1824 Federal Election

Date: From 1824-07-07 to 1825-08-30

With James Monroe finishing his second presidential term, the expectation was that his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, would succeed him, just as men holding that office had succeeded the previous two Democratic-Republican presidents. However, Andrew Jackson, the most popular political figure in America , challenged Adams for the office with a campaign appealing more directly to the interests of common Americans and a distrust of wealthy elites and financial institutions, in part inspired by the Panic of 1819. The result was the candidates and their operatives campaigned directly for votes more than had been done in the past, establishing the 19th century stump tradition that would continue to develop in subsequent elections. In all, four candidates ended up running, effectively breaking up the Democratic-Republican Party and ending the so-called "Era of Good Feelings."

As the only candidate to garner support throughout the nation, Jackson won more electoral and popular votes than any other candidate but not a majority of total votes, thereby throwing the election to the House of Representatives. Only the top three candidates could be placed before the House, meaning Jackson, Adams, and William Crawford were in but Henry Clay, then speaker of the House, was out. Clay supported Adams and the House followed suit, electing him president on February 9, 1825, despite Jackson's popular vote count.

Jackson was outraged by this result and accused Clay and Adams of having struck a "corrupt bargain" in which Adams would appoint Clay secretary of state--the likeliest office from which to gain the presidency--in exchange for his support. Thus, Jackson began immediately campaigning to unseat Adams in 1828, resulting in a hardening of the two candidates' support bases, that built the foundation for the second party system with roughly Jackson's supporters evolving into the Democrats and Adams's into the Whigs.

The election of vice president was much less controversial, with John C. Calhoun winning convincingly defeating five other candidates. Election results in Congress largely paralleled the presidential contest, with old and new representatives splitting fairly evenly between support for Adams and Jackson. Adams had a slight majority in the House of Representatives and Jackson had a slight majority in the Senate.

Daniel Feller, The Jacksonian Promise (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 66-70; H. W. Brands, Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times (New York: Random House, 2005), 363-388; "Party Division of the House of Representatives, 1789-Present," Office of the Historian, United States House of Representatives, accessed February 7, 2018, http://history.house.gov/Institution/Party-Divisions/Party-Divisions/; "Party Division in the Senate" United States Senate Website, accessed February 7, 2018, https://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/one_item_and_teasers/partydiv.htm.