The Election of 1832


Meanwhile, an opposition was forming under Clay's leadership. All who criticized Jackson's appointments, or rejected his policy of internal improvements, or opposed his attitude toward the bank, already announced but not pressed to its conclusion and many others whose chief impulse was dislike for a leader of the Jackson type, all these now came together under the name of national republicans. In calling themselves by this title they seem to have had in mind the division of the party which prevailed in the years immediately after the war of 1812. They also proclaimed themselves faithful tariff men, but on this issue Jackson was not openly against them.

Besides these, a third party was in the field. In 1826 William Morgan, of Batavia, New York, who had published a book purporting to expose the secrets of freemasonry, mysteriously disappeared, and many people believed he had been destroyed by the masons. A frantic movement spread through the adjoining counties for the outlawry of the order, which was denounced as a secret political society. The anti-Masonic party was thus organized. As Clinton was a mason, it opposed him, and as Jackson was also a mason and had the support of Clinton, it supported Adams in 1828. The party was organized in several other states in this election, and generally opposed Jackson. They were able to hold the balance of power in some states and elected several members of congress.

As the election of 1832 approached, attempts were made to get them to support Clay; but he would not declare for their principles, and they decided to act alone. In September, 1830, they held a national convention in Philadelphia, in which it was decided to organize a national party. This assembly made an appeal to the people and called a convention at Baltimore, September 26, 1831, to select a candidate for the presidency, the first national nominating convention in our history. It met in due time and selected William Wirt of Virginia, as its candidate for the presidency and Amos Ellmaker, of Pennsylvania, for the vice-presidency. The example of the anti-Masons was followed by the national republicans, who in December, 1831, assembled in Baltimore and nominated Clay for President, and Sergeant, of Pennsylvania for vice-president. In the following May a convention of young men who supported Clay met in Washington, accepted the Baltimore nominations, and issued the first "platform" of a political party in America. It indorsed protection and internal improvements, and arraigned Jackson's administration for its policy in appointments to office, and its attitude toward the Indians in Georgia. In May, 1832, the democrats followed the example of their opponents and met in a convention at Baltimore. They nominated Jackson unanimously and Van Buren by a vote of 208 to 75. This convention ordered that a two-thirds vote should be necessary to a nomination, a rule followed in every succeeding convention of the party.

The convention system, thus introduced, has proved a permanent feature of American political life. After the caucus was repudiated in 1824 candidates were nominated by state legislature. In 1828 the candidates were so well designated by the trend of events that this system was satisfactory. It would probably have been satisfactory, so far as Jackson was concerned, in 1832; for his party had no thought of rejecting him as a candidate. Indeed, as the election year approached, he was nominated by many legislatures and local or state conventions. But the other parties were not so fortunate. The anti-Masons were at sea until the convention assembled, and the national republicans though united in Clay's favor, needed the effect of a great display of their strength to impress themselves on the minds of voters. In the democratic party a convention was necessary to secure the acceptance of Van Buren, in whose behalf Jackson exerted all his power over his followers. It was, probably, only the fear of offending Jackson which made Van Buren the candidate.

The adoption of nomination by convention shows how democratic parties had now become. The delegates, at first chosen in varying manners, represented the party in the localities from which they came. Their selection was the best utterance of the party's voice then possible. The earliest method was generally to allot to each state as many votes in convention as it had in the electoral college. Later practice has given each state twice as many votes as it has presidential electors.

The campaign which followed these nominations was vehement. The democrats relied on the popular confidence in Jackson. He was, they said, the people's candidate, he would pay the national debt, he would deprive the bank of its privileges, and he protected the treasury from the wiles of the people who wished to have roads and canals at the expense of the national revenues. Clay's support was of a complex character. In one section he relied on the friendship of the business classes for the bank, in others he appealed to the protectionists, and in still others he talked about the radicalism of Jackson. In July, while the canvass progressed, the president vetoed the bill to recharter the bank. Clay's friends had urged the bill, thinking that a veto would array against Jackson the state of Pennsylvania as well as the powerful financial Class. The national republicans received the veto message with undisguised pleasure and pressed the battle more vigorously. They were soon undeceived. The farmers of Pennsylvania cared nothing for the bank, and they rallied to the support of its arch foe in proportion as the capitalists proclaimed their hostility to him. The result of the election was 219 electoral votes for Jackson, 49 for Clay, and 7 for Wirt, while South Carolina, piqued over the treatment of Calhoun, threw away her 11 votes on Floyd of Virginia. Van Buren carried all of the Jackson votes but the thirty from Pennsylvania, which were given to Wilkins, of that state. Wirt's vote came from Vermont, the only state the anti-Masons could carry. This poor showing was the death knell of that party. Jackson very naturally took his overwhelming victory as an indorsement of his policies, and prepared to put them into complete execution.

Website: The History
Article Name: The Presidential Election of 1832
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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