On February 9, 1825, the U.S. House of Representatives ended the electoral drama of the 1824 presidential election by choosing John Quincy Adams as president.
Second election decided by House: The vote by the House was the second and last time the House was called upon to select a president. Interestingly, on both occasions, in the 1800 and 1824 elections, an Adams was involved. In 1800, the House had voted to elect Thomas Jefferson president (who was tied in Electoral College votes at 73 with Aaron Burr). John Adams, vying for a second term as president, trailed in the Electoral College with 65 votes. In that House vote, Jefferson was elected president.
No Electoral College majority in 1824: In the 1824 election, there were four candidates vying for the presidency: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. Jackson had the lead in both electoral and popular votes, but didn’t have a majority. Here’s a breakdown of both the popular and Electoral College votes.
Popular vote was new: Different sources have different numbers for the popular votes, given that this was the first election with widespread popular voting for president. Six of the 24 states didn’t have popular voting, and the other states didn’t even have all the same candidates on the ballot. Even with different popular vote totals from different sources, they are within a few thousand votes of the numbers in the chart above.
Corrupt Bargain? When the House voted on February 9, 1825, John Quincy Adams was elected on the first ballot, winning 13 states, with Jackson picking up the votes for 7 states, and Crawford 4 states. Adams won partially because Henry Clay, as the fourth place winner and not eligible to be considered by the House under the terms of the Constitution, viewed Adams as the lessor of the evils of the candidates in the running. Clay urged the states he had won to vote for Adams. After the election, Adams appointed Clay Secretary of State, leading to the “corrupt bargain” charge that Adams had bought the presidency by a secret deal with Clay. Adams also picked up three states from the Jackson camp, and the critical state of New York that put him over the top (a majority of the 24 states). There is no evidence that there was any prior deal between Adams and Clay.
Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy