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When William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became President. McKinley's closest advisor, Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, thought that this was a double tragedy. Hanna had tried to keep Roosevelt off the ticket with McKinley. At the 1900 Republican convention, he said "Why, everybody's gone crazy! What is the matter with all of you? Here's this convention going headlong for Roosevelt for Vice President. Don't any of you realize that there's only one life between that madman and the Presidency?" Even Roosevelt himself did not want to abandon his position of governor, but he did have ambitions for president in 1904.

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Roosevelt was not the first Vice-President to assume the Presidency upon the death of an incumbent. But he would become the first such incumbent to run for election to the office. None of the previous "accidental Presidents" (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Jackson or Chester Alan Arthur) had won their party's nomination for President in the subsequent election. Roosevelt would change that. At the Republican convention held in Chicago from June 21–23, 1904, Roosevelt's nomination was virtually assured. A dump-Roosevelt movement had considered replacing him with Hanna, but Hanna's death in February 1904 had eliminated that possibility. Roosevelt was nominated unanimously on the first ballot. To balance the ticket, conservative Senator Charles W. Fairbanks from Indiana was chosen as the vice-presidential nominee. The Republican platform called for maintenance of the protective tariff, increased foreign trade, and upholding the gold standard.

The Democrats considered putting former candidates William Jennings Bryan and former President Grover Cleveland up against Roosevelt, but both declined to run for president. Instead the front runner was an unlikely name, Judge Alton B. Parker, a Bourbon Democrat from New York. Parker was the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. He was respected by both Democrats and Republicans in his state, a crucial one in the upcoming election. Parker refused to work actively for the nomination, but did nothing to discourage his nomination. Grover Cleveland endorsed Parker. The Democratic Convention was held in St. Louis, Missouri, from July 6–9, 1904. The nomination would prove to be contentious. Parker had been out of active politics for twenty years and did not have any political enemies or record to defend. But he still faced opposition from the more liberal wing of the party. William Jennings Bryan still held considerable influence in the party, and he disliked Parker for being a Gold Democrat. He called Parker as a tool of Wall Street and declared that no self-respecting Democrat could vote for him.

Publisher and now congressman William Randolph Hearst of New York owned eight newspapers, all of them friendly to labor and other populist causes. But even Hearst could not attract Bryan's support. The prospect of having Hearst for a candidate frightened conservative Democrats. Parker received 658 votes on the first roll call, 9 short of the necessary two-thirds. Before the result could be announced, 21 more votes shifted to Parker. As a result, Parker handily won the nomination on the first ballot with 679 votes to 181 for Hearst.

After his nomination, Parker informed the convention by letter that he supported the gold standard. The letter added, "As the platform is silent on the subject, my view should be made known to the convention, and if it is proved to be unsatisfactory to the majority, I request you to decline the nomination for me at once, so that another may be nominated before adjournment." Former Senator Henry G. Davis from West Virginia was nominated for vice-president; at 80, he was the oldest major-party candidate ever nominated for national office. Davis had received the nomination because it was believed he could deliver his state for the Democrats and because he was also a millionaire mine owner, railroad magnate, and banker. The hope was that he would support the campaign financially. In the end, Democrats would be disappointed on this front.

The campaign was marked by goodwill, mostly due to the fact that Parker and Roosevelt were so similar in political philosophy. Both candidates supported the gold standard, both believed in fair treatment for the Filipinos and supported their eventual liberation and both believed that labor unions had the same rights as individuals before the courts. The only dissent seemed to be within the parties themselves. The radicals in the Democratic Party denounced Parker as a conservative while the conservatives in the Republican Party denounced Theodore Roosevelt as a radical.

During the campaign, Joseph Pulitzer's New York World carried a full page story about alleged corruption in the Bureau of Corporations. Roosevelt admitted certain payments had been made, but the issue did not become a significant one. He appointed George B. Cortelyou as his campaign manager. As former Secretary of Commerce and Labor, Cortelyou was able to use his connections to elicit large contributions from these corporations. The Democrats accused Cortrelyou of a conflict of interest, but the charge was not proven until after the election. In 1907, it was disclosed that insurance companies had contributed heavily to the Roosevelt campaign. Parker also received financial support from the J. P. Morgan banking interests. New York state Senator Patrick Henry McCarren, a prominent Parker backer, was on the payroll of Standard Oil at the rate of twenty thousand dollars a year.

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In the end, voters decided that as their was little difference in the position of the candidates, they may as well stick with the known entity. Roosevelt won a landslide victory, taking every Northern and Western state. He was the first Republican to carry the state of Missouri since Ulysses S. Grant in 1868. Voting in Maryland was extremely close. On November 30, Roosevelt was declared the statewide victor by just 51 votes. Roosevelt won the election by over 2.5 million popular votes. He won 56.4% of the popular vote. Thomas Watson, the Populist candidate, received 117,183 votes. Roosevelt received 336 votes in the electoral college compared to 140 for Parker. Most pundits agree that Roosevelt won the election on the strength of his charisma and popularity and because most Americans were contented with their lives at the time. Not everyone was so contented though. Three per cent of the electorate voted for Eugene V. Debs and his Socialist Party.
In the election of 1892, although the Republicans lost the Presidency, Congressman William McKinley became Governor William McKinley, and he established himself as a leading light in the party. McKinley was seen as the front-runner to be the party's next presidential candidate in 1896 and he did not squander the opportunity. He was elected President and his economic policy of ongoing tariff protection and support for the gold standard was seen as what the nation needed in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893. McKinley's opponent in the 1896 election was 36 year old former Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan, an opponent of the gold standard and a hard-working campaigner who was also a very skilled orator. McKinley defeated Bryan in 1896, but perhaps Democrats were emboldened by Grover Cleveland's success in the rematch of 1892, so in 1900, the stage was set for another rematch. This time, incumbent President McKinley would once again square off against William Jennings Bryan. This was not the first (or the last) time the same two candidates faced off against each other for the second time. (Earlier examples are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, Harrison and Cleveland. A later example is Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson).

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The popular McKinley was renominated by the delegates to the Republican convention, who met in Philadelphia from June 19–21, 1900. McKinley's first Vice-President, Garrett Hobart, had died in 1899, and the big question was who would fill the second spot on the ticket. Theodore Roosevelt was by then the Governor of New York. Thomas C. Platt, the "boss" of the New York State Republican Party, did not like Roosevelt, even though he was a fellow Republican. Roosevelt's efforts to clean up New York politics led Platt and other state GOP leaders to pressure McKinley to accept Roosevelt as his new vice-presidential candidate. Roosevelt was reluctant to accept the vice-presidency, which he regarded as a relatively trivial and powerless office. McKinley's campaign manager Mark Hanna also was opposed to putting the unpredictable Roosevelt on the ticket. But Roosevelt's great popularity among most Republican delegates led McKinley to pick him as his new running mate. He was a near unanimous selection on the first ballot (one voter abstained.)

For the Democrats, there was a move to draft Admiral George Dewey, who had returned home from the Spanish-American War as a hero. However, his candidacy was plagued by gaffes. Newspapers started attacking him as naïve after he was quoted as saying the job of president would be easy, since the chief executive was merely following orders in executing the laws enacted by Congress, and that he would "execute the laws of Congress as faithfully as I have always executed the orders of my superiors." He also admitted to never having voted in a presidential election and drew more criticism when he offhandedly told a newspaper reporter that, "Our next war will be with Germany." (It turned out he was right, but his foresight didn't help him much at the time. Dewey married a Catholic, Mildred McLean Hazen (the widow of General William Babcock Hazen and daughter of Washington McLean, owner of The Washington Post), in November 1899 and gave her the house that the nation had given him following the war. This also made him unpopular. Dewey withdrew from the race in mid-May and endorsed William McKinley.

William Jennings Bryan was easily nominated as the Democratic nominee after Dewey withdrew from the race. Bryan won the nomination at the Democratic National Convention held Kansas City, Missouri from July 4–6. Former Vice-President Adlai Stevenson was selected as Bryan's running mate.

The economy was booming in 1900, and the Republican campaign slogan was “Four More Years of the Full Dinner Pail”. They touted the victory in the brief Spanish–American War in 1898. Theodore Roosevelt had become a national hero fighting in Cuba during the war. In his speeches he repeatedly argued that the war had been just.



Bryan's campaign was a repeat of the 1896 campaign. His big issue was that of a dollar tied to silver. This argument was not as successful in 1900 because of the improved economy and an increase in gold supply caused by new production from Alaska. Bryan's second major campaign theme attacked McKinley's imperialism. He argued that instead of liberating Cuba and the Philippines, the McKinley administration had simply replaced a cruel Spanish tyranny with a cruel American one.

As he had in 1896, McKinley again campaigned from the front porch of his home in Canton, Ohio. Bryan took to the rails again, traveling 18,000 miles to hundreds of rallies across the Midwest and East. This time, he was matched by Theodore Roosevelt, who campaigned just as energetically in 24 states, covering 21,000 miles by train.

Democrats tried to undermine Republican popularity from the victorious war by arguing that the war was not over because of the insurgency in the Philippines. The McKinley administration pointed out that there were reductions of troops there. Republicans pledged that the fighting in the Philippines would die down of its own accord within sixty days of McKinley's re-election. Secretary of War Elihu Root kept quiet about a report from General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. who had been in command of the Philippines for four months, warning Washington that the war was not lessening and that the end was not even in sight.

Despite Bryan's energetic efforts, the renewed prosperity under McKinley, combined with the public's approval of the Spanish–American War, allowed McKinley to gain a comfortable victory. McKinley received over 7.2 million votes. He carried 28 states, obtaining 292 electoral votes. He slightly increased his national percentage (51.70%) and had 120,000 more votes than in 1896.

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One surprise in the results was that, in spite of Roosevelt being on the ticket, Bryan managed to win New York City by almost 30,000 votes when he had lost it by more than 60,000 votes just 4 years earlier. In all other sections, Bryan's vote was less than in 1896, and in the nation his total vote was 23,000 less than in 1896. In 16 states the Democratic vote increased, but in 29 states it was less than in 1896. Bryan carried only 17 states.

McKinley would be assassinated a year later and Theodore Roosevelt would shed the insignificance of the Vice Presidency and become President.
In 1888 Benjamin Harrison defeated incumbent President Grover Cleveland by a margin of 233 to 168 in the electoral college, despite the fact that Cleveland received more votes. When Cleveland and his wife Frances left the White House early the next year, Mrs. Cleveland vowed they would return. Cleveland did indeed get a rematch with Harrison, and Frances Cleveland kept her promise.



When the Republicans took power, Harrison inherited a problem that many today would consider to be no problem at all. The government had a huge surplus due to revenue from high tariffs. There was a debate about what to do. Democrats wanted to reduce the tariffs, while Republicans wanted to leave the tariffs alone and spend the surplus. The Republicans in Congress held a majority and they opted to maintain the tariff rates and to spend the treasury surplus on internal improvements. Representative William McKinley of Ohio and Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island steered the McKinley Tariff through Congress, a plan that raised the tariff even higher. At the urging of Secretary of State James Blaine, Harrison attempted to make the tariff more acceptable by urging Congress to add reciprocity provisions, which would allow the President to reduce rates when other countries reduced their rates on American exports. But even with this reciprocity, the McKinley Tariff led to the highest tariff rates in American history. Government spending increased and Democrats criticized both the tariffs and the spending, by calling the 51st Congress the "Billion-Dollar Congress".

An important issue in the election of 1888 had been the issue of pensions for Civil War veterans who fought for the Union and who suffered some form of disability. There had been an earlier pension scheme for these vets, but the had to have applied for the pension within a year of their discharge from the Army. In 1879, the Arrears of Pension Act was passed. This legislation allowed all Union veterans to reapply for pension and receive back payments to the date of their discharge, regardless of when they may have previously applied. This legislation did not change the requirement that disabilities be service-related. But it was nevertheless a very expensive bill. Veterans became eligible to receive large sums of money for several years of retroactive pension payments. This resulted in a flood of applications and a large increase in pension expenditures for the federal government.

The Arrears Act gave new life to the Grand Army of the Republic (the "GAR"), an organization consisting mostly of Union veterans. With the political assistance from the Republican Party, the GAR became much more active in lobbying for liberal pension legislation following passage of the Arrears Act. A comprehensive pension disability bill was put before Congress in 1887. This bill granted pensions to all Union veterans suffering from a disability, regardless of what caused the disability. It awarded all eligible veterans a pension of $12 per month. (The Dependent and Disability Act gave pensions worth between $6 and $12 depending on the severity of the disability in question). It also required applicants to prove that they were financially dependent on another source, a requirement that was not included in the final version of the bill passed in 1890.

When the first bill was passed, Grover Cleveland vetoed the bill on February 11, 1887, infuriating the GAR and setting the stage to make pensions a central issue in the 1888 election. Cleveland objected to the bill because it was extremely costly, and because he believed that it would be too difficult to determine the extent to which applicants were dependent on others. He also felt that the system would be abused by fraud. The bill returned to the House but did not garner enough votes to override the President’s veto.

Harrison won the crucial swing states of Indiana and New York, which contained 38,000 and 45,000 veterans receiving pensions respectively. The Republican Party’s position on the pension issue allowed Harrison to narrowly win these two states, just 2,300 and 13,000 votes respectively.

Following his inauguration, Harrison reorganized the Pension Bureau and appointed James Tanner as the new commissioner of pensions. Harrison pushed for a disability bill, which ultimately passed without a single vote from a Southern congressman. Under the final form of the law, any disabled Union veteran who had served at least ninety days was eligible to receive a pension, regardless of whether or not his disability was incurred in service. The final version of the act also allowed for the collection of pensions by widows of veterans and for children under the age of 16.

The Disability and Dependent Pension Act was resulted in an enormous spike in federal expenditures on pensions. In 1890, just 537,944 veterans were receiving pensions. By 1893, that number had almost doubled to 966,012. In 1889, the federal government spent $89,000,000 on these pensions, a figure that jumped to $159,000,000 by 1893. By 1894, 37% of the government budget was set aside for pension payments.

The problem was made worse by the people that Harrison put in charge of the Pension Bureau. An investigation into the Pension Bureau too place. The investigation found evidence of lavish and illegal handouts under James Tanner. Although there was no evidence of theft on the part of Tanner, it was discovered that he had a tendency to, in his words, "treat the boys liberally" and loosen rules so that veterans could more easily qualify for pensions.

As a result of the investigation, Harrison realized that appointing Tanner had been a mistake, due to his apparent loose management style and his tendency to brag about his generosity with government money. Harrison asked Tanner to resign and replaced him with Green B. Raum. Raum was also a problem, as he was accused of accepting loan payments in return for expediting pension cases. Congress split on its investigation into Raum and Harrison accepted the dissenting Congressional Republican investigation report that exonerated Raum. He kept Raum in office for the rest of his administration.

When Harrison ran for re-election in 1892, once again his opponent was Grover Cleveland and once again the main issue in the election was the tariff. Harrison defended the protectionist McKinley Tariff. Cleveland told voters that he was opposed to free trade, but that he wanted a reduction in the tariff. He convinced voters that the McKinley Tariff had made imported goods too expensive. Many westerners, who had been traditionally Republican voters, left the Republican Party to vote for James Weaver, the candidate of the new Populist Party. Weaver promised Free Silver, generous veterans' pensions, and an eight-hour work day. Many Populists and labor supporters endorsed Cleveland after an attempt by the Carnegie Corporation to break the union during the Homestead strike in Pittsburgh and after a similar conflict between big business and labor at the Tennessee Coal and Iron Co. Cleveland also made an issue of how the Republicans had spent the treasury surplus.

At the Republican nominating convention, the incumbent President Benjamin Harrison faced a challenge from within his own party. A number of disaffected party leaders started a "dump Harrison" movement and backed veteran candidate James G. Blaine of Maine. But Harrison's organization had the nomination locked up by the time delegates assembled in Minneapolis, Minnesota in June 1892. Harrison was nominated on the first ballot with 535.17 votes to 182.83 for Blaine and 182 for future President William McKinley of Ohio. The Republican platform supported high tariffs, stiffer immigration laws, free rural mail delivery, and a canal across Central America. It also supported Ireland in its struggle for home rule as well as the plight of Jews under persecution in czarist Russia.

When the Democrats met in Chicago in June of 1892, Grover Cleveland was the front-runner for the nomination, but faced formidable opposition. He had come out against the free coinage of silver. His home state of New York was against him because the faction from Tammany Hall were hostile to Cleveland on the issue of patronage. Cleveland managed to score a narrow first-ballot victory in which he received 617.33 votes (slightly over 10 votes more than needed) to 114 for Senator David B. Hill of New York, the candidate of Tammany Hall, and 103 for Governor Horace Boies of Iowa, a populist and former Republican.

The tariff issue dominated the campaign. Harrison defended the protectionist McKinley Tariff passed during his term while Cleveland campaigned for a reduction in the tariff. William McKinley campaigned extensively for Harrison, setting the stage for his own run four years later.

The campaign took a somber turn when, in October, First Lady Caroline Harrison died. Despite the ill health that had plagued Mrs. Harrison since her youth and which had worsened in the last decade, she often accompanied President Harrison on official travels. On one such trip, to California in the spring of 1891, she caught a cold. It quickly deepened into her chest, and she was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis. A summer in the Adirondack Mountains failed to restore her to health and she died in the White House on October 25, 1892, just two weeks before the election. As a result, all of the candidates ceased campaigning.



On election day Cleveland won 277 electoral votes and 23 states. He received 46% of the popular votes. Harrison came in second with 145 electoral votes, 16 states and 43% of the vote. A third party candidate, James Weaver of the Populist Party, won 22 electoral votes and 4 states with just 8.5% of the popular vote. This was the first election in which an incumbent president was defeated for a second time in a row. This wouldn't happen again until 1980.
The next election in which an incumbent sought a second term in office occurred in 1888, when incumbent Grover Cleveland sought four more years. He would get them, but not in 1888, eventually becoming the only president thus far to serve two non-consecutive terms in office and messing up the way presidents are counted. In the election of 1888, just as in 2000 and 2016, the losing candidate won the popular vote. It was the third time this had happened. (In 1824 the winning candidate John Quincy Adams came in second in both the popular and electoral vote, and in 1876 Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote and had the electoral votes awarded to him by a commission that decided how disputed votes would be awarded.) This time Benjamin Harrison had at least won a majority in the electoral college, but in the popular vote 5,443,892 voters had marked their ballots for him (47.8%), while 5,534,488 had voted for incumbent President Grover Cleveland (48.6%).

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The issue in the election was tariffs (the amount of "tax" levied on imports into the country). High tariffs meant that imports cost more money, so that Americans were more likely buy more local goods. It was good for manufacturers, but bad for consumers because it meant that local producers could raise their prices. Much like today, the issue centered around a debate between protectionists (who wanted higher tariffs) and free traders (who wanted low tariffs). At the time the United States was the low-cost producer in most areas and could not be undersold by the less efficient Europeans, especially when one factored in the cost of transporting goods from Europe to the United States. Tariffs also fed the treasury. President Grover Cleveland proposed a dramatic reduction in tariffs in his annual message to Congress in December 1887. He argued that the tariff was unnecessarily high and that high tariffs hurt exporters because countries who had a high tariff imposed on them usually retaliated in kind. But this created an election issue as Republicans responded that the high tariff protected American industry from foreign competition and guaranteed high wages and high profits. (Does this argument sound familiar?)

At the time, the policy of free trade was most strongly advocated by the British. Any candidate who campaigned in support of free trade faced being labelled pro-British, attracting the loss of support from Irish-Americans. A California Republican named George Osgoodby wrote a letter to Sir Lionel Sackville-West, the British ambassador to the United States, under the false name of "Charles F. Murchison," describing himself as a former Englishman who was now a California citizen and asked how he should vote in the upcoming presidential election. Sir Lionel wrote back and in what became known as the "Murchison letter", suggesting that Cleveland was probably the best man from the British point of view. The Republicans published this letter just two weeks before the election, and it had an effect on Irish-American voters. Sackville-West was removed as British ambassador.

Benjamin Harrison campaigned by giving speeches from his front porch in Indianapolis that were covered by the newspapers. Cleveland followed the tradition of presidential candidates not campaigning, something that hampered him in the election. The election focused on four swing states: Cleveland's home state of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Harrison's home state of Indiana. Harrison and Cleveland split these four states, with Harrison winning in New York and Indiana. Had Cleveland won his home state, he would have won the electoral vote by an electoral count of 204-197 (201 electoral votes were needed for victory in 1888). Overall it was a very close election. Four states returned results where the winner won by less than 1 percent of the popular vote. Cleveland won 24 electoral votes from states he won by less than 1 percent: Connecticut, Virginia, and West Virginia. Harrison earned 15 electoral votes from a state he won by less than 1 percent: Indiana. Harrison won New York (36 electoral votes) by a margin of 1.09%.

As first lady Frances Folsom Cleveland was leaving the White House, she told an usher: "Now, Jerry, I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again." When asked when she would return, she responded, "We are coming back four years from today." The Clevelands moved to New York City where Cleveland took a position with the law firm of Bangs, Stetson, Tracy, and MacVeigh. But Cleveland spent considerable time at his vacation home Gray Gables at Buzzard Bay, where fishing became his main activity.

For Harrison, his administration's priority would be to worked with Congress to pass the McKinley Tariff, an aggressively protectionist measure and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which increased money backed by silver. Both of these policies were ones that Cleveland had been highly critical of. He considered them to be dangerous to the nation's financial health. At first he refrained from criticizing his successor, but following Harrison's inauguration, he did not stay silent for long.

Harrison transitioned into office claiming that he had made no political bargains and owed no one anything. But his supporters had given many pledges upon his behalf. Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, a notorious political "boss" who had worked hard to get Harrison elected, was rebuffed for a Cabinet position. When Quay heard that Harrison had credited his narrow victory to Providence, Quay was said to reply that Harrison would never know "how close a number of men were compelled to approach the penitentiary to make him President." He any many others became very upset with the new President over how Harrison doled out political rewards.

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Harrison was known as the Centennial President because his inauguration celebrated the centenary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789. He came into office with an increased Republican majority in the House of Representatives. In his inaugural address, Harrison credited the nation's growth to the influences of education and religion. He promised a protective tariff and chastised big business, stating: "If our great corporations would more scrupulously observe their legal obligations and duties, they would have less call to complain of the limitations of their rights or of interference with their operations." He called for early statehood for the territories and advocated pensions for veterans, something that was met with enthusiastic applause. In foreign affairs, Harrison reaffirmed his support for the Monroe Doctrine, called for modernization of the Navy and for the creation of a merchant marine force. He gave his commitment to international peace through noninterference in the affairs of foreign governments.

Harrison and Cleveland would be opponents in another election with an incumbent. That would occur four years later in 1892. This time the roles would be reversed.
In 1872, Ulysses S. Grant sought re-election to a second term as President of the United States. His opponent was the famous newspaper editor Horace Greeley who ran both as a Democrat and also as the candidate of the Liberal Republican Party. As we all know, Grant was successfully re-elected. Even if he the outcome had been otherwise, Greeley would never have become president, because he died on November 29th, over three months before inauguration day.



Though Grant was a popular figure in the north at the end of the Civil War, the Presidency has a way of chipping away at a person's popularity. At first, it looked as if Grant was going to have some problems winning re-election due to divisions within his own party. Grant was a believer in the "spoils" system, in contrast to those opponents in his party who lobbied for civil service reform. An prominent group of dissenting Republicans split from the party to form the Liberal Republican Party in 1870. At their convention, held in Cincinnati in 1872, the Liberal Republicans nominated New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley for President on the sixth ballot, defeating Massachusetts Congressman Charles Francis Adams, the grandson of President John Adams and son of President John Quincy Adams. Missouri Governor Benjamin Gratz Brown was nominated for vice-president on the second ballot. The Liberal Republican platform called for civil service reform as a means of curbing corruption that had become an issue in the Grant administration.

At the Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia on June 5-6, 1872, President Grant was unanimously renominated for a second term. But the convention's 752 delegates decided on a change of Vice-President, replacing incumbent Schuyler Colfax with Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson.

The 1872 Democratic National Convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 9-10. Because of its strong desire to defeat Ulysses S. Grant, the Democratic Party also nominated the Liberal Republican's team of Greeley and Brown and adopted their platform. Greeley's history as an aggressive critic of the Democratic party cooled enthusiasm for his candidacy. The convention lasted only six hours stretched over two days, and thus far it has been the shortest major political party convention in history.

Grant's administration had been accused of corruption, and the Liberal Republicans demanded civil service reform and an end to the Reconstruction process, including withdrawal of federal troops from the South. Greeley turned out to be a poor campaigner with little political experience. His career as a newspaper editor gave his opponents a long history of public positions to attack. Grant was still fondly remembered for his Civil War service. His campaign was funded by famous entrepreneurs such as Jay Cooke, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Alexander Turney Stewart, Henry Hilton, and John Astor and he was able to outspend his opponent in the campaign. Greeley's running mate, Benjamin Gratz Brown, committed several gaffes due to his drinking problem. For instance, at one campaign picnic he became so drunk that he tried to butter a watermelon.

This was the first election in which groups for women's suffrage such as the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association became more of a political force. Although women were not allowed to vote, feminist Victoria Woodhull was nominated for the presidency by the Equal Rights Party and several suffragettes attempted to vote in the election. Victoria Chaflin Woodhull was a leading suffragist. A year earlier in 1871, she had announced her intention to run for President. Her nomination was ratified at convention on June 6, 1872. Former slave and civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass was nominated for Vice President. Douglass never acknowledged this nomination. Woodhull's association with Frederick Douglass stirred up controversy at the time about "the mixing of whites and blacks". The Equal Rights Party hoped to use these nominations to reunite suffragists with civil rights activists, as the exclusion of female suffrage from the Fifteenth Amendment two years earlier had caused a substantial rift between the two groups. The circumstances leading up to Woodhull's nomination had also created a rift between Woodhull and her former supporter Susan B. Anthony, and almost ended the collaboration of Anthony with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton, who had unsuccessfully run for Congress in New York in 1868, was more sympathetic to Woodhull. When Anthony cast her vote in the presidential election, she voted for Grant. Anthony was later arrested for the act of voting and was fined $100.

On November 2, 1872, just days before the presidential election, U.S. Federal Marshals arrested Woodhull, her second husband Colonel James Blood, and her sister Tennie C. Claflin on charges of "publishing an obscene newspaper." Woodhull, Claflin, and Blood were acquitted six months later, but the arrest prevented her from attempting to vote during the 1872 presidential election.



Grant won an easy re-election over Greeley by a margin of 56% to 44%. Grant captured 286 electoral votes to what would have been 66 electoral votes for Greeley. But Greeley died on November 29, 1872, just twenty-four days after the election and before any of the electors from the states Greeley won (Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Maryland) could cast their votes. With Greeley gone, many electoral college voters cast their votes for a variety of other Democrats.

This election was the last in which Alabama and Mississippi voted for a Republican until 1964. Arkansas would not be carried by a Republican again until 1972.
After the election of 1840, it would take nearly a quarter century before another incumbent would run for re-election. Those presidents from 1840 to 1864 either pledged to serve only one term and kept that promise or were not popular enough to be nominated by their party to serve another term. Abraham Lincoln broke that streak when in 1864 he sought re-election to the presidency. In the time leading up to the 1864 election, Lincoln thought he would be a one term president. The war was taking longer than everyone had expected, and the mounting casualties made the Democratic Party message of a negotiated peace sound more appealing. The Republican Party was split between the Radical Republicans and the moderates. Some Republicans like Salmon P. Chase, Benjamin Wade, and Horace Greeley, opposed Lincoln's re-nomination on the grounds that he could not win. Chase had visions of becoming president himself.



For much of 1864, Lincoln himself believed he had little chance of being re-elected. Confederate forces had triumphed at the Battle of Mansfield, the Battle of the Crater, and the Battle of Cold Harbor and the war was continuing to take a very high toll in terms of casualties. During three months in the summer of 1864, over 65,000 Union soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing-in-action. In comparison, there had been 108,000 Union casualties in the first three years. The prospect of a long and bloody war started to make the idea of "peace at all cost" offered by the Democrats look more appealing.

On August 23, Lincoln wrote the following: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.” Lincoln folded the note, sealed it, and asked the members of his Cabinet to sign the back of the paper without reading it. They did so.

The presidential election of 1864 was held on November 8th. In order to appeal to those who supported the war, the Democrats nominated General George B. McClellan as their candidate. Like the Republicans, the Democratic Party was also split between War Democrats and Peace Democrats. Moderate Democrats supported the war against the Confederacy, but they were now calling for a negotiated peace. Radical Peace Democrats known as Copperheads believed that the war was a failure. They favored an immediate end to the war. McClellan was seen as a strong candidate who could unify the party. The pro-war McClellan was selected as the party's candidate for president and anti-war Representative George H. Pendleton was selected as the party's candidate for vice-president.

An event known as the Radical Democracy Convention was held on May 29, 1864. General John C. Frémont, who had been the first presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1856, was selected as their candidate. But Frémont withdrew from the race in September 1864. In his statement, Frémont declared that winning the Civil War was too important to divide the Republican vote. Although he still felt that Lincoln was not going far enough, he saw the defeat of McClellan as something of the greatest necessity. Frémont also brokered a political deal with Lincoln in which Lincoln removed Postmaster General Montgomery Blair from office in return for Frémont's withdrawing from the race.

Probably the thing that saved Lincoln's bid for re-election most was the fall of Atlanta on September 2. It turned out to be a September surprise, rather than an October surprise, but in those days news traveled a lot slower than it does today. On August 31, General William Tecumseh Sherman's army captured the railroad track from Macon top Atlanta. With his supply lines fully severed, Confederate General John Bell Hood pulled his troops out of Atlanta the next day, September 1, destroying supply depots as he left to prevent them from falling into Union hands. He also set fire to eighty-one loaded ammunition cars, which led to a conflagration watched by hundreds. The next day, on September 2, Mayor James Calhoun, along with a committee of leading formally surrendered the city. Sherman sent a telegram to Washington on September 3, reading, "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won". He then established his headquarters there on September 7, where he stayed for over two months. On November 15, the army departed east toward Savannah for what became known as "Sherman's March to the Sea".

The fall of Atlanta and the overall success of this military campaign were extensively covered by Northern newspapers, and were a boon to Northern morale and to President Lincoln's political standing. Suddenly the Democratic Party's call for negotiations with the Confederacy on the subject of a potential truce was not as popular. The capture of Atlanta and Hood's burning of military facilities as he evacuated showed that a successful conclusion of the war was in sight, weakening support for a truce. Republicans, under the banner of the National Union Party, campaigned on the slogan "Don't change horses in the middle of a stream." Many war Democrats joined them.

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Only 25 states participated in the election, since 11 Southern states had declared secession from the Union. Three new states participated in a presidential election for the first time: Kansas, West Virginia, and Nevada. The reconstructed portions of Tennessee and Louisiana chose presidential electors, although Congress did not count their votes. Just for added measure, Lincoln arranged for leave for Union soldiers in those states where they were required to be physically present in the state to vote on election day.

Lincoln received 2,218,388 votes (55.0%) and 212 electoral votes. McClellan received 1,812,807 votes (45.0%) and 21 electoral votes. McClellan won just three states: Kentucky, Delaware, and his home state of New Jersey. Lincoln won in every state he carried in 1860 except New Jersey, and also carried a state won four years earlier by Stephen Douglas (Missouri), one carried by John C. Breckenridge (Maryland) and all three newly admitted states (Kansas, Nevada and West Virginia). Soldiers were allowed to vote in the field if they came from the following states: California, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Out of the 40,247 army votes cast, Lincoln received 30,503 (75.8%) and McClellan 9,201 (22.9%).

Regrettably, Lincoln would not live out his second term in office. He was shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865 and died the following morning.
As the end of his second term in office approached, Andrew Jackson chose to honor a precedent set first by George Washington. He did not seek a third consecutive term as president, even though at that time doing so was not yet prohibited by the Constitution. Riding on Jackson's coat-tails, his Vice-President and hand-picked successor, Martin Van Buren, was elected president in 1836, thwarting the Whig Party strategy of running four regional candidates in the hope that no candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and the election would be decided by the Whig-controlled House of Representatives.



As the 1840 election campaign approached, Democratic Party incumbent President and political genius Martin Van Buren ran for re-election. Unfortunately for the incumbent president, he was running in the wake of the "Panic of 1837", one of the worst economic disasters ever to occur in the history of the sixty-four year old nation. This economic depression was caused by the failed policies of Van Buren's predecessor and political mentor, Jackson, whose war with the Bank of America had led to policies that created the troubled economy.

When the Whig Party nominated 67 year-old General William Henry Harrison as their candidate for president, Van Buren and the Democrats thought that they had a chance to hold on to the reigns of power. They mocked the elderly "Granny Harrison" as a dottering old imbecile from the backwoods who lived in a log cabin and sipped hard cider. Little did they know that their doing so would lead to one of the most epic political spin battles ever, and a presidential campaign with many firsts, one that would change the way that election campaigns would be fought from then on.

Harrison was chosen over more established members of the party, such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Harrison's campaign was based on his military record and on the weak economy. In an effort to blame Van Buren for the depressed economy, the Whigs spin doctors nicknamed him "Martin Van Ruin". The Democrats ridiculed Harrison by calling him "Granny Harrison, the petticoat general", because he had resigned from the army before the War of 1812 ended. They reminded voters that his name spelled backwards was "No Sirrah" and they portrayed him as an out-of-touch old man who would rather "sit in his log cabin drinking hard cider" than run the country. This strategy backfired when Harrison and his vice presidential running mate, John Tyler, adopted the log cabin and hard cider as campaign symbols. They used the images in banners and posters. Strategists for the Whig Party tried to mislead voters into believing that their candidate William Henry Harrison arose from poverty to become a war hero and leader, while Van Buren was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. These were both exaggerations, but in the days before electronic media, it was difficult to react to a negative message once it was out there and had grown legs. In fact Harrison was quite wealthy, but in the campaign he was portrayed as a humble frontiersman, much like the popular Jackson had been. The Whigs also boasted of Harrison's military record and reputation as the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe. Their famous campaign slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."

tippecanoe.jpg

One of the ways that the Whigs tried to hammer their message home was through a campaign song, a little ditty appropriately called "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." The song was written in 1840 by Alexander Coffman Ross, a jeweler from Zanesville, Ohio, to the tune of the minstrel song, "Little Pigs". He first performed it at a Whig meeting in Zanesville, and it came to national attention when, traveling on a business trip, he introduced it to a Whig rally in New York.

The lyrics to the first verse and chorus of the song went as follows:

What's the cause of this commotion, motion, motion,
Our country through?
It is the ball a-rolling on

For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
And with them we'll beat little Van, Van, Van,
Van is a used up man.
And with them we'll beat little Van.



Ross's version had twelve verses. It contains a repeated reference to rolling balls and constant motion. Rolling large balls of twine or canvas became a physical prop in the campaign pageantry. People would use the expression "keep the ball rolling" both in literal reference to these huge campaign props, and as a metaphor for keeping the momentum of the campaign going. Van Buren is referred to derisively in the song as "Little Van" or "Little Matty" and his supporters as "Vanjacks". These are contrasted with the simple honest virtues of Harrison and the inevitability of his victory.

Harrison broke tradition by becoming the first presidential candidate for a major party to take to the stump and campaign for himself (a response to counter negative media attacks on his courage, physical condition and his intellect). The depiction of Van Buren as a wealthy snob who was out of touch with the people was at odds with the facts. It was Harrison who came from a family of wealthy planters, while Van Buren's father was a tavernkeeper. Harrison however moved to the frontier and for years lived in a log cabin, while Van Buren had been a well-paid government official. Senator Keith Davey is quoted as having said "in politics, perception is reality" and in the presidential election campaign of 1840, Van Buren was perceived by a majority of voters as the front man for the wealthy elite, while Harrison was the "man of the people", cultivating a populist appeal.

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On election day, Harrison won a landslide electoral college victory by a margin of 234 to 60. The popular vote was much closer, at 53% to 47%. Whether the deciding factor was Harrison's populist appeal, or the fact that the election was held during the worst economic depression in the nation's history, both worked to Harrison's advantage. Voters blamed Van Buren, seeing him as unsympathetic to struggling citizens. Harrison campaigned vigorously which effectively countered the impression that he lacked the stamina to be president.

In the end however, the Whig Party's victory was short-lived. William Henry Harrison died 31 days into his term. His successor, Vice-President John Tyler, would ultimately fail to follow the Whig Party line and get expelled from the Whigs, making him a President without a Party.
Yet another instance of an incumbent president seeking re-election occurred in 1832 when President Andrew Jackson faced his arch-nemises Henry Clay, who ran as the candidate for the National Republican party. Clay would run for President three times (in 1824, 1832 and 1844), never capturing the big prize.

1832A

As the election of 1832 approached, President Jackson and his Vice President John C. Calhoun had a strained relationship for a number of reasons. Calhoun had previously served as Vice-President under John Quincy Adams, but he switched his support to Jackson in 1828. Calhoun had become a "nullifier" and believed that his state could "nullify" or refuse to follow any federal law that it disagreed with. In this case it was the high tariffs that resulted in retaliatory action in the form of corresponding high tariffs that made it more difficult to sell southern cotton. The final blow to the Jackson-Calhoun relationship came when the President nominated Martin Van Buren to serve as Minister to the United Kingdom and the vote in the Senate ended in a tie. Calhoun broke that tie by voting against confirmation on January 25, 1832. Jackson got mad, but he also got even. The 1832 Democratic National Convention, the first of the Democratic Party, was held in Baltimore from May 21, 1832, to May 23, 1832. No roll call vote was taken to nominate Jackson for a second term. Instead, the convention passed a resolution stating that "we most cordially concur in the repeated nominations which he has received in various parts of the union." When it came time to chose a running mate for Jackson, Calhoun was not in the running. Martin Van Buren was nominated for vice-president on the first ballot, receiving 208 votes to 49 for Philip Pendleton Barbour and 26 for Richard Mentor Johnson.

Earlier, the Anti-Masonic Party had held the first national nominating convention in American history. 111 delegates from 13 states (all from free states, except for Maryland and Delaware) assembled in the Athenaeum in Baltimore from September 26, 1831, to September 28, 1831. Ex-President John Quincy Adams had wanted to run as the Anti-Masonic candidate, but the party leaders did not want to risk running someone so unpopular. William Wirt, ironically a Mason, defeated Richard Rush and John McLean for the nomination. Amos Ellmaker was nominated for vice-president.

Soon after the Anti-Masonic Party held its national convention, supporters of Henry Clay called a national convention of the National Republican Party. The convention was held from December 12, 1831, to December 15, 1831, also in the Athenaeum in Baltimore. On the fourth day of the convention, the roll call ballot for president took place. Clay received 167 votes to one abstention. A similar procedure was used for the vice-presidential ballot. John Sergeant of Pennsylvania was nominated with 64 votes to six abstentions.

When Jackson won the election of 1828, Henry Clay's term as Secretary of State had ended. But even with Clay out of office, Jackson continued to see Clay as one of his major rivals. Jackson had even suspected Clay of being behind the Petticoat affair, a controversy involving the wives of his Cabinet members. Clay strongly opposed the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which authorized the relocation of Native Americans to land west of the Mississippi River. Another key point of contention between Clay and Jackson was the proposed Maysville Road, which would connect Maysville, Kentucky to the National Road in Zanesville, Ohio. Clay had hoped that this road would eventually connect the National Road to New Orleans. In 1830, Jackson vetoed the project both because he felt that the road did not constitute interstate commerce, and also because he generally opposed using the federal government to promote economic modernization. Jackson's veto damaged his base of support in Clay's home state of Kentucky. In 1831 Clay returned to Washington D.C. by winning election to the Senate over Richard Mentor Johnson in a 73 to 64 vote of the Kentucky legislature.

The principal issue of the 1832 campaign was the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson, who disliked banks and paper money in general, vetoed the renewal of the Bank's charter and withdrew federal deposits from the bank. Clay hoped to divide Jackson's supporters and gain support in Pennsylvania, the bank's headquarters, by attacking Jackson. His supporters attacked Jackson's use of presidential veto power, portraying him as “King Andrew”. However, the attacks on Jackson generally failed, despite heavy funding by the bank, as Jackson convinced the ordinary population that he was defending them against a privileged elite. Jackson campaign events were marked by enormous turnout, and he swept Pennsylvania and the vast majority of the country.

1832B

Jackson received 54.2% of the popular vote and 219 electoral votes. Clay received 37.4% of the popular vote and 49 electoral votes, while the remainder split among third party candidates. Following the election and Clay's defeat, an Anti-Jackson coalition would be formed composed of National Republicans, Anti-Masons, disaffected Jacksonians, and small remnants of the Federalist Party whose people whose last political activity was with them a decade before. In the short term, it formed the Whig Party in a coalition against President Jackson and his policies.
Incumbent President John Quincy Adams ran for re-election in 1828. The campaign a nasty one. Itcincluded a personal attacks against the wife of the victorious candidate, so vicious that the stress of those attacks may well have killed poor Rachel Jackson. The President-elect was never known for his forgiving nature.

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The campaign began with considerable bitterness. Andrew Jackson believed that his opponent had stolen the previous election of 1824. Jackson won a plurality of electoral votes in that election, but not a majority of the popular votes or of electoral votes. This meant that the presidency was decided in the House of Representatives according to the terms of the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution. That body selected second place finisher John Quincy Adams as President, and Jackson believed that it was the result of a "corrupt bargain" by which Clay was made Secretary of State in return for supporting Adams. (In those days, being Secretary of State increased a candidate's chances to become president. Every President since Thomas Jefferson had reached the presidency via that route.) Clay despised Jackson, in part due to their fight for Western votes during the election. Clay chose to support Adams, which led to Adams being elected president. A few days after the election, Adams named Clay his Secretary of State, a position which at that time often led to the presidency. Jackson and his followers immediately accused Clay and Adams of striking a "corrupt bargain," and they continued to lambaste the president until the 1828 election.

In the aftermath of the 1824 election, the national Democratic-Republican Party collapsed as national politics became increasingly polarized between supporters of Adams and supporters of Jackson. The Jackson supporters bolstered their numbers in Congress in the 1826 Congressional elections and Jackson's ally Andrew Stevenson was chosen as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1827 over Adams ally, Speaker John W. Taylor.

Within months after the inauguration of John Quincy Adams in 1825, the Tennessee legislature re-nominated Jackson for president, extremely early in the game, underscoring the resentment that the Jackson faction had against Adams. Congressional opponents of Adams, including Martin Van Buren, rallied around Jackson's candidacy. Jackson's supporters called themselves Democrats, and would formally organize as the Democratic Party shortly after his election. Jackson ran on a ticket with sitting Vice President John C. Calhoun.

President Adams also had his allies, including Secretary of State Clay and Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. They became known as the National Republicans. The National Republicans were less organized than the Democrats, and many party leaders were conservative in nature and did not embrace the new era of popular campaigning. Adams was re-nominated on the endorsement of state legislatures and partisan rallies. Like the Democrats, no nominating caucus or national convention was held. Adams chose Secretary of the Treasury Richard Rush, a Pennsylvanian known for his protectionist views, as his running mate. Adams hoped to assemble a coalition in which Clay attracted Western voters, Rush attracted voters in the middle states, and Webster won over former members of the Federalist Party.

Jackson continued to have strong support throughout Adams' term in office. The campaign for President in 1828 was full of "mudslinging." Adams' supporters set their sights on Jackson's marriage. When Jackson married his wife Rachel in 1791, the couple believed that she was divorced. But the divorce was not yet finalized, so their first marriage ceremony was not a valid one. Jackson had to remarry Rachel once the divorce became complete. The Adams campaign labelled this as a scandal. Pro-Adams editor Charles Hammond of the Cincinnati Gazette wrote: "Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?"

Adams' supporters also attacked Jackson, calling him a slave trader who bought and sold slaves and was indifferent to their family ties when he did so. Something called "the Coffin Handbills" attacked Jackson for his callous execution of deserters, his massacres of Indian villages, and also his habit of dueling.



The dirty politics was not just one-sided. Jackson's supporters accused Adams of being a pimp. They said that, while serving as Minister to Russia, Adams had provided an American servant girl for the sexual pleasure of the Czar. Adams was also accused of using public funds to buy gambling devices for the presidential residence. (This turned out to be a chess set and a pool table.)

Jackson avoided taking a stance on the issues. He campaigned on his personal qualities and achievements as well as his opposition to Adams. Adams avoided popular campaigning. Adams was portrayed as elitist. In his first annual message to congress, he had expressed support for internal improvements in Europe, such as "lighthouses of the skies" (observatories), and said that Congress not be "palsied by the will of our constituents". This remark was given attention in the press. Jackson wrote that a lavish government combined with contempt of the constituents could lead to despotism, if not checked by the "voice of the people."

The pro-Adams press tried to portray Jackson as a "mere military chieftain." Daniel Webster claimed that Thomas Jefferson told him in December 1824 that Jackson was a dangerous man unfit for the presidency. Jefferson had died in 1826, but his son-in-law, former Virginia Governor Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., said that Jefferson had a "strong repugnance" to Henry Clay and also said that Jefferson became friendly to Jackson's candidacy as early as the summer of 1825, because of the "corrupt bargain" charge, and he thought of Jackson as "an honest, sincere, clear-headed and strong-minded man; of the soundest political principles".

The selection of electors began on October 31 with elections in Ohio and Pennsylvania and ended on November 13 with elections in North Carolina. The Electoral College met on December 3. Adams won almost exactly the same states that his father had won in the election of 1800: the New England states, New Jersey, and Delaware. In addition, Adams won Maryland. Jackson won all of the other states, which resulted in a landslide victory for him. Jackson received 642,553 votes (55.97%) and 178 electoral votes. Adams received 500,897 votes (43.63%) and 83 electoral votes, less than half of those won by Jackson.

But Jackson's celebration was soon marred by tragedy. Rachel Jackson had been having chest pains throughout the campaign, and the personal attacks on her marriage caused her considerable stress and emotional discomfort. She became ill, suffering what was described as "excruciating pain in the left shoulder, arm, and breast." She died on December 22, 1828. Jackson took her death very hard. He was very reluctant to leave his home in Nashville (called the Hermitage) to go to Washington for his inauguration. He accused the Adams campaign, and Henry Clay even more so, for causing Rachel's death. At her funeral he said "May God Almighty forgive her murderers, for I never can." He later said, "I can and do forgive all my enemies. But those vile wretches who have slandered her must look to God for mercy."

On March 4, 1829, Andrew Jackson took the oath of office on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol. Jackson was the first President to invite the public to attend the White House ball honoring his first inauguration. Many poor people came to the inaugural ball in ordinary clothes. The crowd became so large that Jackson's guards could not keep them out of the White House, which became so crowded with people that dishes and decorative pieces inside were broken. Some people stood on good chairs in muddied boots just to get a look at the President. The crowd had become so wild that the attendants poured punch in tubs and put it on the White House lawn to lure people outside. (Some historians claim that the reports of the damage to the White House was exaggerated).



Jackson's inauguration day fell on Ash Wednesday. An estimated 30,000 people poured into Washington to see the Hero of The Battle of New Orleans take the oath of office. Jackson was still in mourning for his wife Rachel, and chose to walk to the Capitol with little fanfare, accompanied only by fifteen elderly Revolutionary War veterans. Jackson did not make the customary visit to his predecessor due to the bitterness of the campaign and the resentment he felt, amplified by the death of Rachel. Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office.

John Quincy Adams did not attend his successor's inauguration.
As 2020 will be, the election that happened two centuries before was also an election with an incumbent. But that's probably where the similarities will end. The election of 1820 wasn't really much of an election. Incumbent President James Monroe almost won by acclamation with only one "faithless elector" refusing to make it unanimous.



Monroe decided to run for President in the 1816 election after proving himself a star in the cabinet of James Madison, especially during the War of 1812. During the war, Monroe held two cabinet posts as Secretary of State and Secretary of War, picking up the latter post after General John Armstrong proved to be a complete bust. Monroe's war-time leadership established him as Madison's heir apparent. He had strong support from many in the party, but his candidacy was challenged at the 1816 Democratic-Republican congressional nominating caucus, mainly by Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford of Georgia, who had the support of numerous southern and western Congressmen. Crawford decided to defer to Monroe and Monroe won his party's nomination. Monroe received 183 of the 217 electoral votes, winning every state but Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware.

Monroe's presidency is associated with the "Era of Good Feelings", but that name is somewhat misleading. Monroe had to deal with the Missouri Compromise in February 1819, when the people of the Missouri Territory sought to draft a constitution and form a government preliminary to admission into the Union came before the House of Representatives. Congressman James Tallmadge Jr. of New York tried to derail the Era of Good Feelings by offering the Tallmadge Amendment, which prohibited the further introduction of slaves into Missouri and required that all future children of slave parents therein should be free at the age of twenty-five years. After three days of rancorous and sometimes bitter debate, the bill, with Tallmadge's amendments, passed. The measure then went to the Senate, where both amendments were rejected. The ensuing debates pitted the northern antislavery legislators against southern proslavery legislators. The conflict was resolved by allowing Missouri into the union as a slave state and admitting Maine as a free state. A second amendment was adopted on the motion of Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois, excluding slavery from the Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north (the southern boundary of Missouri), except within the limits of the proposed state of Missouri. The House then approved the bill as amended by the Senate. The legislation passed, which became known as the Missouri Compromise.

Monroe also faced an economic crisis known as the Panic of 1819. This was the first major depression to hit the country since the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. As global markets transitioned to peacetime production and following the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars, the nation experienced an economic downturn, made worse by excessive speculation in public lands. Monroe lacked the power to intervene directly in the economy, as banks were largely regulated by the states. When Congress finally reconvened in December 1819, Monroe requested an increase in the tariff, but Congress would not do so. The panic resulted in high unemployment and an increase in bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Monroe pursued improved relations with Britain following the War of 1812. In 1817 the United States and Britain signed the Rush–Bagot Treaty, which regulated naval strength on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain and demilitarized the border between the U.S. and British North America. The Treaty of 1818 fixed the present Canada–United States border from Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains at the 49th parallel and established a joint U.S.–British occupation of Oregon Country for the next ten years. These treaties allowed for greater trade between the United States and the British Empire and kept the peace in the Great Lakes region.

Monroe also too action in Florida, then a Spanish colony. With only a minor military presence in Florida, Spain was not able to restrain Seminole warriors who routinely crossed the border and raided American villages and farms, as well as protected southern slave refugees from slave owners and traders of the southern United States. Monroe ordered a military expedition led by Andrew Jackson to cross into Spanish Florida and attack the Seminoles. The expedition exceeded its orders and seized the Spanish territorial capital of Pensacola. With the capture of Pensacola, Jackson established de facto American control of the entire territory. While Monroe supported Jackson's actions, many in Congress harshly criticized what they saw as an undeclared war. With the support of Secretary of State Adams, Monroe defended Jackson against domestic and international criticism, and the United States began negotiations with Spain. On February 22, 1819, Spain and the United States signed the Adams–Onís Treaty, which ceded the Floridas in return for the assumption by the United States of claims of American citizens against Spain to an amount not exceeding $5,000,000.

It is surprising that on the heels of an economic recession and the polarizing issue of slavery to confront, Monroe ran for re-election in 1820 virtually unopposed. But in the aftermath of the War of 1812, the Federalist Party had essentially collapsed. The party was very unpopular for its lack of support for the War. Late victories in the war at the Battle of New Orleans increased support for the war and for Monroe's party.

Monroe's re-nomination was never in doubt. Few Republicans bothered to attend the nominating caucus in April 1820. Only 40 delegates attended, with very few from the large states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. With so few attendees, the caucus declined to make a formal nomination. The following resolution was passed by the caucus: "It is inexpedient, at this time, to proceed to the nomination of persons for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States." What this really meant was that, after the resolution was unanimously adopted, and the meeting adjourned, Monroe and Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins remained candidates for re-election.

Vice-President Tompkins had made another run for his former post of Governor of New York, fueling speculation that a replacement for the number two spot on the ticket might be required. But when Tompkins lost the election shortly before the nominating caucus took place, the matter was not considered important enough to be worth a formal nomination process.

Voting took place from Wednesday, November 1, to Wednesday, December 6, 1820. There was no election campaign to speak of, since there was no serious opposition to Monroe and Tompkins. The Federalists did not hold a nominating convention and there was no one running against Monroe. Even the ongoing debate over the Missouri Compromise did not lead to the creation of any opposition to Monroe. It did cause an issue about whether or not the state's electoral votes should be counted in Monroe's final tally. On March 9, 1820, when Congress had passed a law directing Missouri to hold a convention to form a constitution and a state government, this law stated that "the said state, when formed, shall be admitted into the Union, upon an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatsoever." But when Congress reconvened in November 1820, the admission of Missouri became an issue of contention. There was a debate over whether Missouri had fulfilled the conditions of the law and if it was technically a state. Opponents claimed that certain provisions of the Missouri Constitution violated the United States Constitution.

When Congress met to count the electoral votes from the election, this dispute was unresolved. If Congress counted Missouri's votes, that would count as recognition that Missouri was a state; on the other hand but if Congress failed to count Missouri's vote, it would count as recognition that Missouri was not a state. Knowing that Monroe had won in a landslide and that Missouri's vote would therefore make no difference in the final result, the Senate passed a resolution on February 13, 1821 stating that if a protest were made, there would be no consideration of the matter unless the vote of Missouri would change who would become president. Instead, the President of the Senate would announce the final tally twice, once with Missouri included and once with it excluded. The resolution passed. During the counting of the electoral votes on February 14, 1821, an objection was raised Representative Arthur Livermore of New Hampshire. The votes were tallied in accordance with the resolution.

The Federalists received a small amount of the popular vote despite having no electoral candidates. Even in Massachusetts, where the Federalist slate of electors was victorious, the electors cast all of their votes for Monroe. This was the first election in which the Democratic-Republicans won in Connecticut and Delaware. Monroe received 87,343 votes (80.61%) and 228 electoral votes, not including the three disputed votes of Missouri. There were 17,465 votes (16.12%) cast for "no candidate".

Only 15 of the 24 states chose electors by popular vote. Monroe won all of the electoral votes, but when the votes were counted, one "faithless elector" cast a vote against Monroe. That elector was William Plumer of New Hampshire, a former United States senator and New Hampshire governor. Plumer cast his electoral ballot for Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. It was believed that this was done to ensure that George Washington would remain the only American president unanimously chosen by the Electoral College, but Plumer stated otherwise. He said that he simply thought that Monroe was a mediocre president and that Adams would be a better one. Plumer also refused to vote for Tompkins for Vice President, who he called "grossly intemperate", and who he said lacked "that weight of character which his office requires, because he grossly neglected his duty" in his role as President of the Senate by being "absent nearly three-fourths of the time". Plumer voted for Richard Rush for Vice-President.



Even though every member of the Electoral College was pledged to Monroe, a number of Federalist electors voted for a Federalist vice president rather than Monroe's running mate Daniel D. Tompkins. A scattering of votes were cast for Richard Stockton, Daniel Rodney and Robert Goodloe Harper. These were not enough to deny Tompkins a substantial electoral victory.

Monroe's share of the share of the electoral vote has not been exceeded by candidate other than Washington, who won the vote of each presidential elector in the 1789 and 1792 presidential elections. Don't expect anything close to this in 2020.

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