Presidential Elections and the Rise of Democracy

Presidential Elections History

In this election George Washington received 132 electoral votes and won a unanimous victory. The dissenting vote came from New Hampshire’s William Plumer, who wanted to ensure that Adams did not win the presidency through a corrupt bargain with Clay.

The 1856 campaign was waged against the backdrop of a resurgent Republican party, which embraced free-labor and antislavery themes. Democratic unity, Whig disunity and Scott’s incompetence won Pierce the election.

Andrew Jackson

Jackson’s landslide victory in 1828 ushered in the era of Jacksonian democracy. He portrayed himself as an advocate of the common man, and railing against corruption and aristocracy fueled his popularity.

The election of 1824 ended in a four-way tie between Jackson, Adams, William Crawford, and Henry Clay. According to the Twelfth Amendment, such a tie is resolved by a contingent election in the House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House Henry Clay endorsed Adams in order to have an opportunity to win Western votes, since most of his own state of Kentucky supported Jackson. He also wanted to avoid a head-to-head contest with Jackson. Jackson’s party was well-organized and employed new methods of campaigning including kissing babies and picnics to appeal to voters, and this was the first time that such tactics were used.

James Monroe

After the Revolutionary War, Monroe went to the College of William and Mary to study law, then entered politics. He was a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation from 1783 until 1786, and then served as governor of Virginia from 1799 until 1802. Monroe was later elected to the Senate and became one of the founders of the Democratic-Republican Party, whose opposition to Hamilton and the Federalists who sought greater federal control gave birth to the Twelfth Amendment.

In the midst of bitter partisanship, Monroe won the Republican presidential nomination with a narrow victory in the congressional caucus over Secretary of War William Crawford of Georgia. He won the election with 132 electoral votes to John Adams’s 77 and Rufus King’s two. This was the first contested presidential race since the Revolution.

William McKinley

McKinley’s victory inaugurated an era of Republican dominance that would last for decades. It also marked a fundamental shift in American politics, resulting from the economic collapse that placed Democrats on defense and helped the GOP consolidate business, skilled factory workers and prosperous (unmortgaged) farmers.

Unlike the populist Bryan, who was a superb orator and strove to appeal to the nation’s rural voters, McKinley’s campaign focused on a protective tariff and a firm stance on immigration. He was especially popular with eastern urban laborers who feared cheap foreign competition.

Behind the scenes, affluent Ohio businessman Mark Hanna managed McKinley’s campaign and used his resources to help the party dominate the Midwest. Hanna was a master at generating money and distributing pro-McKinley literature. His efforts allowed McKinley to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln, a self-described prairie lawyer, entered national politics in the early 1850s when he joined the Republican Party and became involved in the ongoing argument over sectionalism. A series of debates with Stephen Douglas on slavery and the expansion of the Union turned him into a national figure.

When the Republicans met for their convention in 1860, he was their frontrunner on the first ballot. He gained momentum by visiting the home states of delegates like New York Senator William Seward and Ohio Governor Salmon Chase.

These visits were secretly arranged in exchange for securing support for Lincoln on the second ballot. Lincoln won the nomination and the election. His victory inspired secessionists in the South to withdraw their states from the Union and started a war that would last four years.

Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt had a reputation as a charismatic and fiery leader. He was also a powerful orator and advocated sweeping progressive reforms. He announced that he was entering the 1912 election by declaring, “My hat is in the ring.”

As part of his campaign, Roosevelt hammered Taft as a reactionary and laissez faire conservative. He argued that the federal government should regulate big business by breaking up corporate monopolies, intervening in labor disputes such as the 1902 coal mine strike in Pennsylvania, and using the White House as a “bully pulpit” to lecture Americans about pure food and drug legislation and trust-busting.

During a speech in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. The bullet passed through a metal spectacle case in his pocket and missed his heart and lungs.

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