Chapter 13 - The Rise of Mass Democracy
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 (all white men
could 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 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
By the 12th Amendment, 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
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 “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 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.