Tuesday, February 9, 2016

FEBRUARY 9 = J.Q. Adams is Elected by the House

On today's date, February 9 in 1825, John Quincy Adams (left) was elected President of the United States by the U.S. House of Representatives. It was the first election in which a candidate who had received  minority of the initial tally of the Electoral votes, as well as the minority of the popular votes went on to win the office of President.  But charges of a "Corrupt Bargain" would arise from this election and would go on to cripple the Adams administration.

The Election of 1824 - A MESS!
For those of you out there who are inclined to look a our present system of electing a President from too many candidates, you really should take a look at the situation faced by voters in 1824.  The old system that had produced the victors of the last three presidents, all from the Democrat-Republican Party (and YES, that is exactly what it was called) had broken down. There were quite a number of aspirants for the top job. One reporter described them as a group of "Hasbeens, Cantbees, Mightabees," and "Wouldabeens" none of whom were really qualified (does this begin to sound just a bit like our current crop of 2016 candidates??). Nevertheless, the field broke down into five, count 'em FIVE candidates: John Quincy Adams who was Secretary of State to the outgoing President, James Monroe, and the son of our 2'nd President, John Adams, Henry Clay who was the Speaker of the House, and a great favorite of the western states, General Andrew Jackson, also a western-favored candidate, William H. Crawford, Monroe's Secretary of the Treasury, and John C. Calhoun a favorite in the southeastern states.

The Election Goes Into the House...

Unfortunately for everyone, the election, held in the Fall of 1824, solved nothing, although it did produce a clear leader in both the popular and the Electoral tallies: Andrew Jackson won 151,271 of the popular vote, with 99 electoral, Adams with 113,122 and 84 electoral, Crawford getting fewer popular votes than Clay, but more electoral with 41 to Clay's 37.  Jackson (below), the fierce military hero of the Seminole Indian Wars and the victor of the Battle of New Orleans
during the War of 1812 had clearly come out as the leader.  But the total number of Electoral Votes cast was 261 and the Constitution required the winner to have a majority of the Electoral Votes which would be 131. Failing such a majority, the Constitution called for the top three Electoral winners to vie for a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This left Jackson, Adams and Crawford in the pool, with the balance in the hands of Henry Clay (John C. Calhoun took the vice Presidency). A letter was published in the papers on Jan. 28 saying that Clay had been offered the Secretary of State post in return for pledging his support to Adams.  This caused a huge furor, with Clay hotly denying any such offer. But the fact was that Clay did favor Adams. "...killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans.." did not in Clay's view qualify Jackson for the Presidency.  So he put his support behind Adams in the House,  and on today's date Adams was elected in the House of Representatives on the first ballot.

"The Corrupt Bargain...."

Well however unhappy the Jackson faction was at this, they really went crazy, when three days after his election in the House, Adams did in fact offer the post of Secretary of State to Henry Clay. Adams knew and respected Clay, and Clay did not wish to give Adams a vote of  "no confidence" by turning the offer down, so he accepted the job.  There had in fact been no bargain between the two men. But
Jackson and his followers were having none of it. The two men had concluded a "Corrupt Bargain" afterall!! "The Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver. . . Was there ever witnessed such a bare faced corruption in any country before?" railed Jackson in a letter to his wife. "His end will be the same!!" The cries of corruption would be howled by Jackson and his supporters unrelentingly for the next four years, effectively crippling the Adams administration, until Jackson won the re-match with Adams, winning the Presidency himself in the election of 1828.

Sources =

"Presidential Campaigns" by Paul F. Boller Jr., Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1984



No comments:

Post a Comment