I. The “Corrupt Bargain” of 1824
After the Era of Good Feelings, politics was transformed. The big winner of this transformation was
the common man. Specifically, the common white man as
universal white manhood suffrage
men could vote) became the norm.
In the election of 1824, there were four towering candidates:
William H. Crawford
of Georgia, and
John Q. Adams
All four called themselves Republicans.
Three were a “favorite son” of their respective region but Clay thought of himself as a national
figure (he was Speaker of the House and author of the “American System”).
In the results, Jackson got the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, but he failed to get
the majority in the Electoral College. Adams came in second in both, while Crawford was fourth in the
popular vote but third in the electoral votes. Clay was 4th in the electoral vote.
, the top three electoral vote getters would be voted upon in the House of
Reps. and the majority (over 50%) would be elected president.
Clay was eliminated, but he was the Speaker of the House, and since Crawford had recently
suffered a paralytic stroke and Clay hated Jackson, he threw his support behind John Q. Adams, helping
him become president.
When Clay was appointed Secretary of the State, the traditional stepping-stone to the presidency,
Jacksonians cried foul play and corruption. Jackson said he, the people’s choice, had been swindled
out of the presidency by career politicians in Washington D.C.
John Randolph publicly assailed the alliance between Adams and Clay.
Evidence against any possible deal has never been found in this “
,” 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 had achieved high office by
commanding respect rather than by boasting great popularity. Like his father, however, he was able but
somewhat wooden and lacked the “people’s touch” (which Jackson notably had).
During his administration, he only removed 12 public servants from the federal payroll, thus
refusing to kick out efficient officeholders in favor of his own, possibly less efficient, supporters.
In his first annual message, Adams urged Congress on the construction of roads and canals,
proposed a national university, and advocated support for an astronomical observatory.
Public reaction was mixed: roads were good, but observatories weren’t important, and
Southerners knew that if the government did anything, it would have to continue collecting tariffs.