The Election of 1824: The "Era of Good Feelings" Comes to an End
Presidential: Andrew Jackson (Tennessee); John Quincy Adams (Massachusetts); William Crawford (Georgia); Henry Clay (Kentucky)
Vice-Presidential: John Calhoun (South Carolina); Nathan Sanford (New York); Nathaniel Macon (North Carolina); Andrew Jackson (Tennessee); Martin Van Buren (New York); Henry Clay (Kentucky)
Andrew Jackson: 99 electoral votes, 151,000 popular votes
John Quincy Adams: 84 electoral votes, 113,000 popular votes
William Crawford: 41 electoral votes, 40,000 popular votes
Henry Clay: 37 electoral votes, 47,000 popular votes
John Calhoun 182 electoral votes
Nathan Sanford 30 electoral votes
Nathaniel Macon 34 electoral votes
Andrew Jackson 13 electoral votes
Martin Van Buren 9 electoral votes
Henry Clay 2 electoral votes
The 1824 presidential election was a turning point in American politics, not only for the way in which elections would be run but also the level of discourse in political campaigns. Following three decades of elections in which popular voting meant little at the national level, the process of holding conventions and electing the average person as a delegate began following 1824. But as the "Era of Good Feelings" created during the James Monroe presidency came to an end, the conflict between populism and elitism, as well as the underlying current of slave and free states, raged on throughout the United States.
John Quincy Adams did the appropriate ground work to become president, at least according to the historical pattern of the American presidency. The son of former President John Adams, John Quincy was an envoy to Russia, a state legislator and senator from Massachusetts, and most importantly James Monroe's secretary of state. The State Department became the spring board to the presidency over the preceding two decades and Adams was intellectually qualified to lead the nation. However, the loose peace created in the era following the War of 1812 was undone by regionalism. Adams was not a favorite of Southern states, whom did not like his connection to federalism and his elitist upbringing within Federalist politics.
To counter Adams, three regional candidates opposed the front runner and created a murky election campaign. The most compelling figure was former General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, whose military escapades were legendary and his outsider status made him an alternative for the masses. But Jackson's dark horse status also left him without a lot of support in Washington D.C. The congressional caucus favored William Crawford of Georgia, though his bad temper and impolitic attitude led to arguments with many politicians including John Quincy Adams. The most experienced opposition candidate was House Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky, whose proposed "American System" of protective tariffs was popular but also drew the ire of many Southern states where his support would be greatest.
Andrew Jackson's use of the first campaign biography in American history, his raucous political rallies, and the fame produced by his military service made him a favorite outside of the West. In fact, Jackson was the only candidate who was able to win states outside of his region. But the four way race diluted the electoral votes and John Quincy Adams' strength in the Northeast made the constitutionally mandated electoral majority an impossibility. The following congressional debate was particularly arduous as allegations of misconduct were slung through all of the candidacies. In a deal called the "corrupt bargain" by the Jackson campaign, Henry Clay agreed to swing his votes to John Quincy Adams in exchange for the secretary of state spot in an Adams administration. The electoral votes of Clay were enough to sway the election to Adams and Andrew Jackson cried foul. While Adams indeed won the election, his mandate was questionable and his massive agenda would be difficult to pass. As well, he would not be able to win a second term because of the creation of the Democratic Party around Jackson's presidential campaign.