The 1828 Election: Random Interesting Facts

by Jonathan Hobratsch

The notes for this election come from Vindicating Andrew Jackson: The 1828 Election and the Rise of the Two-Party System by Donald B. Cole, part of a 24-book series on presidential elections. I will post my notes on all of the other books.

Here’s a map of the 1828 results for reference:

Source: Wikipedia

1828 Election: Jackson defeats Adams


  • The simultaneous deaths of Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826 must have seemed like the end of an age.
  • During the Election of 1824, six states still did not have a popular vote for president, including the very populated state of New York. Martin Van Buren had hoped to keep the legislature in control of the presidential vote since his faction dominated it. However, populist demands for suffrage for white male property owners predominated. Andrew Jackson was often credited for inspiring popular democracy–including expanded suffrage–but it was clearly already under way. I will add that there must be something to Jackson that aided in flipping the great state of New York to suffrage, as well as all the rest, except for South Carolina, which would not grant suffrage until after the Civil War.
  • During 1824 and following the 1824, Martin Van Buren became arguably the leading proponent of political parties as an organization for good. This obviously flies in the face of the anti-factionalism of Washington and other Founding Fathers. Those that accepted parties had considered them as a sort of necessary evil. Van Buren promoted them as the great instrument of the people. I see Van Buren as the architect of the Democratic Party much in the way as I see Madison as the architect of the Jeffersonian Republicans. This book mentions Stephen Simpson of PA, Isaac Hill of NH, and Amos Kendall of KY as being of the same mind as Van Buren and all playing parts in forming the Democratic Party in their respective states. Kendall, I remember, ends up being a major advisor for Andrew Jackson. The two other figures are mostly unknown to me. All of these fellows, as well as Thomas Ritchie of VA and John Overton of TN, were early party bosses of the Democratic Party–all with an influential hold on their state faction.
  • Jackson followers were prominent in several offices of John Quincy Adams’s administration, but the morally Adams refused to remove anyone for partisan reasons.
  • John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster mutually distrusted each other. Webster, a last remaining Federalists, distrusted Adams for having left the party during the Jefferson administration. The author gives no reason for Adams’s distrust of Webster. Both men seemed very similar personally, although Webster was much more conservative than Adams. Webster was concerned that Adams would not keep his promise to appoint some Federalists to offices.
  • Jackson’s anger for the “Corrupt Bargain” was focused primarily on Henry Clay, who he called the “Judas of the West” for handing the election to Adams. Jackson personally liked Adams.
  • VP John C. Calhoun, a leading nationalist in 1824, was rapidly evolving into a States Rights figure while serving as Adams’s VP. Calhoun was upset that the House selected Adams over Jackson, primarily because Jackson was leading in EVs.
  • Despite the fact that the Jeffersonian Republican party was splitting into Democrats and National Republicans (later Whigs w/ the help of other anti-Jackson forces), JQ Adams had selected members of his administration from about every faction of the party in an apparent attempt to continue James Monroe’s “Era of Good Feelings.” DeWitt Clinton was offered ambassador to Great Britain but turned it down because he was eying the presidency in 1828, according to the author.
  • Adams upset his fragmenting Jeffersonian Republican party when he appointed Federalist Rufus King to become ambassador to Great Britain after Clinton declined the offer. King was anti-slavery, opposed the War of 1812, and had been the last Federalist nominee in US history. Adams also appointed Federalists to lower offices. Since Adams had been Federalist, and his father had been a Federalist president, some feared Adams was going to restore the mostly dead Federalist Party.
  • Andrew Jackson, soon after losing his election to Adams, was already making moves for another run for president. He quickly attempted to win over DeWitt Clinton, who could help hand Jackson NY. Jackson hinted that his health, frail from a litany of illnesses and a wound from a duel meant that he would likely serve only one term as president, and he would like Clinton to be his successor.
  • Jackson proposed an amendment that would require the popular vote in every presidential election on his last day in the US Senate. He resigned partially to prepare to run for president.
  • Adams upset the delicate alliance of the factions within the Jeffersonian Republican Party by proposing costly national programs, such as a national university, national observatory, etc. Adams was advised that his nationalist proposals would upset many, especially in the South but Adams ignored such advice. Henry Clay even thought Adams was going too far.
  • Adams brand of Nationalism moved Calhoun from nationalist to an ally with Andrew Jackson and former 1824 frontrunner William H Crawford of GA. Martin Van Buren had been advocating such an alliance to block Adams’s proposals. He was also helped with the addition of John Eaton of TN, John Branch of NC, Levi Woodbury of NH, and John Berrien of GA. John Randolph of Roanoke and Nathaniel Macon, the last of the Radical Jeffersonians could obviously be counted on to stop Adams as well.
  • Calhoun’s position as both Adams’s VP and as one of the anti-Adams leaders put the Adams administration in a bind. As the VP was president of the Senate, Calhoun created committees that opposed his own president’s administration. I think this, along with Van Buren’s work at cobbling together an opposition, and the fact that the “Corrupt Bargain” caused some to question the legitimacy of Adams’s presidency, made Adams’s presidency impotent almost from the start. I think it’s also interesting that both Adams and his father had a one-term presidencies with VP’s opposed to their respective administrations.
  • Calhoun was an active VP in the senate, unlike his predecessor VP Tompkins, who was often absent. Part of this is probably due to Calhoun’s opposition to Adams’s proposals, but much of this is probably because the Senate allowed the presiding officer the power of appointments in 1823, a new power Tompkins didn’t flex. Adams’s presidency might have been more successful if this new protocol had not been made.
  • The author sums up the power dynamic of Adams and Calhoun cleverly as, “Adams would use power to advance society; Calhoun would control power to protect the people.” The only error in this statement is that Adams’s power was often stifled.
  • I remember reading elsewhere that Adams’s proposals amounted to an “antebellum New Deal.” They were definitely ahead of his time, which is probably why Adams’s presidential ranking is often in the top half of presidencies, even though he accomplished very little and rarely succeeded. In reality, Adams, who had been to Europe numerous times, looked to Europe as both a model and as competition. He wanted to beat Europe at their own game. This meant beating them in science, education, manufacturing, social progress, etc. Adams heart and mind were in the right place, as is the case with most wise progressives, but he hadn’t the support of the people or their leaders. Genius is often lonely.
  • It seems that after securing a sort of alliance with Clinton, Jackson was quick to secure one with Calhoun. It’s possible, I think that, Calhoun’s newfound inspiration for States Rights had some effect on Jackson who was also become less nationalist than he had been in 1824. Jackson new bond with Calhoun brought Jackson some new surrogates. The author mentions Robert Y. Hayne of SC, George McDuffie of SC, and Samuel D. Ingham of PA. The author gives emphasis to Duff Green, a dominant newspaper man and Calhoun ally who would now join Jackson’s ranks.
  • Sen. Thomas Hart Benton of MO, who had once gotten in a bloody fight with Jackson, also became a vocal, effective ally. While he didn’t succeed, Benton made efforts to restrict Adams’s executive power in making appointments.
  • Martin Van Buren, although arguably the architect of the Democratic party, was not an early open supporter of Jackson. While encouraging the alliance of anti-Adams forces, he would not publicly commit as apparently his power over his state’s legislature rested on establishing ties to many Adams’s supporters. Van Buren’s rival, DeWitt Clinton, was a much earlier ally of Jackson. Since Clinton expected to become president either in 1828 or following a Jackson presidency in 1832, he realized he would need to reach an agreement with his interparty foe Van Buren. Governor Clinton promised to help Van Buren become the next governor if Van Buren did not work against him when he ran for president. Van Buren seems to have agreed to Clinton’s offer except Van Buren would seek to keep his US Senate seat. As such, Clinton forces and Van Buren forces would only put up token resistance against each other’s incumbents in New York. This also mean Van Buren could publicly back Jackson either, although Van Buren privately worked with Jackson and advised him on matters.
  • The author states that Jackson’s seemingly near illiteracy is a myth. Jackson liked to write letters, wrote in clear prose, and knew which buzz words and concepts to use as a politician to be effective in writing.
  • Adams’s morality and ethics helped undermine his presidency, a job which requires a Machiavellian touch. For instance, he would not offer jobs to secure loyalty against opposition powers, and he would not remove experienced, competent men even if they opposed him. One such example given in the book is US Postmaster General John McLean of OH, a future SC justices. McLean had held office under Monroe–Adams liked to keep Monroe men, presumably to keep some party harmony. The postmaster general had the power to fill more offices than any other federal position. Every place in the nation needed a US postmaster. These positions carried some prestige in their local communities, which gave these local politicians more of a platform to discuss their political views. Had Adams appointed a strong ally as PM Gen, about every community would have an Adams man in office. However, McLean was an ally of Calhoun and Jackson, and wasn’t too keen on Adams or Clay.
  • In my opinion three things destroyed the Jeffersonian Republican Party: 1) The War of 1812, which made the Federalists permanently unpopular but also made the Jeffersonians more moderate and nationalistic, embracing many Federalist ideas. 2) Monroe’s weak party leadership, which played a role in the 5-horse race presidential election of 1824. 3) Adams’s weak leadership as a politician. From about 1823-1829, there’s a power vacuum with new parties sorting themselves into loose alliances. Adams, although a genius, refused to go into battle with a sword. Jackson would.
  • Adams seemed to give up on providing any exciting or new policy after his inaugural, farsighted policies were blocked.
  • Adams relied mostly on Clay for advice. Clay was asked by friend to resign from the cabinet with the idea of replacing Calhoun as VP in 1828, but Adams requested that Clay stay on. Clay may have been smart enough to realize that Adams was likely a one-term president.
  • Due to Adams’s reserved nature and independence, Henry Clay was the leader of Adams’s fledgling party despite not being the president. By party, it seems Clay is the leader of the National Republicans, which later became the key group in the Whigs. Adams, I remember, would join the Anti-Masons briefly before joining the Whigs.
  • Since Adams wouldn’t remove inter-administration critics from his administration, Clay took it upon himself to purge those he could, which according to the author, drew battle lines between Pro-Jackson and Pro-Adams men.
  • Adams-Clay had their powerful supporters too. Three of the several names given include Daniel Webster, John J Crittenden, and Edward Everett. By 1827, Clay and Webster, who had been at odd with one another earlier in their careers, had now forged a powerful alliance.
  • Webster, after a visit to NY, believed that the state would support DeWitt Clinton over Jackson. He also suggested that New England pass pro-Adams resolutions. I’m guessing that Webster thought Clinton’s strong support in NY made it more likely that Adams would win it. If Adams won all of New England and NY, he’d still need NJ, DE, PA, and then MD or OH to win.
  • Future president James Buchanan, a leading surrogate of Jackson, released a false story on Clay’s “corrupt bargain.” The attempt to generate a new scandal with Clay backfired. Clay simply denied the allegations and Buchanan’s name leaked out. The author states that support might have turned toward Adams-Clay’s favor had Clay let the story die. However, Clay then decided to publish a story refuting the allegation with evidence, which only encouraged Jackson’s newspaper men to publish counter-evidence. Clay’s failed attempt to turn the knife on Jackson caused the “Corrupt Bargain” story to linger for the entire election campaign.
  • Clay, realizing Adams needed newspaper men to spar with Jackson’s newspaper men, set up a fund for needy newspaper men. The idea is that the pro-Adams philanthropists would donate money and in exchange would circulate a set number of free copies. Josiah S Johnson of LA and Edward Everett of MA were placed in charge of the newspaper scheme. Philanthropists, coming mostly from elite Boston families as well as from Clay’s own inner circle, funded Adams’s pro-campaign newspaper force. These philanthropists were mostly merchants and manufacturers who were highly supportive of Adams-Clay economic policies.
  • Interestingly, future president John Tyler was a Pro-Adams US Senate candidate for VA challenging John Randolph of Roanoke, the last of the Radical Jeffersonians (often called Old Republicans). I find this odd, primarily because Tyler is often labeled as being allied with Randolph’s school of thought. Both men were very pro-States Rights. Tyler would later become a Whig (briefly) but only because he thought Jackson was too free with his use of executive power. Tyler was more anti-Jackson than a Whig. Tyler did defeat Randolph for the US Senate seat.
  • After Christmas 1826, Van Buren and Calhoun vacationed in Virginia. During their vacation, they forged an alliance to promote Jackson’s candidacy and to urge Virginia to come out for Jackson. In a letter, Van Buren announced his pro-party philosophy, believing that parties were the cure for sectionalism. The party principle trumps the personal preference. Van Buren believed that the two party system–that of Federalists vs Jeffersonian Republicans–would strengthen Union and deflate sectionalism as both parties would have support everywhere. He believed that the party system breaking down under Monroe and Adams was causing sectionalism. Unless I missed it in this book, I read elsewhere that Van Buren also liked the two party system because he thought the more democratic of the two parties would usually prevail as they’d theoretically have more voters.
  • Van Buren preferred a nominating caucus which he could control, but he advocated a national convention to nominate Jackson. He hoped the convention would prevent Clinton from being nomination over Jackson and prove to Jackson skeptics that Jackson was in no way a Federalist. Jackson had apparently written a letter to former pres. James Monroe that led to charges that Jackson was at least part Federalist.
  • Van Buren was able to get the open–if reluctant–endorsement of William H Crawford for Jackson. Crawford was the frontrunner for 1824 before his stroke. Crawford strongly disliked both Jackson and Calhoun, but he sensed that Jackson-Calhoun was much closer to a an anti-nationalist ticket than Adams-Clay would ever be. Crawford, however, pushed Nathaniel Macon–a Radical Jeffersonian–for VP instead of Calhoun.
  • Before Van Buren’s open support for Jackson, the main “campaign manager” for Jackson was Sen. John Eaton of TN, a role he mostly had in 1824. My guess is that Van Buren eclipsed him for three reasons 1) He was from NY–the most populated state. 2) Van Buren was an indefatigable politician. 3) In addition to being tireless, Van Buren’s backroom political ability was legendary.
  • The Adams campaign was worried by Pro-Jackson New Hampshire politicians such as Hill and Woodbury. Hill is said to have had influence in VT and ME. Adams needed all of New England behind him and then some.
  • In 1827, NY was still a battleground between Van Buren and Clinton supporters. While both considered themselves of the same party, Van Buren was pro-Jackson, while Clinton’s supporters were pro-Adams. However, Clinton was pro-Jackson. This is interesting. Either Clinton lacked influence over his own faction or was privately pro-Jackson. NYC apparently was extremely pro-Jackson, surprisingly. Van Buren, with the help of his #2 man, William L Marcy, had made their faction dominant over Clinton’s faction by 1827. Van Buren was in a perilous position if Clinton was named Jackson’s VP, a good strategy that would guarantee NY for Jackson. However, Clinton as VP could cost Van Buren control if Clinton was able to influence Jackson on patronage positions in NY. Worse, Jackson, who seemed older and sicker than he really was, could be replaced by Clinton as president. The author states that one reason he support Calhoun as VP was to deny the spot to Clinton.
  • Some feared Clinton would run 3rd party and send the election to the US House again.
  • The Clinton faction tried to get Stephen Van Rennselaer, who gave his crucial vote to secure victory for Adams in the House election that decided the 1824 election, to run against Martin Van Buren for the US Senate seat.
  • Adams had been burning bridges in NY by not accepting party patronage positions for party bosses in the state.
  • An anti-Masonic movement, which opposed Jackson’s freemasony, was catching on in NY, but Van Buren’s public announcement that he, his faction, and that 50 newspapers were pro-Jackson stifled the momentum of the new movement.
  • Pennsylvania was split into two factions as well with future president James Buchanan co-leading an amalgamated party of Van Buren-style Republicans and Federalists, and future VP George M Dallas co-leading the urban-based faction. Both of these factions favored Jackson, which was a bad sign for Adams. He needed to win this state, so the Adams campaign focused heavily there and hope to win over former Federalists. Their efforts helped elect pro-Adams Federalist John Sergeant to a US Rep seat prior to the presidential election. Sergeant told Clay that he believed a combination of the Federalists and German votes could carry PA if they were encouraged to vote.
  • Adams-Clay was a much more natural fit for Ohio than Jackson-Calhoun. The state opposed slavery, favored internal improvement, and supported protective tariffs. Adams was the only of the four men that didn’t own slaves. Clay’s “American System” was built for Ohio.
  • Clay also assumed Kentucky to be a lock, considering Clay was the most influential man in that state. However, as the author states, Clay moving from the legislature to Sec of State, weakened his control of the state. Amos Kendall, arguably the most influential newspaper man in KY, came out for Jackson, undermining Clay’s strength there. The author states that the Jackson campaign was always one step ahead of the Adams campaign, suggesting that Jackson men were generally better at politics. Considering Adams’s puritan aloofness, this isn’t surprising.
  • John Tyler’s victory over John Randolph in the Virginia US Senate election gave the Adams men hope in this Southern state. Clay had been born in Virginia, even if he resided in KY too. However, Tyler’s victory caused Virginia’s leading newspaper man, Ritchie, to quickly endorse Jackson, undermining any momentum for Adams-Clay in the state.
  • The most worrying sign was that by the end of 1827, Adams’s party had lost control of both the US House and the US Senate. This was apparently the first time an incumbent president lost both houses.
  • By the end of 1827, Van Buren was clearly the leader of Jackson’s party in the US Senate. So powerful was Van Buren that he suggested the next Speaker of the House, who was promptly elected, defeating the anti-slavery incumbent Speaker John W Taylor of NY. Van Buren wanted party regional balance, so he suggested Andrew Stevenson of VA.
  • While Adams refused to offer government jobs based on party loyalty — Adams wanted a merit system –, Van Buren was a strong advocate that the winner of an elections should be free to fill their offices with loyalists.
  • Public campaigning was not very developed. The author states that had it been more common, the combination of Adams, Webster, Everett, and Clay speaking around the country could have done wonders. However, only Webster and Clay did much campaigning. Clay is described as having spent most of his energy defending against the Corrupt Bargain charge, while Webster never left New England, which was already likely to go to Adams.
  • By election day 1828, both parties still had not figured out what party name they were going to use, and often used the same names. Most often they were called just the Jackson party and the Adams party.
  • Jackson’s party was far more organized than Adams’s party. They knew who they needed and where they needed them. Both parties had trouble organizing in the South, however.
  • Calhoun was named Jackson’s running mate in early January 1828, which allowed DeWitt Clinton to seek a 3rd party run had he wished. However, Clinton died suddenly in February at age 58. While this removed a threat of NY being taken away from the Jackson category, it also allowed the Clinton faction to vote for Adams now that their pro-Jackson leader was dead. Van Buren also knew that he was now unquestionably the most powerful man in NY. If Jackson won the election, he’d be able to consolidate control with patronage positions.
  • JQ Adams approached four men for the vice presidency. Obviously, he wasn’t going to keep Calhoun on the ticket. He sought Gov. Shulze of PA–a strategically great choice–but Shulze wasn’t interested. He then asked Henry Clay, who declined citing “ill health.” Adams likely was glad he turned it down, as he preferred him at State, and Clay probably didn’t want it because it had no power. After that, he approached the very conservative James Barbour of VA, who was too happy being an ambassador to Great Britain. Going back to his Pennsylvania strategy, he reached an agreement with Sec of Treasury Richard Rush, the son of Founding Father Benjamin Rush. This would be a ticket with two sons of Founding Fathers.
  • Jackson had a potential weakness in Louisiana because of his martial rule over the state after his victory at the Battle of New Orleans. Pro-Adams politicians in the state outnumbered pro-Jackson politicians.
  • By election day 1828, the Federalists had disappeared as an organized force in Massachusetts, but still remained in Delaware, although most were starting to join Pro-Adams forces. Sen. Louis McLane is cited by the author has having influenced some Delaware Federalists to join Jackson’s party.
  • Late in the election Van Buren found it wise to leave the US Senate and run for Gov of NY in order to secure his power in the state and ensure Jackson won the state.
  • On election day, JQ Adams was certain of his defeat. He accepted the results as a matter of fact.
  • Henry Clay was too ill leading up to the election to be much help for Adams, when he might have been able to exert some star power.
  • The author states that Jackson landslide did not cause a rise in Democracy because it was a result of that rise.

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