Wow! I can’t believe it’s been a week. There have been a lot of things happening and Today’s History Lesson, unfortunately, hasn’t been one of them. Hopefully, I won’t go a week between postings again. Let’s see if we can’t get back into the swing of things.
On February 9, 1825, John Quincy Adams was elected the 6th President of the United States. Now right away, you should notice that U.S. Presidents are normally chosen during the November elections, so something’s out of place. There was an election, but it didn’t end with any one candidate garnering a majority of the available Electoral Votes. Voting was split between Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford, and Henry Clay.
What makes this result a little more interesting is that all four candidates were from the same party. In fact, they were from the only party. The Federalist Party, the party of Washington, Hamilton, and John Adams, and John Quincy himself, had collapsed some years before, leaving just the Democratic-Republican party. So it might be said that, during this period of time, the U.S. was blessed (if that’s the right word) with a one-party system, which probably made the conventions unworthy of TV coverage.
Anyways, while the “popular vote” was not really tallied in the 1824 election like it is now, Andrew Jackson was the clear winner, collecting more than 40% of the votes to Adams’ 31%. He also had 99 Electoral Votes under his name, more than Adams’ 84.
But 131 Electoral Votes were required and so, as stipulated by the Constitution’s Twelfth Amendment, the election issue was passed to the House of Representatives. Clay, who finished 4th in the voting, was ineligible. Crawford, having garnered 3rd place despite suffering a massive stroke way back in 1823, was deemed unfit. So it came down to Adams and Jackson.
Clay’s position as House Speaker gave him pretty heavy influence in the proceedings, and he carried with him a strong personal dislike for Andrew Jackson. Furthermore, his own policies aligned more closely with those of Adams, so all his support was thrown to John Quincy, who carried the day and was named President on the first ballot.
Then Adams chose Henry Clay as his Secretary of State, and the fur began to fly. An outraged Jackson accused the two of collusion, and the collapse of the one-party system had begun. As it would turn out, Adams’ Presidency was much like his father’s. Both men were of unquestioned integrity, but both lacked to political savvy to garner support in Washington, both allowed dissension to remain in their Cabinets, and both did little to promote themselves for re-election.
John Quincy Adams would be soundly trounced by Andrew Jackson four years later. And by then, the battle lines in the Democratic-Republican Party had been drawn, with Jackson taking the “Democrat” side, and Adams the “Republican”.
The two-party system was back in American politics…this time to stay.