Log in

No account? Create an account

May 12th, 2019

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.


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.


Presidential History Geeks

Latest Month

September 2019


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner