely be the next President. Many people loudly denounced “King Caucus” , and instead preferred candidates selected by state legislatures or conventions.

In 1824, the Congressional Caucus Selected, among many candidates, William Crawford of Georgia as the Democratic-Republican candidate. He had served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Monroe, and was Monroe’s favored choice as his successor. There were three other candidates, though.

William Crawford

There was John Quincy Adams from Massachusetts. He was the son of President John Adams, and had served as M0nroe’s Secretary of State. At the time, the the position of Secretary of State was seen as the natural stepping stone to the Presidency, and Adams believed himself to be the natural heir. He was a talented man and had served his country with distinction. Several state legislatures in New England nominated him as the Democratic-Republican candidate. He was not so popular in the West and South as others.

John Quincy Adams

Henry Clay was another obvious and popular candidate. From Kentucky, he was a noted lawyer and orator, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He transformed the Speakership from a relatively minor position to one nearly equal to the President in power. He played a key role in crafting the Missouri Compromise of 1820. He was naturally popular in the South and West.

Henry Clay

Finally, there was Andrew Jackson. He was from Tennessee, and was a hero of the War of 1812, the Creek war, and the Seminole War. He was noted for his victory at the Battle of New Orleans, even though the battle took place after the War of 1812 was actually over. Although Jackson was a wealthy landowner, he favored a more democratic political system. He was also popular in the South and West.

Andrew Jackson

There was also John C. Calhoun from South Carolina. He had served as Secretary of War under Monroe and wanted to run for President but lacked support. He was popular, though and settled for running for Vice President with the support of Jackson and Adams.

John C. Calhoun


With four candidates, all from the same party, and generally favoring the same policies, the Presidential contest became a matter of personalities and regionalism. It was considered undignified for presidential candidates to actively campaign but their supporters eagerly campaigned on their behalf and the campaign of 1824 quickly became enthusiastic, personal and negative, with each candidate’s advocates praising their man and condemning the others. Adams had an English wife. Clay was a drunk and Crawford a thief. Jackson was a wild man who liked to kill people.

With four candidates, no one achieved a majority of electoral votes. Adams won the New England states and got 108, 740 popular votes with 84 electoral votes. Jackson was ahead of him, gaining most of the south, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, with 153,544 popular votes and 99 electoral votes. William Crawford was third with Virginia and Georgia and 40,856 popular votes and 41 electoral votes. Henry Clay was last. He got 47,531 popular votes and won Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri with 37 electoral votes.  New York, Delaware, Maryland, Louisiana, and Illinois split their votes.

The Election of 1824

Since no candidate won a majority of the Electoral College, the decision went to Congress, as stated under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment.

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.[1]

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

This meant that the House of Representatives would select the President from the top three candidates; Jackson, Adams, and Crawford, with each state delegation getting one vote, while the Senate would select the Vice President. Calhoun had easily won the Electoral Vote for Vice President, so that was settled.

Clay, in fourth place, was out of the running for President, but he had considerable influence in the House and would inevitably play an important role in the selection of the next President. He eventually threw his support to Adams and in the end Adams won thirteen states, Jackson nine, and Crawford four. Andrew Jackson was not very happy with the results. He had gotten the most votes, both popular and electoral, and it seemed to him, quite reasonably, that he should have been selected. His suspicions that there had been some sort of deal between Adams and Clay seemed to be confirmed when Adams named Clay as his Secretary of State, and he loudly denounced the “corrupt bargain”.  Adams was aware that his election, being so irregular, lacked a certain legitimacy, and he regretted that they could not simply hold the election over again.

Was there a corrupt bargain? It seems incredible that there wasn’t some sort of negotiations between Clay and Adams. Yet, Clay had made no secret that he vastly preferred Adams to Jackson, who he viewed with disdain. Clay was also a natural choice for Secretary of State and perhaps any President would have been happy to name him for any cabinet position. It didn’t matter, though. The deal was seen as corrupt, especially by Jackson’s supporters.

John Quincy Adams turned out to be a decent man and President. He wasn’t able to get much done, largely because of the way in which he became President, but also because he was not a natural politician and, like his father, disdained to play the usual political party games. He was easily defeated by Andrew Jackson in 1828 and later went on to have a distinguished career in Congress. Andrew Jackson was one of the most noteworthy Presidents in American history, and served from 1829-1837. Henry Clay ran for President again in 1836 and Jackson won by a landslide. He continued to oppose Jackson and founded the Whig Party.

Landslide for Romney?


That is what two professors from the University of Colorado are saying. Here is the story in the Denver Post.

Two University of Colorado professors have devised a model to predict who will win the presidential election under current economic circumstances. The victor, they say, will be Republican Mitt Romney.

The model uses economic indicators from all 50 states to predict the race’s outcome. The forecast calls for Romney to win 320 electoral votes out of 538. It says Romney will also win virtually every state currently considered a swing state, including Colorado.

The professors who created the model, Ken Bickers from CU-Boulder and Michael Berry from CU-Denver, say it correctly forecast every winner of the electoral since 1980.

They warn the model does not account for sudden changes in the economy or unexpected developments in states split 50-50. Polls in many states, including Colorado, show a virtually deadlocked race.

Here is the map.

I think that they are being far too optimistic and that they should be tied up, gagged, and taken to an undisclosed location until after the election. the last thing the Republicans need right now is to start being overconfident. Romney and Ryan should fight as though they are ten points behind Obama because goodness knows he’ll be as vicious as he has to be to win this election.





270 to Win is an interesting website that I just found. They feature an interactive electoral map in which you can try out various combinations of states to see who might win the 2012 election. They include past voting data for each state and you can look at the electoral maps for every previous election.

I’ve haven’t followed the elections nearly closely enough to make any guesses myself, though I think Indiana will go Republican next year. We usually go red with only two recent exceptions, 1964 and 2008. Ohio should be interesting to watch. They have voted for the winner in every election since 1960 and can go either way. I think that it would be fair to say that if Obama can’t win Ohio, he won’t win at all. Florida is another state to watch since it could go either way.

Looking over the map, I think that Obama will have some trouble holding on to some of the states he won in 2008. Indiana is lost. Maybe also North Carolina and Virginia. It looks like an uphill battle for any Republican candidate though. I suppose a lot depends on the economy next year. Obviously if it improves Obama will have a better chance, but it takes time for any improvement to make itself felt and it may come too late for him. Just ask George H W Bush about that. The GDP started growing just in time for the election, so he lost and Clinton was lucky enough to take credit for the recovering economy.

Carter’s Second Term

Speaking of Jimmy Carter, here is an interesting analysis from the Washington Times comparing Obama with Carter. The similarities are striking, and not just the bad economy and weak foreign policy.

One of the most unpleasant things about Mr. Carter was the condescending disdain he could barely disguise for struggling Americans and their irritating malaise.

Increasingly, Jimmy Jr. is having difficulty concealing that very same disdain for us as the political winds around him turn hostile and all of his bright ideas lie fallow as nothing more than socialist hocus-pocus.

But even Mr. Carter never laid bare so baldly and plainly as Mr. Obama did earlier this week his deep-seated contempt for this whole annoying process we call “democracy.”


The problem with reaching a deal to raise the debt ceiling, he explained in a long sermon, is that there is this huge wave of Republicans who won control of the House in the last election by promising not to raise any more taxes and to cut the absurd overspending that has driven this town for decades.

He bemoaned – in public – that these Republicans are more concerned about the “next election” rather than doing “what’s right for the country.” In other words, he is saying the honorable thing would be for these Republicans to ignore the expressed wishes of voters, break their campaign promises and raise taxes. Wow.

As if the whole problem of Washington spending us into oblivion is the fault of stingy taxpayers and stupid voters. And what we really need is Jimmy Jr., who knows what is best for us despite what we may think.

Continuing his lecture, Mr. Obama then complained about America’s “political process, where folks are rewarded for saying irresponsible things to win elections.”

How did this man get past sixth-grade social studies, much less Iowa?

When Mr. Obama finished his sermon about the contemptible Republicans keeping faith with their voters like a bunch of chumps, he then turned to his own intentions – and revealed even more of his contempt for us.

This contempt and disdain for ordinary Americans can be found in many on the Left, including politicians, who one might expect to at least pretend to like the voters.

Al Gore was another example that I can think of right away. He has the most irritating habit of speaking to people as though he were addressing a class of not very bright third-graders. It’s actually a wonder he managed to get highest popular vote in 2000, and as far as I am concerned, the best reason imaginable for keeping the Electoral College.

But back to Carter II. I wonder when he is going to give a speech blaming the American people for their malaise, or get chased around a lake by a killer rabbit.

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