The Birth of Modern Campaigning My dad was president, what does your dad do?
During election season in the United States, Americans are accustomed to seeing campaign advertisements in which candidates proclaim why they are the best choice and why their opponents are evil. You may wonder, “Has it always been this way?” While George Washington did not run attack ads during his two terms in office, it did not take long for politics to begin emerging into what we see in today’s election. One of the earliest and dirtiest (though by today’s standards it would seem clean) presidential contests took place between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. In the election of 1824, Andrew Jackson won a majority of the popular votes. Jackson earned 151,271 votes and the second runner-up, John Quincy Adams, earned 113,122. Jackson also won a majority of the electoral votes, but he did not earn the 131 votes needed to become president. The U.S. Constitution prescribed that the House of Representatives should select the president if such an occurrence arose, and the House chose John Quincy Adams to be our 6th president. The election results left Jackson feeling cheated and outraged. The stage was set for a vicious campaign battle in 1828.
Two Very Different Men, One Similar Goal John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were both born in 1767 and they shared a fierce desire to lead the country; the similarities between these two men stop there. The lives of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson were remarkably different. Adams was born into a family of wealth and social privilege. He was the son of a president (his father was John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States). The Revolutionary War was being fought during his youth and Adams spent this time accompanying his father overseas on diplomatic missions. He was educated in the finest institutions abroad and attended Harvard College when he returned home in 1788. Andrew Jackson was the son of a poor farming couple from South Carolina. Jackson’s father died 3 weeks before he was born. When he was only 13 years old, he joined the army to fight in the Revolutionary War where he and his brother were taken captive by the British. Jackson’s mother was able to secure his release, but she died shortly thereafter, as did his brother.
Like his father, John Quincy Adams had a sharp mind, spoke eloquently and worked tirelessly in government jobs. Adams’ upbringing made his transition into political life easy. He served as the ambassador to Prussia during his father’s term in office. A few years later, he was elected to the Senate, representing the state of Massachusetts. During the presidency of James Monroe, he served as the Secretary of State. Jackson had little formal education. Jackson found a job in a saddle makers shop and saved enough money to attend law school. He worked as a lawyer in Tennessee and had to find clients and build their trust based on his own merit (as opposed to his family name like most lawyers at the time). When Tennessee became a state, Jackson ran for the House of Representatives and was elected. During this time he used the money he earned to buy a farm and he soon became a successful plantation owner. Unlike, Adams, Jackson was known for his short temper and the many brawls that he got into (he was shot twice!).
The Final Showdown Jackson felt that the 1824 election had been stolen from him – that the will of the people had been ignored. Jackson and his supporters were outraged. For the next four years, the split between Adams and Jackson (both Democratic-Republicans at the time) grew wider. Jackson claimed to represent the “common man.” He said that Adams represented a group of privileged, wealthy, elite Easterners. The division eventually created two parties. The Democrats came from the supporters of Andrew Jackson and the Republicans grew out of Adams’ camp.
The election of 1828 again matched Jackson against Adams. It was a bitter campaign – both sides made vicious personal attacks. Even Jackson’s wife, Rachel, became a target. During the campaign, Jackson crusaded against control of the government by the wealthy. He promised to look out for the interests of the common people. He also promoted the concept of majority rule. The idea of spreading political power to all the people and ensuring majority rule became known as Jacksonian Democracy. The easing of voting restrictions had actually begun under Thomas Jefferson, but it was still limited to white males. This expansion of voting rights and Jackson’s persuasive campaign helped him to secure victory in 1828. Jackson’s victory was seen as a victory for the common man. He won the support of farmers in the west and south and factory workers in the north. The election sent a message that governing should not rest in the hands of the elite.
Name: US History
A Tale of Two Presidents
Reflection Questions Directions: Use the “Tale of Two Presidents: The Birth of Modern Campaigning” handout to answer the following questions.
According to the text, “Jackson felt that the 1824 election had been stolen from him – that the will of the people had been ignored. Jackson and his supporters were outraged.” Why did he feel that the “will of the people had been ignored” in 1824? (hint: look back to paragraph #1)___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Define the term “Jacksonian Democracy”: ____________________________________