Section #5 - A new Whig Party favors industrialization over the Democrat’s agrarian economy

Chapter 49: A Troubling House Vote Hands The Presidency To JQ Adams

October-December 1824

The General Election Ends Without A Winner

Voting in 1824 takes place between October 26 and December 2. Turnout surpasses all prior contests, as three in every four states now choose electors based on the popular votes, and real competition draws public interest.  

Popular Voting For President & Number Of States Where Electors Chosen By Their Votes 
7 of 126 of 159 of 166 of 1611 of 1710 of 179 of 18 10 of 1915 of 2418 of 24*
*State legislators in Delaware, Vermont, New York, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana still choose electors in 1824

As expected, none of the four candidates reach the 131 electoral vote level needed to become president in the traditional fashion. Andrew Jackson comes closest, at 99 votes, with Adams a close second. Crawford edges Clay for third place, even though he remains physically incapable of serving.

Results Of The 1824 Presidential Election
Candidates StatePartyPop VoteTot EV
Andrew Jackson Tn Dem-Rep 151,27199
John Quincy Adams MA Dem-Rep 113,12284
William Crawford Ga Dem-Rep40,85641
Henry Clay Ky Dem-Rep47,53137
Total 365,833 261
Needed to win 131

Jackson alone demonstrates national appeal, garnering significant votes in all four regions of the country. Adams support is almost exclusively in the northeast. Crawford splits the old South with  Jackson, and Clay wins his home state of Kentucky and its northern neighbor, Ohio.

Shifting State Alignments: Old/New And Slave/Free
Slavery Allowed (12) Slavery Banned (12)
Old Established East  Coast States (15)36 Crawford 
33 Jackson 
4 Adams 
0 Clay 
73 Total
77 Adams 
37 Jackson
5 Crawford
4 Clay
103 Total
Emerging States West  Of Appalachian Range (9)22 Jackson
17 Clay
2 Adams
0 Crawford 
41 Total
16 Clay
7 Jackson
1 Adams
0 Crawford
24 Total
Note: East Coast slave states (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, NC, SC, Georgia); east coast free (Maine, Mass,
NH, Vt, Conn, Penn, RI, NY, NJ); west slave (Ky, Tenn, Ala, Miss, La, MO); west free (Ohio, Ind, IL)
Winter 1824

Sidebar: Detailed Tables From The Election Of 1824

Electoral Votes Cast: Total US 
Total JacksonAdams CrawfordClay
Old Established East Coast States: With Slavery
N. Carolina1515
S. Carolina1111
Old Established East Coast States: No Slavery
New Hampshire88
Rhode Island44
New York2828
New Jersey17854
Emerging Western States: With Slavery
Total JacksonAdamsCrawfordClay
Emerging Western States: No Slavery
February 9, 1825

Clay Maneuvers To Insure That The House Elects Adams

According to the 12th Amendment rules, the choice of president now falls into the House of  Representatives, which meets on February 9, 1825, to decide the outcome. Each state will cast one vote for the winner within their caucus. Since there are 24 states in total, a candidate must take at least 13 to be elected. 

In the general election, Jackson has led the pack, winning twelve states, with Adams as runner up with seven.  

States Won In General Election 
Andrew Jackson12
John Quincy Adams7
Henry Clay3
William Crawford2

Jackson’s lead, however, quickly slips away in the House. He loses Delaware and North Carolina to Crawford, and then Louisiana to Adams. At the last moment, New York also slips away, after Daniel Webster and Henry Clay convince the Dutch patron, Stephen Van Rensselaer, to break his promise to Van Buren, and cast a deciding vote in the caucus for Adams. 

The rest of Jackson’s losses also trace directly to the Speaker. From the beginning, Clay dismisses Jackson’s readiness to be president in no uncertain terms: 

I cannot believe that killing 2500 Englishmen at N. Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult and complicated duties of the Chief Magistry. 

He is joined in this conclusion by Jefferson and others who regard the General’s temperament as too rash for the office, as demonstrated by his recent rampages in Florida.  

But Clay now must choose between Adams and Crawford, and he meets with the former before the House vote. Two very different views of this meeting emerge in hindsight. One is that Adams convinces Clay that he will support the Speaker’s “American System” initiatives if elected. The other is that Adam’s secures Clay’s support by promising to name him Secretary of State.  

Whatever the reason, Clay decides to steer three key states he won in the general – Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio – over to Adam’s column on the first ballot. This give him the thirteen states needed for victory. 

House Run-Off For President: 1st Ballot (13 Needed To Win)
Old East – With Slavery GeneralJacksonAdamsCrawford
Maryland AJ X
Delaware AJ X
Virginia WC X
North Carolina AJ X
South Carolina AJ X
Georgia WC X
Total 4
Old East – No Slavery
Maine JQA X
Massachusetts JQA X
New Hampshire JQA X
Vermont JQA X
Connecticut JQA X
Pennsylvania JQA X
Rhode Island JQA X
New York AJ X
New Jersey AJ X
Total 0
New West – With Slavery
Kentucky HC X
Tennessee AJ X
Alabama AJ X
Mississippi AJ X
Louisiana AJ X
Missouri HC X
Total 0
New West – No Slavery
Ohio HC X
Indiana AJ X
Illinois AJ X
Total 0
Grand Total 13 4
April 25, 1825

Clay Fights Yet Another Duel To Defend The Election

John C, Quincy Adams 3
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

When Adams names Clay as his Secretary of State, Jackson is convinced that a “corrupt bargain” trumped the will of the American people and cost him an election that was his. He quickly vents his spleen:

Clay voted for Adams and made him President and Adams made Clay Secretary of State. Is this not proof as strong as holy writ of the understanding and corrupt coalition between them? So, the Judas of the West has closed the contract and will receive the thirty pieces of silver. His end will be the same. Was there ever witnessed such a bare faced corruption in any country before.

With that the 56 year old General resigns from the Senate and rides back home to Tennessee, with the firm commitment to defeat Adams in 1828 election and oppose Clay at every future step of the way.

Adams attempts to move past the fractious election, but many Jackson supporters are in no mood to either forgive or forget. This soon leads to another episode of violence involving high government officials. 

The impetus in this case is a speech made by the ever-volatile Senator, John Randolph of  Roanoke. In a six-hour harangue on the floor, he accuses the administration of violating America’s long-standing policy of “avoiding foreign entanglements” by wishing to participate in Bolivar’s upcoming Panama conference 

As his rhetoric becomes increasingly inflammatory, John C. Calhoun, serving as pro-tem of the Senate, allows him to rail on – a fact which Adams properly interprets as treachery from his own Vice-President.  

Randolph ends with a personal attack on both Adams and Clay, whom he refers to as… 

The Puritan and the Blackleg. 

The Puritan, of course, is Adams, the stern Massachusetts man, and the Blackleg – a vicious disease which kills livestock, not to mention slang for a card-cheat – is Clay.

Randolph is well known to Clay. He is Thomas Jefferson’s cousin, and his career in congress dates back to 1799. Along with Clay, he is a co-founder of the American Colonization Society in  1816, who will, if fact, free all of his slaves in his final will.  

His political values are those of the extreme “states-rights” wing of the party, including a belief that federal laws can be “nullified” by a vote of local legislators. His fame rests on his general flamboyance, his powerful oratory, his capacity for consuming alcohol, and his shooting prowess.  

The latter is no deterrent to Clay, who challenges him to a duel for his remarks on the floor. Attempts by the Secretary’s friends to avoid the obvious risks are met with characteristic resistance.  

No public station, no, not even life, is worth holding, if coupled with dishonor. 

Randolph is astonished to receive the challenge, saying that it violates a senator’s right to protected speech within the chamber. He informs his aides, but not Clay, that he has no intention of firing to harm should the duel actually take place. 

Clay, however, plunges ahead, much as he had back in 1809 when called a “liar” in the Kentucky State House by Representative Humphrey Marshall. This affair ended with a total of four shots exchanged and both men wounded, Clay to the extent that further rounds were called off.  

On April 25, 1825, rowboats carry the two combatants across the Potomac to their native Virginia, and the two men – a 51 year old United States Senator and the 49 year old Secretary of  State – square off with pistols. 

Randolph appears in a vast morning gown, which makes the outline of his body difficult to discern. 

Tensions are high, and the hair-trigger on the Senator’s gun causes a misfire, which Clay forgives.  

Both men then let off their first shots, with neither hit. On the second round, Clay’s shot nicks Randolph’s outer garment, while Randolph fires aimlessly in the air – signaling the Secretary that the event is over. 

In accord with tradition, the two men shake hands and exchange cards. Clay purportedly says that he is thankful not to have injured Randolph, and Randolph retorts that Clay now owes him a new coat. With that the two sail back across the river, with at least minimal courtesy restored.