The Corrupt Bargain

After the collapse of the Federalist party, James Madison ran for re-election in 1820.  What a difference four years made!  Like most political parties that achieve political victory over a rival party, the Republicans quickly factionalized.  John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford and Henry Clay ran.  The election resulted in Jackson with 99 electoral votes, Adams 84, Crawford 41 and Clay with 37.  With no candidate having a majority, for the second time in a quarter of a century, the race was decided by the House of Representatives.

Ironically, Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, was eliminated due to the Twelfth Amendment limiting the candidates that the House would vote on to the top three.  For Clay it was an easy decision to decide who to support.  Crawford had no hope.  Clay heartily detested Jackson:  “I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult, and complicated duties of the Chief Magistracy.”  Adams and Clay had similar views regarding tariffs and internal improvements.  With Clay’s support, Adams was chosen as President on the first ballot in the House.

Jackson was outraged.  He condemned the corrupt bargain that he assumed existed between Adams and Clay, Adams subsequently appointing Clay as his Secretary of State.  I doubt if there was any such bargain, Clay not requiring a bribe to do what he could to stop Jackson’s political career.  Jackson came roaring back in 1828, winning the Presidency and founding the Democrat party.  An interesting what if in American history would have been if Jackson had won the election in 1824.  If he had, I suspect his presidency would have been a less consequential one, and no Democrat party would probably have come into existence in the form that it did.  The indecisive presidential election of 1824 may have been one of the more consequential ones for what it led to.

Published in: on November 2, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Corrupt Bargain  
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