During this election season I am mindful of the toll that the electoral process takes in terms of stress on the lives of the candidates, and their families. The newest chapter has yet to be written as this year’s election has yet to be concluded.
Three elections that took place in the long past are illustrative of this idea. They are also interesting because they took place in the early years of our republic, and they presented situations that have not so far been repeated in our history. They are the presidential elections of 1800, 1824 and 1828.
The election of 1800 had its roots in the development of the two-party system. The Constitution, as it was then written, mandated that there could not be separate votes for President and Vice President. Candidates were chosen by each party’s congressional caucus. The two parties of that era were the Federalists – , and the Democratic-Republicans. The former were the party in power. They championed a strong central government, with a strong Executive, and an Aristocratic Senate. These officials were to be chosen by as few people as possible.
The Democratic-Republicans favored minimal government, States’ rights and having officials chosen by a broadly based electorate.
Election Day in those years was not considered to be in November but on December 3rd, the day the electors in each State were sworn in and cast their States’ electoral vote- The Union then consisted of 16 States. The campaign had been a hard fought one. Congress had passed the Alien and Sedition Acts which were not only unpopular, but the latter resulted in the jailing of newspaper editors who criticized the administration of President John Adams.
was a tough one with both sides engaging in their share of mud slinging. As you will discover, campaigns were not nice
affairs back then either.
manifested itself in the Adams’ family in a very sad way, his son, Charles, who
had battled depression and alcoholism died on Election Day, December 3,
1800. Charles had been the
On the same
day the electors of the several States met and voted. Although the official count did not take
At this point Aaron Burr decided that he would no longer abide by the understanding that he was his party’s Vice-Presidential candidate. Instead he was going for all the marbles.
Hamilton who led a faction of his party called the High Federalists, decided he
disliked Burr more than
was elected Vice President, his life was never the same. President Jefferson never trusted him again
and during his term, his differences with
In 1824, the
two earlier political parties had broken down.
The Federalists had disappeared and the Democratic – Republicans had
split into factions. One began to
coalesce around Andrew Jackson and this became the modern Democratic Party. However, the Democratic Party was only just
starting to form at this time.
Consequently the election focused on personalities these being: Andrew Jackson the hero of
Adams and Clay
favored a strong federal government which aided internal improvements.
popular vote count was won by Jackson who had a clear majority. But in the electoral vote while
By this point in our history, congress had passed the 12th Amendment to the Constitution. This provided for separate votes by the Electoral College for President and Vice President, and that only the top three candidates in the Electoral College would be considered by the House. This left out Clay; however, as a former Speaker, he had great influence in the House and would be a king maker. He promptly began negotiating to see who would appoint him Secretary of State, at that time the traditional stepping stone to the Presidency.
his followers charged a “corrupt bargain” had been made. This destroyed
campaign that I will mention is that of 1828.
No sooner was
Over the four
years from 1824 to 1828,
There was a
great deal of mud slinging.
Shortly after the election, Rachel went shopping for clothing. She tired and went to rest in a relative’s office. There she found a pamphlet defending her against charges of bigamy and adultery. For the first time she realized the nature of the gossip about her. Rachel went into a decline after this, and died from two heart attacks a month later.
So we have seen how stressful the election process can be on the candidates and their families.
In conclusion, let me say that politicians can be secretive, too. It was said of Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren “that he rowed to his object with muffled oars.”
Larson, Edward J.
A Magnificent Catastrophe
Remini, Robert V.
Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom
Remini, Robert V.
Henry Clay Statesman for the