The Political Campaign Strategy of the 1824 Election
Political campaigning for election of 1824 began two years earlier, as various candidates began to position themselves to receive their party’s nominations. At one point, there were as many as 16 potential candidates for the Republican Party’s nomination. Gradually, they were whittled down to 6 and then to 4: Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the former Federalist from Massachusetts; William Crawford, the secretary of the treasury; Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and Andrew Jackson, the military hero who had bee elected as a senator from Tennessee.
The party that had been so disciplined in bringing Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe to office had lost its focus. Chaos reigned as competing interests lobbied for their chosen candidates in the upcoming presidential political campaign.
Without party organization supporting a particular candidate, the election campaign proved to be a mess. Voter turnout was very low, little more than 25 percent. Andrew Jackson led in both the electoral and popular votes, but by such a number that he failed to achieve the necessary majority of electoral votes. This meant that the election had to be decided in the House of Representatives.
According to the Constitution, only the leading three candidates were to be considered. Clay had received the fewest electoral votes, so he was eliminated. Crawford was suffering from a serious illness, misdiagnosed as a stroke, so he, too, was not considered in the House. The contest came down to John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.
Clay was soon the focus of a different kind of political campaign: intense lobbying efforts by the backers of Adams and Jackson, who wanted his support for their candidates. Clay did not like Jackson, however, and did not think that he had the qualifications to serve as president. Clay met several times with Adams and ultimately gave his support (and his electoral votes) to Adams, who was then declared to be president.