The Election of 1828


In 1825 many men thought that the candidacy of Jackson was a bit of enthusiasm which would subside with his defeat. The union of his own and Calhoun's followers with those of Crawford soon showed they were mistaken. It was a strong combination, and kept a united front to its enemy, spite of the slumbering internal feud. Jackson proved a good leader. He was impetuous by temperament, his career was filled with quarrels, and his foes hoped and his friends feared he would commit some deed of anger which would overwhelm him in disgrace. But Jackson in pursuit of his own affairs and Jackson as a national figure were distinct personalities. Though he chafed inwardly at the attacks showered on him, he was outwardly calm and dignified. In their hope of arousing him, the enemy went so far as to charge that his marriage was contracted at the expense of the happiness of another home. In
other times this would have brought from him the fiercest denunciation, but he realized the tactics behind the charge and left the task of dispelling the calumny to his friends. He had married a divorced wife, but was in no sense the cause of her separation from her husband. Thus he came to the end of his campaign without misadventure of the kind expected. To his supporters he was an abused man, a great and good defender of his country, an upright citizen, and the champion of the people against an aristocracy indifferent to the welfare of the people.

Besides his own popularity, the voters were influenced by three kinds of arguments directed to them by the vigorous Jackson leaders:

1. The first was the bargain and corruption cry. No dispassionate man objected to whatever understanding may have been made between Adams and Clay in the winter of 1824-1825, but to the people at large it had enough support in fact to make it appear that very wicked things were going on at Washington, where, as they thought, politicians sold the offices for their own advantage.

2. It was urged that the rights of the states were jeopardized ,by the centralizing policy of a New England president, an argument which appealed strongly to the old Jeffersonian school. To support it was Adams's first annual message, as well as the demand for internal improvements and for a high tariff. Was it not time, said the objectors, to check a process which, if continued, would eventually place the national government in the hands of a selfish majority to tyrannize over the minority ?

3. Another plan of attack was to accuse Adams of abusing the patronage. The charge was unfounded, for no president had been less inclined to appoint men for his own advantage. He was rigidly honest, and lost support by refusing to appoint men because they worked for his reelection. One of them expressed his disgust by telling him to his face that he might be right but he would not be reflected. Yet Adams persisted, even retaining in his confidence McLean, a Calhoun supporter, who as postmaster- general used his large patronage in the interest of the opposition. In truth, the opinion of the country ran strongly for political appointments. Political leaders would not work in the election if they did not have assurance of reward. Edward Everett expressed the feeling of every shrewd observer when he said in 1828: "For an Administration then to bestow its patronage, without distinction of party, is to court its own destruction." Thus, while Adams lost the support of his own friends, he was charged with abusing the patronage, and the country came to believe that the cause of good government demanded that a party be placed in power which, as one Jackson man expressed it, would "cleanse the Augean stables."

Arguments like these pleased the mass of citizens. The government had long been based on the idea that the best men should be chosen to represent the people. The Jackson leaders declared that the representatives had ceased to act as upright agents. They declared that the remedy was to replace the old leaders by others closely responsive to the popular will. So far as they utilized the Crawford and Calhoun organizations they had trained leaders; but here, as in the formation of all new parties, they had many others who had little experience in politics, men of vehement prejudices and radical ideas. Such was the earliest composition of the Jacksonian democracy.

On the other side were ranged the forces of conservatism. The commercial classes, the manufacturers generally in the Middle states, the city people, and the larger landowners, had little sympathy with the cause of a Western military hero in whose name class was set against class. With them worked the followers of Clay, strongest in the Northwest, and the Adams men, strongest in New England, whose instincts likewise were for conservative policies. Adams was their logical candidate for the presidency, and Richard Rush, of Pennsylvania, ran with him for the vice-presidency. For the second place the Jackson men supported Calhoun.

As the campaign progressed, it was evident that Jackson's prospects were good. Adams had New England, but hardly anything else. Not even Clay's influence could carry the West for him against Election such a popular hero as Jackson. The South stood together and with it went Pennsylvania, destined for many years to be a democratic stronghold. In New York the commercial class favored Adams, but the farmers of the interior, marshaled by the skillful Van Buren, were for Jackson. They were rent in twain, however, by the anti-Masonic movement, and not even Van Buren could promise a solid Jackson vote from the state. Of its 36 votes, as it fell out, 16 went for Adams and the rest for Jackson. Thus was revived under the leadership of Jackson that old combination of the South and the great Central states under which the Virginia regime was long in power. The total vote was 178 for Jackson and 83 for Adams. The latter got every New England vote but one in Maine, with 0 in Maryland, 8 in New Jersey, 3 in Delaware, and 16 in New York. He had none from the region south of the Potomac and west of the Alleghenies. The result was the defeat of one of the most conscientious of presidents because he could not withstand the tide of popular government then running strong, a movement much like that which carried his father and the federalist party to destruction in 1800.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Presidential Election of 1828
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A Short History of the United States by John Spencer Bassett, Ph.D. The Macmillan Company 1913
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