Friday, February 20, 2015

American History 101: The Election of 1824 and the House of Representatives

It is a common thought that we have a democracy in the United States.  This is not entirely true.  Some people will refer to it as a Representative Republic or a Constitutional Democracy.  Both of these things are very different than a true democracy.  You often here the analogy that a democracy is five wolves and one sheep deciding what's for dinner -- and that is pretty much dead on.  What we have here is a system by which the population tell our representatives at different levels what we want, and they are supposed to then decide what most of their constituents want and act accordingly.  We can debate all day as to whether the practice of our government actually reflects this, but this is what we have.  Today's post is about just this: how the popular opinion is or is not carried out, and where the feeling began that our representatives do not always carry out the wishes of the people.

Throughout American history, only four Presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote.  They are John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George W. Bush in 2000.  The way the founders designed our Presidential voting system was that the Electoral College is supposed to vote based on the way their constituents have voted -- but many states do not require this.  Essentially, in many states the Electoral College members can vote however they want.  But this post isn't about our archaic Electoral College system... that would be for another day.  The point is that in the case of three of these elections, it was decided based on who won the most populated states and that did not reflect the popular vote.  

The one time in history that the Electoral College vote could not be used was in 1824 when John Quincy Adams (son of John Adams) ran against Andrew Jackson.  It is notable for several reasons.  The first of which is that it remains the only election since the passage of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution to be decided by the House of Representatives.  Interested in why the 12th Amendment is and why it is important?  Click here to learn about the election of 1800!  The second reason is why the House of Representatives decided the election, and how they decided the election.

In the election of 1824 there were four candidates who received a decent percentage of the vote.  Andrew Jackson received 41%, John Quincy Adams received 30%, Henry Clay received 13% and William Crawford received 11% of the popular vote.  Looking at these numbers, it is clear that Andrew Jackson should have won, right?  Not so fast... At the time, the President needed 131 Electoral College votes to win.  Andrew Jackson was only able to garner 99 votes because in 1824 only approximately 28% of all registered voters voted and there were 4 candidates.  The Electoral College had to spread its votes amongst these 4 candidates, and because there weren't enough actual voters to increase the margin -- a President was not elected by the people.  And in the case where a President is not elected by the people, the House of Representatives has the duty to elect the President and in essence, the popular vote is thrown out the window.  In this case, the Speaker of the House was none other than failed Presidential candidate and Representative from Kentucky, Henry Clay.  Why is it important?  Because in the Spanish American War, General Andrew Jackson made a public spectacle of berating the soldiers from Kentucky saying that they were lazy and cowards.  Henry Clay took offense to this, and did not care for Jackson after the statements were made.  Once the vote was kicked to the House, Clay threw his support behind John Quincy Adams and it was said that he might have unduly influenced the votes of man of the members of the House to elect Adams.  In the vote by the House, Adams received 41% of the vote while Jackson only 33%.

Andrew Jackson was outraged, and the public followed him.  There were protests and many outcries by the public claiming that their will was not being done by their elected officials -- claiming that the American government was no better than the British government that the country had fought to be free from.  It certainly was not a government by the people and for the people.  Because of this, John Quincy Adams had a Presidency that is looked upon as one where the country stood still in many ways.  His policies were fought at every turn, and he accomplished very little.  And in 1828 when Jackson ran against him again, Jackson trounced Adams and won easily.

Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment