The Rise of Mass Democracy
I. The “Corrupt Bargain” of 1824
After the Era of Good Feelings, politics was transformed. The bigwinner of this
transformation was the common man. Specifically, thecommon white man as universal
white manhood suffrage (all white mencould vote) became the norm.
In the election of 1824, there were four towering candidates:Andrew Jackson of
Tennessee, Henry Clay of Kentucky, William H.Crawford of Georgia, and John Q.
Adams of Massachusetts.
All four called themselves Republicans.
Three were a “favorite son” of their respective region but Claythought of
himself as a national figure (he was Speaker of the Houseand author of the “American
In the results, Jackson got the most popular votes and the mostelectoral votes, but he
failed to get the majority in the ElectoralCollege. Adams came in second in both, while
Crawford was fourth in thepopular vote but third in the electoral votes. Clay was 4th in
By the 12th Amendment, the top three electoral vote getters wouldbe voted upon in the
House of Reps. and the majority (over 50%) wouldbe elected president.
Clay was eliminated, but he was the Speaker of the House, and sinceCrawford had
recently suffered a paralytic stroke and Clay hatedJackson, he threw his support behind
John Q. Adams, helping him becomepresident.
When Clay was appointed Secretary of the State, the traditionalstepping-
stone to the presidency, Jacksonians cried foul play andcorruption. Jackson said he, the
people’s choice, had been swindled outof the presidency by career politicians in
John Randolph publicly assailed the alliance between Adams and Clay.
Evidence against any possible deal has never been found in this “Corrupt Bargain,” but
both men flawed their reputations.
II. A Yankee Misfit in the White House
John Quincy Adams was a man of puritanical honor, and he hadachieved high office by
commanding respect rather than by boastinggreat popularity. Like his father, however,
he was able but somewhatwooden and lacked the “people’s touch” (which Jackson
During his administration, he only removed 12 public servants fromthe federal payroll,
thus refusing to kick out efficient officeholdersin favor of his own, possibly less efficient,