One of the most important events in the history of the United States was the rise of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. Jackson’s victory and its enormous effects on American society was ultimately the true significance of the election of 1828.
The 1828 election is considered one of the dirtiest in US history, similar to the important election of 1800. The two candidates relished the opportunity to personally attack their opponent, often for many issues unrelated to their qualifications for the position.
Jackson and incumbent President John Quincy Adams faced off in a rematch of the highly controversial election of 1824, nicknamed “the corrupt bargain” for the alleged (though never proved) claim of a backroom deal between Adams and Speaker of the House Henry Clay to elect Adams to the presidency.
Jackson’s eventual victory over Adams was hailed as a victory for the “common man” and sparked the so-called Jacksonian Era.
The election of 1828 was unique in that it’s often associated with a rise in popular democracy as more states than ever before loosened property requirements for white males to vote. It is certainly true that the populace had more say than ever before in who was to become president.
The ability of the Democratic party to organize and capture the vote of the “common man” was exactly how Andrew Jackson won the election of 1828.
The critical election of 1828 was ultimately a rematch of the 1824 election that saw John Quincy Adams elected President by the House of Representatives.
Though Jackson won the electoral vote between himself and three other candidates (Adams, William Crawford, and Henry Clay), he did not win a majority. Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives would decide the election.
Henry Clay proved to be the critical player in the escapade. As he came in last in the electoral vote, he was eliminated from consideration. However, as Speaker of the House of Representatives he influenced the House members to elect Adams over Jackson.
When Adams later made Clay Secretary of State in his administration, Jackson’s supporters screamed of corruption, calling the election the “corrupt bargain.”
Jackson seized upon this platform for the election of 1828 labeling the Adams administration as corrupt and only working for the aristocratic elite. The working class in particular took this message to heart.
Throughout the early 1800s many states gradually lifted property requirements for voting in state elections. This allowed a much higher percentage of white men to vote, expanding suffrage to more of the poorer, working class.
It is largely a myth that Jackson ran on a platform promising more democratic principles such as expanded suffrage. By the election of 1828 most states had already removed property requirements for voting.
In fact, as early as the 1780s between 60-90% of adult white males already could vote in state elections, and by 1792 seven of fifteen states had given up property requirements altogether.1
The true expansion of democracy came in how the popular vote was used to decide the presidential election.
In 1812, nine of eighteen states still used state legislatures to choose the state electors. By 1824 only six of twenty-four still used state legislatures, and by 1828 just two states remained.1
The true power of the electorate was unveiled in the election of 1828 when eighteen states utilized a statewide general election to determine their electoral votes. This was a dramatic increase from just twelve in 1824 and only three in 1800.1
More so than ever before did the will of the people decide who would become President in the election of 1828.
Who Won the Election of 1828?
Andrew Jackson eventually won the election of 1828 over John Quincy Adams after a hard-fought campaign.
The campaign was interesting as it did not revolve around specific issues but rather upon the personalities of the two men and their qualifications for president.2
Historians use the term “mudslinging” to describe the tactics of spreading negative information about their opponents. Sometimes the information was true, while other times the truth was stretched, or rumors were presented as facts.
Jackson could not escape his heavy-handed tactics like ordering the court martial and execution of six militia soldiers as well as implementing martial law in the city of New Orleans even months after the pivotal battle.
Jackson’s personal marriage was also attacked as his wife was called a bigamist after marrying Jackson despite no formal divorce from her prior marriage.
Jackson’s men attacked the Adams administration primarily painting him as a corrupt, out of touch aristocrat who cared nothing for the average person.
Jackson ultimately won the election due to better political organization and the largest voter turnout to date in a presidential election.
Jackson was the first president to win a popular majority in a competitive election that popular vote directly determined the final outcome in the Electoral College.1
With eighteen states using a popular general election to determine their electoral college votes, the people had a larger say in who was president than ever before.
It should be noted that the expansion of the voting population was strictly for white males. Free black men and all women were increasingly disenfranchised and lost their limited rights to vote in this period.1
Who Supported Andrew Jackson in the Election of 1828?
In the election of 1828 Andrew Jackson earned the support of the Democratic party which embraced the “common man.” Prominent supporters included John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and Martin Van Buren of New York.
The Democratic party organized incredibly well, beginning preparations soon after Jackson’s loss in 1824.
The “Jacksoninan Democrats” built their political network from the ground up and embraced new methods of attracting voters. Supporters and politicians organized barbeques, parades, and rallies among other events to persuade voters to favor Jackson.
Jackson’s promises of federal appointments to his supporters should he win energized them to work even harder for a Jackson victory. These promises led to the “spoils system” where incoming administrations would reward their own followers with political patronage.
The spoils system would rule American political appointments until the 1883 Pendleton Act led to civil service reform.
Jackson also learned from his mistakes in 1824. His candidacy had little support in the media in the prior election, which hurt him nationally.
It was with that purpose that Duff Green was hired as the editor and publisher of the United States Telegraph. The Telegraph would go on to play a significant role in defending Jackson from media attacks and rousing the populace to back Jackson for presidency.3
John C. Calhoun’s support and candidacy for Vice President was critical to help capture the southern vote.
Martin Van Buren was the mastermind behind capturing a large portion of the New York electorate and Thomas Benton from Missouri helped Jackson win a large portion of the western vote.
A surprise supporter was none other than Jackson’s former opponent for President, William Crawford. Crawford saw Jackson as the “lesser of two evils” though he truly believed he would not be the party’s candidate in 1832.4
The Significance of the Election of 1828
The historical significance of the election of 1828 lies in the monumental victory of Andrew Jackson which ushered in the Jacksonian Era and a new period of two-party politics.
The new parties replaced the old Democratic-Republican party that had fractured in the election of 1824. The new dynamic is called the Second Party System where Democrats battled first the National Republicans, then Whigs.
Jackson was also the first president who did not hail from Massachusetts or Virginia, a sign of the shifting demographics of the nation. It also signified the growing political power of the western states.
The election and Jackson’s victory marked a death blow for the hopes of renewing the National Bank’s charter as well as for Native Americans.
Jackson overtly opposed the National Bank and aimed to enact major reforms or to terminate its existence. In the important 1832 Bank War, he did just that, vetoing the Bank’s recharter bill.
Jackson also ran on a campaign for the removal of Native Americans to the west of the Mississippi River. The effects of the 1830 Indian Removal Act rippled across American society.
Removal of natives such as the Five Civilized Tribes opened up vast tracts of southern land for white settlement. These lands were prime for cotton growing which helped to expand the institution of slavery.
The eventual forced removal of Native American Nations led to the terrible event known as the Trail of Tears where thousands of natives died marching west.
Jackson was also the ideal President to handle a secession threat to the Union. During the 1832 Nullification Crisis, Jackson’s authority and political maneuvering helped hold the Union together during a period of turmoil.
The ultimate significance of the election of 1828 is that it resulted in the victory of Andrew Jackson who helped bring about great changes to American society.
To learn more about US history, check out this timeline of the history of the United States.
1) RATCLIFFE, DONALD. “The Right to Vote and the Rise of Democracy, 1787—1828.” Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 33, no. 2, 2013, pp. 219–54. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24768843.
2) Eriksson, Erik McKinley. “OFFICIAL NEWSPAPER ORGANS AND THE CAMPAIGN OF 1828.” Tennessee Historical Magazine, vol. 8, no. 4, 1925, pp. 231–47. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/42637502.
3) Ewing, Gretchen Garst. “Duff Green, John C. Calhoun, and the Election of 1828.” The South Carolina Historical Magazine, vol. 79, no. 2, 1978, pp. 126–37. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27567491.
4) Rabun, James Z., and James Harvey Young. “WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD ON THE ELECTION OF 1828: TWO LETTERS.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 4, 1953, pp. 340–45. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40577469.