Just imagine for a moment a presidential election with four strong candidates. If no one gains a majority in the electoral college, what happens?
The Constitution dictates that the House of Representatives would then have its own presidential election. And when that happened in 1824 the election turned into a high-stakes drama with three classic characters.
When the dust settled, John Quincy Adams had won the presidency. But it was widely suspected that another candidate, Henry Clay, a political powerhouse who happened to be speaker of the house, had helped Adams in return for a favor: being named secretary of state.
People today talk about presidential elections of the past as if they were dignified affairs. The story of the 1824 election puts that idea to rest.
And John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson battled each other four years later, and the election of 1828 went down in history as perhaps the dirtiest campaign ever.
Image: John Quincy Adams, eventual victor in the disputed 1824 election/courtesy Library of Congress
Significant 19th Century Elections:
- 1800: President Aaron Burr... Almost
- 1824: The Corrupt Bargain
- 1828: Dirtiest Campaign Ever
- 1840: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!
- 1860: Lincoln's Victory Led to War
- 1876: The Great Stolen Election
- 1884: Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion!
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